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Terror and Modernity

Donatella Di Cesare

ISBN: 978-1-509-53151-6 June 2019 Polity 208 Pages


We are inclined to see terrorist attacks as an aberration, a violent incursion into our lives that bears no intrinsic relation to the fundamental features of modern societies. But does this view misconstrue the relationship between terror and modernity?  

In this book, philosopher Donatella Di Cesare takes a historical approach and argues that terror is not a new phenomenon, but rather one that has always been a key part of modernity. At its most basic level, terrorism is about the struggle for power and sovereignty. The growing concentration of power in the hands of the state, which is a constitutive feature of modern societies, sows the seeds of terrorism, which is deployed as a weapon by those who are exposed to the violence of the state and feel that they have no other recourse.  

As Di Cesare illustrates her argument with examples ranging from the Red Brigades and 9/11 to jihadism and ISIS, her sophisticated analysis will appeal to anyone who wishes to understand contemporary terrorism more deeply, as well as to students and scholars of philosophy and political theory.

  • Chapter One. Planetary Terror
  • 1. Bataclan
  • 2. War on Terror
  • 3. Global Civil War
  • 4. The Bomb of Modernity
  • 5. The Ghost of Bin Laden
  • 6. Philosophies of Terrorism
  • 7. Red Brigades, RAF, and the Impossible Exchange
  • 8. The Absolute Weapon of One’s Own Death
  • 9. Atmoterrorism: Auschwitz, Dresden, Hiroshima, etc.
  • 10. Heidegger and the Ban of Existence from the Biosphere
  • 11. The Monopoly of Negation
  • 12. The Metaphysics of the Terrorist Attack
  • Chapter Two. Terror, Revolution, Sovereignty
  • 1. A Brand Name
  • 2. Defusing Terrorism
  • 3. Notes on Fear, Anxiety, and Terror
  • 4. Revolutionary Terror is Not Terrorism
  • 5. Are Terrorists Nihilists?
  • 6. Why defend anarchists
  • 7. Dostoyevski and the Terrorist within Me
  • 8. Terror and Sovereignty: On Lenin
  • 9. “Once Upon a Time There Was a Revolution”
  • 10. The Partisan, the Guerrilla, the Terrorist
  • Chapter Three. Jihadism and Modernity
  • 1. Radicalization
  • 2. The Political Theology of the Planetary Neo-caliphate
  • 3. The Postmodern Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • 4. The Path to Terror
  • 5. Cyberterrorism
  • 6. Jihadist Thanathopolitics
  • 7. Media, New Media, and Terror
  • 8. The Car Bomb
  • 9. Explosions, Massacres, Decapitations
  • 10. Vulnerability, or Innocence Lost
  • 11. The Negated Ethics of the Hostage
  • 12. The Future in the Time of Terror
  • Chapter Four. The New Phobocracy
  • 1. Clash of Civilizations, Class Struggle, or “Holy” War?
  • 2. The Offensive of Radicalized Secularism
  • 3. Hermeneutics Counters Violence
  • 4. Sedative or Stimulant? Religion According to Marx
  • 5. The Left and Jihad
  • 6. Spanish BrigadesÐSyrian Brigades
  • 7. The Terrorism of Global Capitalism
  • 8. Democracy Put to the Test by Anti-terrorism
  • 9. Snowden: On Planetary Surveillance
  • 10. The New Phobocracy
  • Notes
  • Selected Bibliography

“Donatella Di Cesare has written a deeply learned, passionate, and revelatory analysis of what is, in effect, a new form of human conflict. War is no longer territorial but global, fueled by a lack of concern for death. Its face is terrorism but, as she shows, its origins are latent in the political heritage of the West. This is a book that will change the way you think about our world.”
Tracy B. Strong, University of Southampton

“Donatella Di Cesare presents here a remarkable global cultural view of terrorism, which should appeal to many readers beyond the usual confines of terrorism studies, not least for its pungent account of the 'thanatopolitics' of jihadism.”
Charles Townshend, Keele University