Note to Self: Empire, Terror, and Politics

I just picked up a few interesting books on the New Arrivals shelf at GRPL, but unfortunately I can't hold on to them, because we leave for Cambridge tomorrow. So this is more of a "note to self" to remind me to pick these up again later.

Emmanuel Todd, After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (Columbia UP): I saw this book in its earlier French version when we were in Lyons a couple of summers ago. It's not your typical "anti-American" piece, since its critique is expressed with a sense of disappointment. Todd's thesis is that America's unilateral military action against puny, ill-equipped nations is an attempt to create a militaristic smokescreen that will hide the fact that the American empire is in decline. This repays further thought.

Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (Princeton UP): As you'd guess, Ignatieff is looking for a justification of democracy's participation in violence in order to prevent/avoid further, graver violence. He states the rudiments of the problem, as he sees it up front: "When democracies firght terrorism,they are defending the proposition that their political life should be free of violence. But defeating terror requires violence. [...] How can democracies resort to these means without destroying the values for which they stand?" (p. vii). But what if one rejected the premises here? What if one did not assume a "right" to violence-free existence? And what if one asserted, more imaginatively, that terrorism could be defeated by non-violent means? Who is willing to entertain that proposition?

Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity (Simon & Schuster): Following a few years after his important, though contested, Clash of Civilizations, Huntington is worried about American identity. But what, from first glance, he seems to suggest is so startling to me, I might have to buy this one at the airport. From what I can gather, Huntington variously suggests that (1) 9/11 could be seen as a good thing since it was a catalyst for re-solidifying "American identity" as a primary identity; (2) the "Hispanicization" is the biggest threat to American identity, and (3) the best thing we could do is recover a dominant "Anglo-Protestant culture." Wow. At least he has courage. But as Michael Baxter and Stanley Hauerwas are wont to point out: just who does he mean by "we?"

Who is the "multitude?"

Those who read Hardt & Negri's Empire (Harvard UP) will recall their invocation of the "multitude"--led by St. Francis, as it were--as the transnational network of resistance. Well, I just got ahold of what amounts to the sequel to Empire: Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (Penguin). I'm taking it along with me to Cambridge, but it looks fascinating. And ripe for theological engagement. I wonder if what Hardt & Negri are looking for from "the multitude" might be precisely what one would hope to find in the ekklesia? I would highly recommend reading this book alongside Daniel Bell's outstanding work, Liberation Theology After the End of History, in the Radical Orthodoxy series (Routledge).