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Powers of war: fighting, knowledge, and critique

Barkawi, Tarak ORCID: 0000-0001-5526-5055 and Brighton, Shane (2011) Powers of war: fighting, knowledge, and critique. International Political Sociology, 5 (2). pp. 126-143. ISSN 1749-5679

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2011.00125.x


This paper approaches the ontology of war by asking why, despite its constitutive function for politics and society, has war never been made the object of an academic discipline? Through an analysis of the relationship between war and knowledge about war, we argue that the ontology of war is such that it disrupts foundational claims of the kind necessary for conventional forms of academic disciplinarity. At the center of the ontology of war is fighting, an idea we recover from Clausewitz. A moment of radical contingency, fighting both compromises knowledge about war and forces the unmaking and remaking of social and political orders. These generative powers of war operate through the production of systems of knowledge and their institutionalization in the academy, the state and wider society. Although of existential significance for political authority, these knowledges are vulnerable to the very contingency of war that produces them. This complex of relations between war, knowledge, and power we term War/Truth. As such, an analytical framework adequate to war requires a reflexive relation to truth claims. We clear the ground for such a “critical war studies.”

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 International Studies Association
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 08:33
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 23:42

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