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Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War

Dissenting intellectuals analyze the collision of military neoliberalism with the politics of the spectacle.

Afflicted Powers is an account of world politics since September 11, 2001. It aims to confront the perplexing doubleness of the presentits lethal mixture of atavism and new-fangledness. The world careers backward into forms of ideological and geo-political combat that call to mind the Scramble for Africa, and the Wars of Religion. But this brute return of the past is accompanied by an equally monstrous political deployment of (and entrapment in) the apparatus of a hyper-modern production of appearances. Capital is on the move again. In the Middle East and elsewhere it is attempting, nakedly, a new round of primitive accumulation and enclosure.

Now, however, it is obliged to do so in unprecedented circumstances. Never before has imperialist victory or defeat depended so much on a struggle for hegemony in the world of images; never before has the dominant world power been subject to real catastrophe in the realm of the spectacle. The present turn to empire and enclosure, what Retort terms military neo-liberalism, is confronted not only by various forms of radical Islam but by a new kind of vanguard armed with the toolkit of spectacular politics. This book attempts to rethink certain key aspects of the current global struggle within this overall perspective, and to provide some critical support for present and future oppositions. Its main themes are the spectacle and September 11, blood for oil, permanent war and illusory peace, the US-Israel relationship, revolutionary Islam, and modernity and terror.

Reviews

  • “This provocative and wide-ranging inquiry - part analysis, part manifesto - brings to light a new phase in the historical process of primitive accumulation, a form of bitter class war and social reconstruction now proceeding in the guise of what the authors depict as 'military neo-liberalism'. The conclusions and analysis are brought to bear incisively on central events of the contemporary world, and on how its serious threats can be confronted.”
  • “A comprehensive analysis of America's relationship with the world. No stone is left unturned. The maggots exposed are grotesque.”

Blog

  • Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

    This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States. 



    Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

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  • New Left Review — new issue out now

    The March/April issue of New Left Review is now on sale featuring the following essays:

    T.J. Clark: For a Left with No Future

    An epistle to capitalism's immobilized opponents from the author of Farewell to an Idea. Drawing on sources from Bruegel to Nietzsche, Hazlitt to Benjamin, T. J. Clark supplies notes for a rethinking of left politics that would recognize the impasses of the present and the horrific legacies of the past, while abandoning the mirages of futurity.

    Susan Watkins: Presentism?

    Responding to Clark, Susan Watkins questions the adequacy of a perspective built upon man's propensity for violence, and defends a historicized politics of social transformation against the cramped horizon of the present.

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  • A Survey of Verso's Responses to 9/11

    Sparing no room for nuance, the magazine covers are all reminding us that the United States—and hence the planet—is set to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, a day that not only changed the world and signaled the end of innocence and spawned a new greatest generation, but also launched a thousand new slogans with which to label that day, and inspired thousands of speeches intent on inspiring thousands more.

    However, despite the horror, anger, uncertainty—and yes, for some, glee—from the damage inflicted on that momentous day, there remained, in the aftermath and up to now, a limited vocabulary within the mainstream with which to describe the events of that time and the trail of destruction that followed.

    And since we aren’t anticipating a commemorative circuitous flight over the country on Air Force One with the President of the United States, we would like to offer an alternate journey—that is, a survey of Verso’s responses to 9/11:

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