Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb Responds to Will Glovinsky

I’m struck by Will Glovinsky’s final thought in his reflection on Civilizing War—that non-Western civil wars were “empire’s first justification and, much later, its tragic consequence.” My own sense is that while this elegant formulation points correctly, in some ways, to the book’s implicit prehistory, and underscores the imperial hypocrisy at the heart of Mufti’s argument, part of what is at stake in the story the book tells about the post-Hobbesian conception of civil war (that is to say, not determined by sovereignty and the state, but rather toward political community) is to do with the classification of conflict, and the shifting codes of just war theory and law. In other words, Mufti is interested in historicizing the naming of political agonisms because this naming was and is a powerful tool in maintaining imperial hierarchies. As such, I think the adjectival “their petty” in John Malcom’s formulation—an astute triangulation on Glovinsky’s part—bears, or ought to bear, more hermeneutic weight than “wars.” The condescension of “their petty wars” sits together, in my mind at least, with riots, skirmishes, border disputes, ethnic struggles, tribal conflicts and internecine hostilities—all hallmarks of failed states, now and then. As I understand it, Mufti has shown us how civil war joins these ranks, becomes a fallen species of conflict, only once Europe has accepted the end of class struggle as a viable threat to existing state forms, even as they become increasingly jellyheaded and isomorphic with global capital.

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