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Of Death and Dominion

The Existential Foundations of Governance

Bamyeh, Mohammed A.

Publication Year: 2007

Death is the opposite not of life, but of power. And as such, Mohammed Bamyeh argues in this original work, death has had a great and largely unexplored impact on the thinking of governance throughout history, right down to our day. In Of Death and Dominion Bamyeh pursues the idea that a deep concern with death is, in fact, the basis of the ideological foundations of all political systems.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

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pp. vii-viii

First, to Randall, whose extensive comments on an earlier draft greatly enhanced the clarity and coherence of my own thoughts. His unsparing but caring devotion to the art of critique and engagement has been a constant source of intellectual nourishment and personal growth over the years. ...

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pp. 3-6

Today, one may be tempted to say that there were times, long gone, in which death loomed larger than life and that now, with medical science, technological optimism, the ethic of global progress, and so on, life looms larger than death: even with terror and wars factored in, death has become remote and episodic, one might be tempted to say. Yet at the same time, none has escaped the ultimate mastery of ...

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pp. 7-29

One of the earliest records of civilization recounts how, after crossing impossible terrains, dense darkness, and deadly waters, Gilgamesh failed to persuade the gods to revoke the mortal condition imposed on all life. He had to journey back to his kingdom, resigned to an impending death. Upon his arrival, however, he experiences a sudden shift in mood. Back home, amid the spreading shades of mortality, ...

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pp. 30-46

For Napoléon, the equation was clear: glory is pursued not for the sake of superfluous vanity but because it is synonymous with one’s station, which in turn is nothing other than one’s reason for being. His emancipation cannot therefore be possibly understood in terms of simple equality with the established master. He knows that it is too late in the history of governance for equality, that equality itself ...

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pp. 47-75

Napoléon’s spiritual opportunism, just like Alexander’s, typifies foundational moments of novel systems, when all resources at one’s disposal must be brought forth to bear on the great and original task. Opportunism here is an unavoidable property of greatness, since the kind of greatness that is associated with originality stands above existent bounds, structures, and ethos. But how does one know that ...

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pp. 76-100

The trope of death most represented in modern governance reorients the notion of sacrifice away from its association with tragedy. It further downplays heroism, which frequently competes unfavorably with the technocratic element of governance. Some recent scholarship suggests that the decline of non-governance-centered heroic genres, such as the epic since the seventeenth century, correlates ...

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Last Words: Death and Difference

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pp. 101-108

Is death the opposite of life? Since all good answers profit from identifying the vantage point from which the answer issues, we could seek to answer this question through a more primary question: Who regards death to be the opposite of life? A historical survey will yield a complicated and varied view, but the common denominator among all views is the regard of death as a state of difference from life, and ...


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pp. 109-124


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pp. 125-130


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pp. 131-136

E-ISBN-13: 9780810161993
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810124400

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1