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Battling to the End

Conversations with Benoit Chantre

René Girard

Publication Year: 2012

In Battling to the End René Girard engages Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), the Prussian military theoretician who wrote On War. Clausewitz, who has been critiqued by military strategists, political scientists, and philosophers, famously postulated that "War is the continuation of politics by other means." He also seemed to believe that governments could constrain war.
     Clausewitz, a firsthand witness to the Napoleonic Wars, understood the nature of modern warfare. Far from controlling violence, politics follows in war's wake: the means of war have become its ends.
     René Girard shows us a Clausewitz who is a fascinated witness of history's acceleration. Haunted by the French-German conflict, Clausewitz clarifies more than anyone else the development that would ravage Europe. Battling to the End pushes aside the taboo that prevents us from seeing that the apocalypse has begun. Human violence is escaping our control; today it threatens the entire planet.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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A Note on the Translation

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pp. vii

Mary Baker is the primary translator of Achever Clausewitz. She captured beautifully the rapid back and forth of ideas between René Girard and Benoît Chantre, producing the primary manuscript. Andrew McKenna, Professor of French at Loyola University, was a graduate student of Girard at Johns...

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pp. ix-xvii

This is a peculiar kind of book. It claims to be a study of Germany and French-German relations over the last two centuries. At the same time, it says things that have never before been said with the violence and clarity they require. Its subject is the possibility of an end to Europe, the Western world...

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Chapter 1: The Escalation to Extremes

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pp. 1-25

Benoît Chantre: René Girard, your work is based on literary criticism, the study of religion in archaic societies, and an anthropological rereading of the Gospels and the Jewish prophetic tradition. Nothing, in principle, destined you to become interested in the writings of a Prussian general who died in...

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Chapter 2: Clausewitz and Hegel

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pp. 27-51

Benoît Chantre: When you said that for Clausewitz Napoleon incarnated something other than the manifestation of Spirit in history, you suggested that Clausewitz was in opposition to Hegel, his exact contemporary. The worldwide rise of undifferentiation supports your thesis. It is a powerful...

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Chapter 3: Duel and Reciprocity

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pp. 53-75

Benoît Chantre: The discovery of the duel and the escalation to extremes has enabled you to anticipate what is at stake in our discussion: our ability to delay or even prevent catastrophe. Clausewitz himself seems to have been trying to do so. After having described the law of the trend to extremes, he tried to...

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Chapter 4: The Duel and the Sacred

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pp. 77-108

Benoît Chantre: Our discussion about Clausewitz sheds new light on another precept in the Gospels: “Love your enemies.” Once we have acknowledged that the Kingdom program has not been realized, this precept no longer means “make your enemies into friends,” which becomes...

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Chapter 5: Hölderlin’s Sorrow

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pp. 109-135

Benoît Chantre: When we dig a little deeper into the phenomenon of war as Clausewitz described it, we find that politics is part of violence, not violence part of politics. The institution of war did not elude violence, but tried to slow its escalation. We have seen that this institution no longer exists. Yet should...

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Chapter 6: Clausewitz and Napoleon

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pp. 137-155

Benoît Chantre: In Clausewitz’s writings we have seen the twilight of a historical literature based on the exempla, even though he thought of himself as a little like Plato writing The Republic, and would have liked to have been able to reform the Prussia that had resulted from the humiliation by Napoleon. His...

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Chapter 7: France and Germany

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pp. 157-193

Benoît Chantre: In the course of our discussion, Clausewitz has appeared to us as a writer who went beyond the boundaries of his discipline. His treatise relates to more than the military, and at times touches on literature and anthropology. The way On War focuses on Napoleon places us at the heart of...

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Chapter 8: The Pope and the Emperor

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pp. 195-210

Benoît Chantre: In the realm of contingent wars in which we are immersed, there is thus an essential war: truth’s war against violence. You say that truth has flushed violence out. To use Clausewitz to criticize Hegel, and Hegel to criticize Clausewitz, is to get closer to apocalyptic reason and see that the...

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pp. 211-217

If we follow our line of reasoning right to the end, if we take our analysis of a now global escalation to extremes to its logical conclusion, we have to consider the complete novelty of the situation since September 11, 2001. Terrorism has raised the level of violence up a notch again. This phenomenon is mimetic...


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pp. 219-229


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pp. 231-237

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781609171339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870138775

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012