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Reviewed by:
  • Empire of Disorder
  • Gerry Coulter
Alain Joxe , Empire of Disorder. New York: Semiotext(e), 2002, 221 pp.

At a moment in history when commercial airliners are turned into cruise missiles to produce ground zero in the American heartland, Joxe authors a strategic and political refusal of the globalization of passionless violence, of a world of chaos under neo-liberalism, and looks for alternative ways of envisioning our future. Joxe unravels the world for us as Wallerstein once did with his world systems theory but offers no oversimplified model, rather one steeped in chaos, perplexity, and a small dash of hope. His thesis is that America refuses to conquer the world and in doing so assume a protective imperial role for the societies it subjugates, preferring to regulate disorder and attempting to profit from it. Joxe's book is an important effort to peer behind the smoke screens of humanitarian wars and global wars on terrorism. His hope in the abilities of Europe to offset America ultimately fails to convince when viewed from a longer perspective, but not before he takes us into a very necessary series of discussions about how we arrived at the present moment of unfolding catastrophe.

Joxe tells Sylvere Lotringer (with whom two highly intelligent interviews begin the book), that our world is on the brink of chaos, its cruel little wars linked to a conception of universal competition which is touted with a fervour once the preserve of Stalinist propaganda, and used to underwrite the free market concentration camps that are the Mexican Maquiladoras. Apartheid, [End Page 231] once frowned upon, says Joxe, is now back in vogue in Israel with American support. The lone hope in Joxe's assessment is a united Europe which he sees coming together at a key moment to offer an alternative strategy to that of America.

The real battle for the future in Joxe's view rests between the American and the European versions of globalization. For the Americans globalization will remove national sovereignty of all nations except the United States. For the Europeans globalization will foster national sovereignties. This is an odd statement given that a significant argument against a united Europe is that unification is merely a vehicle of globalization that will reduce the national sovereignty of countries such as Joxe's homeland, France. Further, if we reflect for a moment on what European powers have perpetrated during the past 500 years, how do we not conclude that a world to be saved by Europe is in deep trouble? Has not the past half millennium taught the majority of the peoples of the world that when Europe is their last hope, they're mostly done for?

Ultimately Joxe wants to preserve humanity from decades or centuries of wars and conflict. He wants to maintain the kind of democratic civilization and civil society that he feels are under siege from American-led globalization. He is of course correct from his own perspective which idealizes the social nature of humans and understands civilization (post enlightenment Europe representing its epitome), to be our normal state between periods of barbarity. Five-thousand years of human history remind us that there is nothing so uncertain as the claim that "man is a social animal." Like many European leftists of the twentieth century Joxe is deeply committed to European capitalism and democracy and fears the end of capitalism as the onset of barbarism. A postMarxist thinker with a shrewd eye for the lingering uses of class analysis, he sees no coming socialism: the choices we face are fraternity or barbarism.

Joxe is a savvy analyst of America who knows what the American right has in store for us all with its postracist smiling neofascism. Reading his book I have little difficulty accepting the first part of his case, that America is attempting to manage an empire of disorder. The second part of his argument about Europe's ability to offer significant alternatives is underdeveloped and difficult to accept. Eventually Joxe places his remaining hope on citizens of the world coming together via non governmental organizations with the concrete goal of building fraternity. There is a very intelligent discussion of Hobbes and Clausewitz...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1123
Print ISSN
0318-6431
Pages
pp. 231-234
Launched on MUSE
2005-07-06
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2007
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