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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 17:42 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 17:42 | SYDNEY

Terror and consent

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27 June 2008 11:44

I'm less than 100 pages into Philip Bobbitt's Terror and Consent, but I'd already recommend it thoroughly. The breadth of scholarship is just as awesome as Shield of Achilles, but this book is somehow more approachable.

I was sceptical about this book, and not all of that scepticism has been washed away yet. For instance, I never fully bought into the nation state/market state distinction that Bobbitt developed in Shield of Achilles. As someone who lived for 11 years under a notionally liberal-conservative government that substantially increased the scope and reach of the welfare state, I found it hard to take seriously the idea that modern Western governments were moving away from a model that emphasised mass welfare (the nation state) to one that focused on using free markets to create mass opportunity (the market state).

Bobbitt explains the market state idea better in this book, yet it's hard to shake the feeling that the problems facing our region are still those of the nation state. China, for instance, has only just begun building the kind of welfare system that Bobbitt claims is eroding in favour of market-based solutions. And China's foreign policy concerns are very nation state-centric, focused as they are on territorial disputes and questions of status. We may be transitioning to a market state system, but I doubt we're done with nation state problems yet.

The other encouraging thing about the book so far is that Bobbitt states early on that he will tackle a series of widely held ideas about terrorism, some of which I happen to hold. For instance, I don't take the WMD terrorism threat all that seriously, and I'm in the camp that thinks the present terrorist threat has been vastly overstated. I also think the primary response to terrorism must be non-military. Bobbitt says all of these claims and others are misguided. I look forward to finding out why.

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