Bernard E. Harcourt's Critical Reads

October 5th, 2018

Bernard E. Harcourt is a contemporary critical theorist and social justice advocate. Intersecting contemporary critical, social, and political theory, Harcourt’s writings examine modes of governing in our punitive and surveillance society especially in the post 9/11 period and the digital age. Harcourt traces the birth of what he calls our “expository society” and recent turn to the paradigm of “counterinsurgency warfare” as a mode of governing. He is the author many books including Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order, and Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience with Michael Taussig and W.J.T. Mitchell, and Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing and Punishing in an Actuarial Age , Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy, and Illusion of Order: The False Promise Of Broken Windows Policing. Harcourt is also an editor of the works of Michel Foucault. He is currently the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. Bernard E. Harcourt will discuss The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens on 10/15 at 6pm, at the Co-op. He will be joined by Tom Durkin and John J. Mearsheimer.

States of Exception, by Giorgio Agamben - Agamben offers perhaps the leading paradigm to understand our modes of governing post 9/11, but the model of the "state of exception" does not reflect well the central animating project of legalizing every counterinsurgency strategy and does not capture the overarching logic of our present forms of governing, which is rather based on the counterinsurgency warfare paradigm.

Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, by Bernard E. Harcourt - Apologies for the self-reference, but the notion of what I call our "expository society" in the digital age is a key building block to *The Counterrevolution" because it sets up one of the three main prongs of the counterinsurgency mode of governing, namely total information awareness. That is the very foundation of our new way of governing post 9/11.

The Punitive Society, by Michel Foucault: Foucault's turn to analyze how power circulates in our punitive society in the immediate aftermath of May 1968 is foundational to rethinking modes of governance in our post-9/11 context.

Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence, by Judith Butler - Butler's early and insightful writings in the post 9/11 context jump-started the theorization of all the excesses of the war on terror, especially indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.

A Theory of the Drone, by Gregoire Chamayou - Chamayou opened up new ways of thinking about the governing logic of drones in this pathbreaking book.

A Colony in a Nation, by Chris Hayes - Hayes brilliantly documents the ways in which our militarized policing at Ferguson reflects a new mode of colonial administration in this country.

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, by John Mearsheimer - Mearsheimer's penetrating realist outlook and perspective on American foreign policy is key to understanding the problems associated with the counterinsurgency warfare mode of governing.

About The Counterrevolution: Militarized police officers with tanks and drones. Pervasive government surveillance and profiling. Social media that distract and track us. All of these, contends Bernard E. Harcourt, are facets of a new and radical governing paradigm in the United States–one rooted in the modes of warfare originally developed to suppress anticolonial revolutions and, more recently, to prosecute the war on terror. The Counterrevolution is a penetrating and disturbing account of the rise of counterinsurgency, first as a military strategy but increasingly as a way of ruling ordinary Americans. Harcourt shows how counterinsurgency’s principles–bulk intelligence collection, ruthless targeting of minorities, pacifying propaganda–have taken hold domestically despite the absence of any radical uprising. This counterrevolution against phantom enemies, he argues, is the tyranny of our age. Seeing it clearly is the first step to resisting it effectively.