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The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2006

    Very thought provoking but focus on the thesis

    My first thought when I started his book was this could be the most depressing book I ever read. After reading it I think that my initial impressions were correct, the whole prospect that faith in our current nation-states losing their sense of legitimacy is disturbing at the least. The book is an excellent synthesis of normally disparate elements though I must admit one must have some background on the material before attempting to read it or else they concentrate on the concepts he is discussing and not his thesis. He was very persuasive in discussing the failure of the nation-state and proved quite convincingly that the seeds have been sown for death of the nation-state. But de-legitimization requires a consensus that only wholesale institutional changes are required, yet he never pointed to any evidence that the consensus is being reached. The problem when you are introducing a new concept while in it¿s embryonic stage, one can articulate trends as a straight line indicators but in order for those to hold up they must be corroborated by outside evidence. For example in discussing the privatization of state functions as a precursor of the market-state he never examines if those activities were simply extension of the intentions of the old order, by necessity of budget demands, or whether they would survive into the form of the new order. The Peruvian privatization and restructuring their power industry that eliminated most government positions is one thing, Washington D.C.¿s outsourcing parking ticket collection function to a private company, which resulted in no reduction in government jobs, is something else. The other element of the market-state that he left unexplored was if the state lost its monopoly on violence couldn¿t a corporation possess the same power as a loose conglomeration of individuals? If so couldn¿t there be a whole series of interactions of corporations initiating warfare against state and non-state actors? Some of which would be supportive of the market-state goals while others would not. I guess since he discussing an only partially realized construct he deserves some latitude. But I think when he ignores models such as the Religious Communitarian seen in states like Iran how much more thinking has to go into what a market-state looks like. This leaves me the feeling that he was close in his articulating the type of constitutional construct that is around the corner but I don¿t feel I feel his description is the ultimate outline. Definitely a thought provoking book and well worth reading

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    Complex Interaction of War and Peace in Modeling States

    In ¿The Shield of Achilles,¿ Philip Bobbitt has realized an impressive tour de force in studying in great detail the intimate interaction of law, strategy and history between 1494 and the contemporary era. Bobbitt correctly points out that there is no state without law, strategy and history because they complement and influence one another (p. 6). There can be a state only when the governing institutions of a society have an acknowledged monopoly on the legitimate use of violence at home (law) and abroad (strategy). History relates the account of the stewardship of a society over time that in turns influences law and strategy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Bobbitt convincingly shows that the history of the Modern State did not begin at Westphalia in 1648, but in the North of Modern Italy in 1494 (p. 805). Bobbitt clearly demonstrates that the Modern State was put together when it proved necessary to create a constitutional order that could wage war more efficiently than the feudal and mercantile orders it replaced (p. xxv). Bobbitt spends most of his time covering the pattern of epochal wars and state formation, of peace congresses and international constitutions in Europe. The Modern State was indeed born and went through successive mutations in Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. Bobbitt gives his readers a nice pictorial representation of the six constitutional conventions of the international society of states at the end of Book I dedicated to the State of War (pp. 346-347). Book II focuses on the States of Peace. To his credit, Bobbitt does not reduce war to a pathology that could one day be eradicated totally. War is as inevitable as death because the Modern State aims to be as efficient as possible to wage war when the opportunity arises to maximize its chance of survival and prosperity (pp. xxvii, 819). Contrary to the popular wisdom, Bobbitt rightly construes war not as the result of a decision made by an aggressor, but as the reaction of a state which cannot acquiesce to the legal and strategic demands of the aggressor (p. 8). Operation Iraqi Freedom is one of the most recent applications of this recurring observation. Bobbitt also makes an interesting comparison between the assassination of Kitty Genovese occurring in New York in 1964 in the presence of multiple passive witnesses and the wide indifference of the international community to the plight of Bosnia for years in the early 1990s (pp. 411-467). The international community will find in this chapter a well-articulated argumentation for doing little or nothing in the naïve or vain hope that such problems as the on-going genocide against certain groups of population in Darfur, Sudan will disappear as if by magic. Furthermore, Bobbitt rightly draws the attention of his audience to the importance of the Peace of Paris of 1990 that ended what he called the Long War starting in 1914 (pp. 24-64, 609-663). The Peace of Paris celebrated the triumph of the parliamentary democracy as the winning nation-state model at the successive expense of fascism and communism. Bobbitt is probably at his weakest when he launches himself in scenario analysis about the future of the three competing constitutional forms of the market-state that is taking the place of the nation-state (pp. 717, 728). The international society of states has indeed the choice among the entrepreneurial market-state (e.g., the U.S.), the mercantile market-state (e.g., Japan and China) and the managerial market-state (e.g., the European Union) (pp. 670-676). Each incarnation of the market-state has its pros and cons. As Bobbitt points out elsewhere in his book, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could be considered a fourth, malevolent version of the market-state that is a common threat to the other three versions (p. 820). For the first time since the birth of the Modern State, a state structure is no longer necessary to constitute a lethal threat to a societ

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003

    A Critical Analysis of War, Peace and Governance

    _The Shield of Achilles_ spreads the whole history of western governance and international conflict out on the table and examines it in small and large scale. Bobbitt finds threads and patterns that, taken together, explain the contradictions and confusion of world affairs after the Cold War, and offer the hope of finding our way through the perils ahead. Bobbitt's experience may be unique, and it reveals to him essential patterns others have missed. This is a long and detailed book by a gifted writer who is not afraid of compound, complex sentences. It is best read a chapter or two at a time. One reward: more critical insights (and good quotes) per pound than anything else I've read. The endpapers in my copy are covered with sticky notes indexing them. _The Shield of Achilles_ will probably put Bobbitt's name on the same lists as Locke and Machiavelli. It looks to be a classic and even its errors, when history has revealed them, may be debated for centuries.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2012

    I went to high school with Phil Bobbit and this man has the the

    I went to high school with Phil Bobbit and this man has the the highest ethical standards of any man I know. He researches his theories thoroughly and his premises are soundly based. I would reccommend this book to anyone who is seeking a deeper understanding of the international conflicts that exist today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004

    Often Ponderous, Pedantic & Pointless

    I would have given this text a single star, but for the Herculean effort that went into its writing. As such, I gave it one star for substance and another star for effort. Still, putting in a Herculean effort is not always a good thing: a scholar is also under an obligation to come to the point in a manner which respects the reader¿s time horizons. Professor Bobbitt, despite his evident intelligence, writes on at length about minutiae, where reams of historical data are presented for every purpose other than to elucidate a general point. Despite the prolixity, there is also an air of shallowness to the text, as if the mountains of verbiage were designed to hide a paucity of actual substance. That said, let me be clear again that Professor Bobbitt is an exceedingly intelligent person ¿ but the text **really** could have used better editing. The book promises to create a new epistemological ¿paradigm¿ through which we may better grasp the emerging nature of the ¿market state¿, which itself but the latest incarnation of an evolving state structure. That said, ¿just what particular form the State ultimately emerges¿..cannot confidently be predicted.¿ (233) The text's main points are somewhat vague and are stated without positive formulation, with the result being that one is hard pressed to confidently state what the main points actually are. It seems that were the basic points to have simply been summarized in concise bullet form, perhaps in a table, then we might have been able to shave hundreds of pages from the test. In fact, I spent far too much time deciphering items such as this: ¿The market-state is, above all, a mechanism for enhancing opportunity, for creating something ¿ possibilities ¿ commensurate with our imaginations.¿ (p. 232) In sum, the prose tends toward rambling; the flow of ideas is not quite coherent; and in the end, the text represents a flat rendition of European history without significant ¿theoretical yield¿.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2002

    First Rate.

    Solid, compelling scholarship. A must read for anyone interested in how our world is evolving politically.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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