Doctor of Philosophy
Theory and Criticism
This dissertation is a theoretical project that explores the conceptual nexus between civil war and power. It maps out a lineage of thought which posits civil war as a framework for explicating politics, not as a pre-political stage of savagery or a deteriorated condition of the socio-political order. Starting with Michel Foucault’s radical yet short-lived civil war thesis, which situates civil war as the matrix of relations of power, this investigation traverses the work of several theorists and philosophers who have drawn on, or departed from, this line of thought. It critically evaluates Giorgio Agamben’s use of the concept of civil war as the fundamental threshold of (bio)politics in an epoch marked by the 9/11 attacks and the ‘war on terror’. Then it gives an account of Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri’s and Eric Alliez & Maurizio Lazzarato’s differing perspectives on the question of how civil war relates to contemporary capitalism. A central theme of the dissertation is the unresolved tension between the productive and repressive sides of power inherent in Foucault’s formulation of civil war, the way subsequent theorists position themselves in relation to this aporia, and the success or failure of their attempts to resolve this tension. As an alternative, I draw from Baruch Spinoza’s political philosophy to generate a perspective that prioritizes the uncertain and volatile nature of the relationship between civil war and power. I contend that such a perspective could address the strange overlap between the contemporary modalities of diffused political violence and decentralized regimes of power characterizing our present and provide us a theoretical account on the relationship between power and civil war that does not culminate in a ratification of domination and sovereignty.
Summary for Lay Audience
The primary aim of this project is to build up a theoretical inquiry that explores the relationship between civil war and power. I have examined the work of several theorists and philosophers and mapped out a lineage of thought through which civil war is presented as an integral aspect to socio-political existence in contradistinction to the state-centric theorizations that drive civil war to the outer margins of the political or frame as a complete breakdown of the socio-political order. Starting with Michel Foucault’s civil war thesis, this theoretical inquiry evaluates Giorgio Agamben’s use of the concept as the paradigm of biopolitics in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the ‘war on terror’. It then gives an account of Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri’s and Eric Alliez & Maurizio Lazzarato’s differing perspectives on the question of how civil war should be thought of in relation to contemporary capitalism. I have particularly stressed the unresolved tension between the productive and repressive sides of power inherent in Foucault’s formulation and the success or failure of the subsequent theorists in resolving it. I draw from Baruch Spinoza’s political philosophy to generate an alternative theoretical perspective to rethink the relationship between civil war and power with the intention to deal with the cluster of issues and problems that arise from such a line of thought.
Guven, Can, "Civil War and Power: A Theoretical Inquiry" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8762.