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

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9780385721387: The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History

For five centuries, the State has evolved according to epoch-making cycles of war and peace. But now our world has changed irrevocably. What faces us in this era of fear and uncertainty? How do we protect ourselves against war machines that can penetrate the defenses of any state? Visionary and prophetic, The Shield of Achilles looks back at history, at the “Long War” of 1914-1990, and at the future: the death of the nation-state and the birth of a new kind of conflict without precedent.

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Review:

The scope of Philip Bobbitt's The Shield of Achilles is breathtaking: the interplay, over the last six centuries, among war, jurisprudence, and the reshaping of countries ("states," in Bobbitt's vocabulary). Bobbitt posits that certain wars should be deemed epochal--that is, seen as composed of many "smaller" wars. For example, according to Bobbitt the epochal war of the 20th century began in 1914 and ended with the collapse of communism in 1990. These military affairs--and their subsequent "ultimate" peace agreements--have caused, each in their own way, revolutionary reconstructions of the idea and actuality of statehood and, following, of relationships between these various new entities. Of these reconstructions (including the princely state, the kingly state, and the nation-state), Bobbitt is most interested in the current incarnation, which he calls the market-state: one whose borders are scuffed and hazy at best (certainly compared to earlier territorial markers) and whose strengths, weaknesses, citizens, and enemies roam across cyberspace rather than plains and valleys. The Shield of Achilles is massive, erudite, and demanding--at once highly abstract and extremely detailed. There is about it an air of detached erudition, one noticeably free of the easy "decline and fall" hysteria too often present in contemporary historical analyses. --H. O'Billovich

From the Back Cover:

“Magisterial in its scope and ambition. . . . Bobbitt’s evolutionary map of warfare’s impact onteh state foreshadows the kinds of events still unfolding.” —The New York Times

“I take my hat off to the author for the boldness of his enterprise, for his scholarship, and for his capacity to get the reader to think along new lines. The Shield of Achilles may well become a classic.” —Paul Kennedy, The New York Review of Books

“Excellent . . . This book – with its masterly reappraisal of modern history and subtle elucidation of today’s geopolitics – should be on every desk in the State Department.” —National Review

“Philip Bobbit is to be saluted for undertaking an epic struggle to sort through an extraordinarily dynamic time in international affairs.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Once in a great while, there comes a book so ambitious in scope and so original in its insights that it challenges our comfortable patterns of thought and provokes widespread discussion in academic and political circles . . . a rare and important book.” —Fort Worth Star Telegram

The Shield of Achilles should become required reading not only in the academy but for the military and civilian decision-makers of the industrialized world.” —The Weekly Standard

“[The Shield of Achilles] will be one of the most important works in international relations published during the last fifty years.” —Sir Michael Howard, author of War and the Liberal Conscience

“This is a bold book, a brave book, and a worthy primer for the essential study of where we go from here.” —The Times (London)

[The Shield of Achilles] will be one of the most important works in international relations published during the last fifty years.” –Sir Michael Howard, author of War and the Liberal Conscience

“This is a bold book, a brave book, and a worthy primer for the essential study of where we go from here.” –The Times (London)

“We are all about to have our view of the world turned upside down by this superb book.”–Chris Patten, The Guardian (UK)

“An extraordinarily sophisticated and comprehensive survey of war, peace, and nationhood. . . . Bobbitt has made a valuable contribution to wider understanding of how the world really works.”–The Dallas Morning News

“Remarkable. . . An audacious, massively informed analysis of the nature of the modern state and of modern war.”–Richard Overy, Literary Review

“A blockbuster on the history and future of the modern state. . . I defy you to read this and claim your understanding has not been enriched.”–Adam Roberts, The Independent (UK)

“Awe-inspiring. An alarming glimpse of our future. . . argumentative, opinionated, brilliant. . . A triumph.”–Evening Standard

“One of the key texts at the birth of the new century.”–Philip Ziegler

“Wide-ranging, ambitiously conceived, and intelligently argued. . . . Bobbitt’s future scenarios are based on an intelligent and cautiously realistic extrapolation of current security and political developments. We ignore them at our peril.”–The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Remarkable. . . Breathtaking in its range of reference, forcefully written.”–London Review of Books

“Fascinating. . . This book will certainly stimulate a needed discussion of America’s foreign policy.”–Christian Science Monitor

“Immensely and deliberately provocative. . . A passionate and worthy effort to make sense of what is clearly a brand new world.”–New York Sun

“Detailed and provocative. . . . A valuable and intriguing look at where we have been and where we are going.”–Booklist

“A brilliant, disquieting essay on geopolitics, warfare and the future of the state. . . . Few historical studies are as daring and engaging as this.”–Kirkus Reviews

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