Peter C. Schaehrer Memorial Lecture

The Disappearance of the Battlefield and the ‘End of War’

Antoine Bousquet, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck University of London

The classical understanding of the battlefield as a distinct physical and normative space within which opposing armies clash appears today to be in a terminal state of crisis. Throughout the twentieth century, the dramatic increase in the range and accuracy of weapon systems drove a rapid expansion of the battlespace, all the while societies were increasingly mobilised to support war efforts. The manifestation of total war these processes participated in may well have receded but we are now entering a new age characterised by indeterminate states of conflict in which individualised targeting is pursued on a planetary scale and various groups adopt radical strategies of generalised concealment within the civil societies of their enemies. As the battlefield fragments and disperses, crucial distinctions between military and civilian, domestic and foreign, war and peace become ever more precarious. Far from heralding the end of conflict, the twilight of ‘war’ merely prefigures a new constellation of organised violence. With the established laws of war ill-suited to meet this growing challenge, the urgent task facing global civil society is to reinvent normative and legal frameworks for restraining and regulating the use of armed force in the twenty-first century.

Antoine Bousquet is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck University of London. His main areas of specialism cover war and society, political violence, the history and philosophy of science and technology, and social international political and theory. He is the author of The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity (2009), an enquiry into the influence of major scientific paradigms and key associated technologies on the conceptualisation and practice of war in the modern era.

Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 8:00pm

Olin Hall, Love Auditorium


Academics, University Studies

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