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The Liberal Defence of Murder Hardcover – 1 Dec 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (1 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844672409
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844672400
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 937,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A welcome critical engagement, meaningful intellectualism and unbashed factual analysis. --Ariane Koek, Resurgence

Seymour s analysis has truly impressive breadth and depth. --Maria Ryan, Journal of American Studies

Indispensable ... Seymour brilliantly uncovers the pre-history and modern reality of the so-called 'pro-war Left.' --China Mieville, author of Perdido Street Station

About the Author

Richard Seymour lives, works and writes in London. He runs the Lenin's Tomb website, which comments on the War on Terror, Islamophobia and neoliberalism.


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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
I missed Richard Seymours The Liberal Defence of Murder first time round (it was initially published in 2008) but having enjoyed his short and sharp The Meaning of David Cameron I jumped at the chance of getting my hands on this revised edition (published in June this year) and was not dissapointed.

The book focusses on those ostensibly liberal "thinkers" who supported military interventions by western states (imperial in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, so-called "liberal democracys" in the latter half of the twentieth) against states in the non-western world. Seymour engages with a number of these "thinkers", their justifications for "liberal" military intervention, and highlights the massive gap between the idealistic rhetoric and the sordid reality. On a more general level the degree of ignorance (or mendacity) that such celebrated figures as US president Woodrow Wilson, Bernard Henri-Levy, Paul Berman, Michael Ignatief, Christopher Hitchens and Arthur Schlesinger Jr exhibit in their writings and exhortations is made crystal clear; the degree of continuity between the imperial/colonial mentality, the cold war "CIA socialists" (see Francis Stonor Saunders incomparable Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War) and that of the liberal interventionists is also examined.
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Format: Hardcover
I really hate the title of this book. Hate it. It's too shouty. Too much like an Evening Standard placard. But it is undeniably apt. And this book does what the best histories do. It surprises, entertains and illuminates. I say it's a 'secret' history. A lot of what it says you don't chat about in mixed company. Much of it is scandalous, much intriguing. And it will be new to many people. You don't hear every day that Locke was a racist slave-driver, Charles Dickens harboured genocidal fantasies about Indians, the founder of "liberal internationalism" was a KKK supporter and white supremacist, and that all too many of today's liberals have a soft spot for death squads and racist murderers. This is a secret history of "the liberal defence of murder".

Seymour's polemic is apparently motivated by an attempt to undercut the liberal supporters of Bush's wars, like the increasingly yawnsome Christopher Hitchens. This is why the intro and prologue contain a mixture of scattergun arguments, witticisms, interviews, gossip and testimonials, and bitter critique of the 'clash of civilizations'-style stories used to demonise Muslims and justify wars. But it is only when you get to the meat of the text, the four chapters making up the main body of the book, that you start to see how all this fits together. And it's here that the text rises above the usual polemics. Only when you've been through the colonial era, the Cold War, and the era of humanitarian interventions do you really see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Then you understand that pro-war liberalism is not a transitory phenomenon, but merely a recent expression of an old blight.
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Format: Hardcover
Richard Seymour is the author of the popular left-wing blog "Lenin's Tomb", and this book is his first book. It chronicles the development of the new trend of supposed 'humanitarian' interventionism, and particularly the support of much of the self-declared political Left for this type of imperialist war. For that is what it is, whether its PR campaigns may invoke 'human rights' or not, as Seymour takes pains to make clear.

The author discusses not just the nature and development of the new war-mongering on the part of supposed 'Leftists', but also goes into detail on the history of this type of warfare. Unfortunately, at times this becomes simply yet another list of the many and multifarious imperialist crimes and interventions on the part of Britain, France, the United States etc. in the long and sordid history of imperialism, with the link to specifically leftist or 'liberal' politics sometimes being rather unclear. Yet this is contrasted by Seymour with more in-depth portraits and commentaries on the various current opinion leaders involved with forging the new pro-imperialist consensus among the 'respectable' Left, which contains an interesting range of different people, from Christopher Hitchens to Makiya and from Samantha Power to Norman Geras. Richard Seymour is deservedly unsparing of these modern apologists for imperialist war, but he also takes care to properly describe and contextualize their positions and arguments, which is quite helpful since it allows a succesful and effective contrast between their claims on the one hand and their opportunism and hypocrisy on the other. This, after all, is the point of the book, and in that sense it is definitely a useful and important read.
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