This article describes and explains “police vigilantism” as a mode of authoritative extralegal coercion performed by public police officials conceived as doing their duty to realize justice in the world. Based on ethnographic observations, interviews, and content analysis of news and entertainment media as well as official government reports, this essay examines a specific form of police vigilantism in contemporary India known as “encounter killings”. Demonstrating that encounter killings are widely constituted as a form of ritual purification and social defense by self-sacrificing police, it theorizes a metaphysics of police vigilantism in India that combines generalized experiences of insecurity with shared cosmologies of just war. Comparing this metaphysics with justifications of state violence in other Global South contexts, this study sheds light on how such violence may be legitimated through the conceptual inextricability of law and war as embodied in a uniquely constituted human figure: the police vigilante.
The Metaphysics of Police Vigilantism in India
Warfare was widespread in classical India. Although the Buddhists of India abhorred killing, they could not evade or ignore war altogether. From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, various types of war magic, together with justifications for their use, developed in tantric Buddhist communities. Defensive types of war magic adhered to pacifist ethics and aimed to avoid, halt, or disperse armies. Harmful war magic was applied in the context of the transcendent ethics of enlightenment. Even when warfare was fully incorporated into Buddhist soteriology, non-violence remained a paramount virtue, and the scope of a just war was very limited. The present survey of tantric sources shows that tantric Buddhist war magic emerged as a reaction to the inevitability of war and was applied in the hope of mitigating warfare's excesses.
Honour at the Stake
How does Shakespeare represent war? Guest editor Patrick Gray reviews scholarship to date on the question, in light of contributions to a special issue of Critical Survey, ‘Shakespeare and War’. Drawing upon St. Augustine’s City of God, the basis for later just war theory, Gray argues that progressive optimism regarding the perfectibility of what St. Augustine calls the ‘City of Man’ makes it difficult for modern commentators to discern Shakespeare’s own more tragic, Augustinian sense of warfare as a necessary evil, given the fallenness of human nature. Modern misgivings about ‘honour’ also lead to misinterpretation. As Francis Fukuyama points out, present-day liberal democracies tend to follow Hobbes and Locke in attempting to ‘banish the desire for recognition from politics’. Shakespeare in contrast, like Hegel, as well as latter-day Hegelians such as Fukuyama, Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth, sees the faculty that Plato calls thymos as an invaluable instrument of statecraft.
Critics to date tend to identify Shakespeare’s perspective on war with either pacifism or militarism, stances seen as embodied by Erasmus and Machiavelli. This dichotomy leads to a stalemate, since the plays articulate both of these extremes. A third option, however, is the more pragmatic, circumstantial approach to the ethics of war formulated through just war theory. Over the course of the plays, characters gradually develop complex ethical arguments both for and against the justice and injustice of wars. They consider traditional prerequisites for a just war such as just cause, right intention and legitimate authority, but give specific emphasis to the principle of proportionality. A violation of this principle, as becomes obvious, renders the war in question unjust.
Dr Moellendorf’s book is a tightly argued, wide-ranging, well-written piece that is challenging, important and enjoyable. It is a sustained and reasonably comprehensive meditation upon global justice that is more thorough and more readable than the vast majority of comparable works. Truly it is a must for any one who takes global justice seriously. For my remarks, I wish to concentrate on his thoughts regarding justified wars and widespread institutional design at the cosmopolitan level.
Relative Painlessness in Shakespeare’s Laughter at War
How do we understand Shakespeare’s invitation to laugh in the context of war? Previous critical accounts have offered too simple a view: that laughter undercuts military ideals. Instead, this article draws on the Aristotelian description of laughable ‘deformity’ and Plato’s description of laughable ignorance in order to characterize Shakespeare’s laughter in the context of war more carefully as an expression of ‘relative painlessness’. It discusses how the fraught amusement of Coriolanus (Coriolanus), the reciprocality of Falstaff and Hotspur as laughable military failures (1 Henry IV) and the laughter of Bertram at Paroles (All’s Well That Ends Well) each engage with an ancient philosophical conundrum articulated poignantly by St. Augustine: the requirement that a Christian civilization engage in war to defend itself against honour-obsessed aggressors without turning into a like aggressor itself. Shakespeare’s laughter at war enacts the desire for that balance.
A Neglected Aspect of the Early Modern Jurists and Edmund Burke
In this article, I deal with the issue of how the early modern thinkers dealt, over time, with the question of 'international law' and its enforcement. To draw out Burke's underappreciated view of enforcement, it recounts the law of nations ideas by some of the main jurists of the period such as Vitoria, Gentili and Suárez. As is well known, their differentiation of the law of nations from the law of nature led to the gradual emergence of the legal principle and moral right of intervention to prevent gross violations of the natural law in the discourse of international justice. Such ideas were refined by Grotius, who largely equated international law with punishment, something Pufendorf and Vattel would later criticise. I argue that it is nevertheless Edmund Burke to whom we must look to bridge the two concerns of international law: authority and enforcement. Burke provided the conceptual scope needed to plausibly resolve the issues of enforcement by prescribing specific common law foundations, binding the legal and the moral in international law and presenting it as domestic law. This way of looking at Burke is under-recognised and provides insight into some of the same concerns we face today with enforcement in international law.
Jeppe von Platz
According to both common wisdom and long-standing tradition, the ideal of peace is central to the morality of war. I argue that this notion is mistaken, not because peace is unachievable and utopian, though it might be for many of today's asymmetrical conflicts; nor because the pursuit of peace is counterproductive, though, again, it might be for many of today's conflicts; the problem, rather, is that the pursuit of peace is not a proper objective of war.
This article concentrates on asymmetrical civil war, one common type of contemporary conflict. My aim is to articulate some of the normative jus post bellum guidelines that should be followed in ending this kind of asymmetrical conflict, and the ideal of just peace that should inform the development of such guidelines. I argue that questions surrounding the just ending and aftermath of asymmetrical conflict should be answered relationally, that is by reference to the kind of relationship such efforts should seek to cultivate. Morally defensible political relationships, I claim, express the general moral values of respect for agency and reciprocity. It is these values, I claim, that processes for ending conflict must express and that inform the regulative ideal of just peace at the core of jus post bellum.
Methods, Interpretations, Imagination
Anthropological research in war-torn countries like Afghanistan is dangerous and therefore often impossible. There are various constraints, both general and specific, that often hinder an anthropologist from going out into the field. This is not a new problem for social anthropology, but it is increasingly preoccupying the discipline. Thus, a 'distance approach' needs to be developed for studying the ethnography of the Afghan war. This article proposes one methodological possibility for approaching the Afghan war from other perspectives. This method involves extensive reading in and analysis of various written works and the critical examination of web sites and other media, in combination with fieldwork in Europe and Central Asia. In order to demonstrate this approach, the discourse on women's rights will be discussed.