Against War

Views from the Underside of Modernity

Against War

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: April 2008

Latin American Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Religious Studies

Nelson Maldonado-Torres argues that European modernity has become inextricable from the experience of the warrior and conqueror. In Against War, he develops a powerful critique of modernity, and he offers a critical response combining ethics, political theory, and ideas rooted in Christian and Jewish thought. Maldonado-Torres focuses on the perspectives of those who inhabit the underside of western modernity, particularly Jewish, black, and Latin American theorists. He analyzes the works of the Jewish Lithuanian-French philosopher and religious thinker Emmanuel Levinas, the Martiniquean psychiatrist and political thinker Frantz Fanon, and the Catholic Argentinean-Mexican philosopher, historian, and theologian Enrique Dussel.

Considering Levinas’s critique of French liberalism and Nazi racial politics, and the links between them, Maldonado-Torres identifies a “master morality” of dominion and control at the heart of western modernity. This master morality constitutes the center of a warring paradigm that inspires and legitimizes racial policies, imperial projects, and wars of invasion. Maldonado-Torres refines the description of modernity’s war paradigm and the Levinasian critique through Fanon’s phenomenology of the colonized and racial self and the politics of decolonization, which he reinterprets in light of the Levinasian conception of ethics. Drawing on Dussel’s genealogy of the modern imperial and warring self, Maldonado-Torres theorizes race as the naturalization of war’s death ethic. He offers decolonial ethics and politics as an antidote to modernity’s master morality and the paradigm of war. Against War advances the de-colonial turn, showing how theory and ethics cannot be conceived without politics, and how they all need to be oriented by the imperative of decolonization in the modern/colonial and postmodern world.


“[T]his is an innovative, passionate and provocative work that carefully synthesizes excellent close readings of several important thinkers. Against War is a significant contribution to the liberationist tradition and should attract attention across philosophy, theology, and ethnic studies.” — Mark Kjellman, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

Against War is a tour-de-force study in ethics and the philosophy of liberation that brings together the European Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin American undersides of modern thought. Nelson Maldonado-Torres does this not for the sake of articulating an intellectual historicism or textual mastery but for the sake of illuminating his own theory of critical epistemic normativity. This long-awaited work, written by the best critical theorist of his generation in Caribbean and Latin American thought, is groundbreaking; it properly takes the ‘decolonial turn’ to another level as it inaugurates what the author aptly coins ‘decolonial ethics.’ I expect this work to receive much well deserved study for generations to come. It is a triumph.” — Lewis R. Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Judaic Studies, Temple University

Against War is a treatise on a new type of ethics: decolonial ethics. As we associate discourse ethics with Jürgen Habermas, the scholarly community will soon associate decolonial ethics with Nelson Maldonado-Torres.” — Paget Henry, author of Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nelson Maldonado-Torres is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a coeditor of Latin@s in the World-System: Decolonization Struggles in the 21st Century U.S. Empire.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the series ix

Preface xi

Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Titles xvii

Introduction: Western Modernity and the Paradigm of War 1

Part I. Searching for Ethics in a Violent World: A Jewish Response to the Paradigm of War

1. From Liberalism to Hitlerism: Tracing the Origins of Violence and War 23

2. From Fraternity to Altericity, or Reason in the Service of Love 51

Part II. Of Masters and Slaves, or Frantz Fanon and the Ethico-Political Struggle for Non-sexist Human Fraternity

3. God and the Other in the Self-Recognition of Imperial Man 93

4. Recognition from Below: The Meaning of the Cry and the Gift of the Self in the Struggle for Recognition 122

Part III. From the Ethical to the Geopolitical: A Latin American Response to Coloniality, Neoliberal Globalization, and War

5. Enrique Dussel's Ethics and the Philosophy of Liberation 163

6. Enrique Dussel's Contribution to the De-colonial Turn: From the Critique of Modernity to Transmodernity 187

Conclusion: Beyond the Paradigm of War 237

Notes 255

Bibliography 313

Index 335
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4170-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4146-8
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