Benedict Anderson, the classic theorist of the postnational, at times expressed something bordering on wonder when he described the modern subject’s willingness to fight and die for as limited and imaginary an idea as the nation. In fact, war constituted a kind of limit case for nationalism in his early work that suggested how powerfully contemporary culture undergirds the way we perceive global conflict. Two new studies of global conflict as represented in the novel are distinctive in their geographical, temporal, and generic foci. What connects them is the way—especially when read together—they suggest something of the enduring power of the category of the national to shape the way we perceive our relationship to the global and the way this shaping still carries great potential for the production of geopolitical violence.

In Jonathan Vincent’s The Health of the State: Modern US War...

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