How we understand the nature of the subject of war has fundamental implications for how we understand the subject of the struggle against war. The subject of liberal war does not fight simply in order to destroy another subject but to produce subjects who will in turn reproduce the order for which such war is waged. This essay considers Judith Butler's claim that the wars waged by the United States produce a subject that conceives not only his or her own violence as righteous but his or her own destructibility as unthinkable. The U.S. desire for a condition of radical invulnerability is a symptom of the deeply embedded belief in security that has shaped modern discourses on subjectivity tout court. Rejecting this representation, this essay argues that the United States is not a subject that aspires to security but one that is convinced only of its radical vulnerability. Rather than accepting Butler's argument for vulnerability as an ontological foundation for resistance to war, we must grasp how the concept of vulnerability functions today within liberal regimes' strategies of subjectification. How can vulnerability be a sufficient condition on which to base a politics of contestation to the mechanisms of power through which human lives are framed today, when it is the first presupposition of liberalism, the tradition of thought and governance to which these mechanisms of power owe their origin? How can vulnerability be conceived as the foundation for a counterliberal theory of subjectivity, when it is the first presupposition of liberal biopolitics and its biologized subject?
Julian Reid; The Vulnerable Subject of Liberal War. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2011; 110 (3): 770–779. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1275788
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