Remaking Soldier-Citizens: Military Privatization and the Biopolitics of Sacrifice

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This paper questions how military privatization has the potential to signal the end of sacrifice. For two centuries, states have used various combinations of sovereign and biopolitical power to cultivate the synthesis of citizenship and sacrifice, thereby authorizing and legitimizing the use of military violence. Modern citizenship has been informed by the legacy of the French Revolution, which facilitated the sacralization of citizenship, and the citizen-soldier archetype has thus come to represent the most “true” expression of embodied sacrifice. Yet as Taussig-Rubbo has argued, the actions, injuries, and deaths of private military contractors cannot be interpreted within the realm of sacrifice, because their work operates within a corporate contract, rather than a social one. The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), “denationalization,” and “flexible soldier-citizenship” point, in different ways, to the various mechanisms by which citizenship is increasingly privatized, globalized, and securitized. When security and war are turned into commodities, violence becomes something to be managed within a neoliberal framework. The market, then, is hailed as the solution to problems, as opposed to an understanding of violence that requires contentious [or conscientious?] political analyses of how nation-states use violence. I suggest that looking to sacrificial discourses, rather than policy or law, is particularly fruitful in assessing the social and political impacts of military privatization. Since sacrifice connotes ideas about the relation between citizens and states, it is important to ask why American military discourses increasingly disavow sacrifice, rely on private forms of governing or “governing at a distance,” and in turn explore what this means for theorizing postmodern wars.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2014

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