■ Fierke, Karin M., 2007. Critical Approaches to International Security. Cambridge: Polity. 235 pp. ISBN 0745632926

AuthorNikola Hynek
DOI10.1177/00223433080450010804
Published date01 January 2008
Date01 January 2008
Subject MatterArticles
escape. These are the ‘conflict trap’, the ‘natural
resources trap’, the trap of being ‘landlocked with
bad neighbors’ and the trap of ‘bad governance in
a small country’. Collier discusses four different
instruments for tackling these traps: aid, security,
laws and charters, and trade policies. Contrary to
the aid-solves-everything approach, Collier argues
that aid is not the answer, or at least not the main
answer: aid cannot stop conflict, though it can
help after a conflict has ended. It cannot remove
the natural resource trap (indeed, aid could be
viewed as just another natural resource). It can
help landlocked countries improve their infra-
structures, but cannot eliminate the problem of
bad neighbors. According to Collier, if the
‘bottom billion’ are ever to be helped, the G8 will
have to adopt preferential trade policies, laws,
statutes and charters for improved governance and
even military interventions. This book is thought-
provoking and ripe with path-breaking scholar-
ship, yet enjoyable and very easy to read, thanks to
the author’s personal and blunt style.
Gudrun Østby
Fierke, Karin M., 2007. Critical Approaches
to International Security. Cambridge: Polity.
235 pp. ISBN 0745632926.
To paraphrase Deleuze’s observation of Foucault,
it can be said that Karin Fierke moves diagonally
in this seminal book. Her work can be conceived
of as a series of ontologico-epistemologico-
empirical investigations, all of which, when aggre-
gated, form a meaningful whole transcending its
parts: the critical security gestalt. Fierke proves
Deleuze’s observation that any heuristically innova-
tive way forward must be paved by incessant
rethinking of key concepts (and the introduction
of new ones) as these have inescapably lost their
intellectual flexibility. There are three main parts
in this book. The first, which is simply termed
‘Context’, provides the reader with an archaeo-
logical analysis of the academic fortunes of security
studies during and after the Cold War an era in
which the only valid prism to look at the social
reality around us was US realism based on military
delimitation of security. Fierke convincingly maps
a mutual constitution of depoliticized theory with
political practice and warns against a return to the
military definition, in the light of the War on
Terror, which is the subject of a Frankfurt-school-
inspired critique later in the book. The second
part, called ‘Construction’, examines the social
origins of security threats. In the contingent de-
velopment of threats, particular attention is paid to
the concepts of change and identity. Importantly,
Fierke discusses a distinction between the construc-
tion of threat and production of danger. The third
part, ‘Practice’, analyses the effects of the politics of
danger-production, namely, human trauma result-
ing in human insecurity. Fierke ends her journey by
addressing ‘the potential for emancipatory change’
(p. 186), using the example of Hurricane Katrina.
All in all, this book is a must read.
Nikola Hynek
Hitchens, Christopher, 2007. God Is Not
Great: The Case Against Religion. London:
Atlantic. 307 pp. ISBN 9781843548566.
Christopher Hitchens has written a well-crafted
polemic against religious faith. For Hitchens, it is
religion itself that is the problem, and he recom-
mends atheism as a solution to conflict (rather than
promoting ecumenical toleration). He starts by
outlining the harm done by religion (including dis-
crimination against pigs). The tales of persecution
and child abuse will be familiar to many readers.
Hitchens argues that religions are manmade and
their holy books are clearly documents of their time
(and so cannot be universal). For example, he notes
that immediately after the Ten Commandments,
Moses instructs his followers in great detail on pur-
chasing and selling slaves, selling their daughters
and the management of oxen. Hitchens also uses
Moses to rebut the notion that religion is the foun-
dation of morality when he asks whether Moses
and his followers really thought that murder, lying
and stealing were good ideas before God prohibited
them. The book concludes with a call for a second
enlightenment to finally replace faith with reason.
At times, he overreaches and indulges in the
mental gymnastics he condemns in the faithful.
Most importantly, he tries to define off icially
atheist and murderous regimes (such as the Soviet
Union or North Korea) as actually being religious
because they deified their leaders and used elem-
ents of ritual. While they did borrow from reli-
gion, these atheists were very different from the
faithful described in the rest of God Is Not Great
and cannot be classed as such. Whether or not you
agree with its thesis, the book is to be recom-
mended as fine example of tightly controlled argu-
mentation. In the end, it is a polemic rather than
a treatise, but a well-written one.
Nicholas Marsh
journal of PEACE RESEARCH volume 45 / number 1 / january 2008
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