The Age of Violence
The Crisis of Political Action and the End of Utopia
by Alain Bertho Translated by David Broder
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144 pages / October 2018 / 9781786637475
October 2018 / 9781786637482

Exploring the fury of the young in a world of crisis that seems to offer no alternatives

“Only martyrs know neither pity nor fear. Believe me, the day when the martyrs are victorious will be the day of universal conflagration.”

Jacques Lacan made this gloomy prophesy back in 1959: but doesn’t it also apply to our own time? Faced with a rise in attacks around the world, can we really just blame the “radicalisation of Islam’? What hope is there for the alienated youth, as the wars that have ravaged the Middle East spill out across the globe? For Alain Bertho, the mounting chaos we see today is, above all, driven by the weakening of states’ legitimacy under the pressure of globalisation. Add to this the hypocrisy of the elites who beat the drum of “security measures,” even as they sow the seeds of violence around the world. This disorder is the swamp of despair which can only produce fresh atrocities. Today’s youth are the lost children of neoliberal globalisation, the inheritors of the political and human chaos it produces. When they find it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, their revolt tends to take the paths of martyrdom and despair. The closing of the revolutionary hypothesis allows only fury. The answer, Bertho argues, is a new radicalism, able to inspire a collective hope in the future.


“An important and iconoclastic intervention into the ongoing debate on the planetary mutation in the forms of collective action. Bertho surveys, with an anthropologist’s eye, the myriad phenomena of political violence criss-crossing our world on fire—from mass riots to transnational jihadism—to diagnose an irreversible divorce between peoples and powers. Age of Violence challenges us to imagine what future shapes radicalism will take outside the classical nexus of state and revolution.”

“Inspired by the tragic events of 2015 in Paris, this insightful philosophical and anthropological enquiry locates them within the French and global continuums to which they belong, assessing the combined effect of neoliberal globalisation and the crisis of left-wing politics on the ‘children of chaos.’”

“Alain Bertho doesn’t only ask disturbing questions; he also seeks to answer them. In The Age of Violence, he turns a steely gaze to the rise of collective civil violence across the world. His insights into matrices of un/belonging, crises of truth, and radicalism are essential reading for those of us attempting to make sense of the contemporary world.”

“This is a book that has long been necessary. Where most accounts of jihadist violence emphasise its supposed theological or ideological bases, Alain Bertho’s Age of Violence is a powerful, profound, beautiful investigation of, and meditation on, the repressed connections between forms of increasingly nihilistic global violence, from ISIS to urban riots to communal murder, and a wider collapse of life chances, political legitimacy and personal meaning visited by the death-hurtle late capitalism. Bertho’s book confronts what most accounts will not—the destructive appeal of chances for meaningfully murderous action for the ‘lost children’ of globalisation. This is absolutely essential reading for anyone alarmed by these terrifying symptoms.”

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