Book Review: War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought, by Murad Idris

Date01 February 2021
Published date01 February 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
/tmp/tmp-18BPSpufnC3f8C/input Book Reviews
Dennis Thompson, “Theories of Institutional Corruption,” Annual Review
of Political Science
21, no. 26 (2018): 1–19. Mark E. Warren, “What Does
Corruption Mean in a Democracy,” American Journal of Political Science 48,
no. 2 (2004): 328–43.
2. See especially the discussions of Machiavelli and La Boétie in chapters 3 and 4
as well as Weber’s separation of the bureaucratic from the political in chapter 8.
3. This discussion originates from the engagement with La Boétie in chapter 4,
83–97, and is revisited with reference to Robespierre’s and Kant’s discrete com-
mitments to purity and publicity in chapter 7, see especially 164–65.
4. On this, contrast Philip Pettit, Christian List, Group Agency (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2011), with Ceva and Ferretti, “Political Corruption, Individual
Behaviour, and the Quality of Institutions.”
5. The worry is powerfully voiced in Jonathan Quong, Liberalism without
Perfection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). Contrast it with Sparling’s
brief rebuttal on 188–89.
6. Mark Philp, “Defining Political Corruption,” Political Studies 45, no. 3 (1997):
436–62. Sparling introduces this view on pp. 6–16 and revisits its scope and
reach throughout the book.
7. Miller,
Institutional Corruption.
8. This is a possible subtext to Sparling’s reading of other actions on the contrastive
terms of political integrity and legitimacy (5).
War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought, by Murad
Idris. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 352 pp.
Reviewed by: Andrew F. March, Political Science, University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, MA, USA

DOI: 10.1177/0090591720907703
Murad Idris’s complex and ambitious War for Peace: Genealogies of a
Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought
takes aim at the ideal of peace.
Idris argues that peace is never an unproblematic ideal set against its most
obvious other—war—but is also implicated in the authorization of certain
kinds of wars, and thus in the creation of moral hierarchies of human com-
munities. Far from innocent, grand theorizations of peace tend to be charac-
terized by three consistent discursive structures, which he calls the parasitical,
the provincial, and the polemical.
By “parasitical” he means that peace is rarely spoken of alone. Rather,
discussions of peace very quickly enlist adjacent concepts (“insinuates”) that
implicate peace in other pursuits. “Peace rarely appears on its own; it appears
alongside such ideas as friendship, order, security, law, development, human

Political Theory 49(1)
rights, toleration, mutual understanding, etc.”1 Idris wants to show us that in
the case of peace “each insinuate . . . makes possible various forms of vio-
lence; their conjoinment with peace sanitizes this violence, and perpetuates
the myth that one can attain all good things without violence, or with a good
By “provincial” he means that theories that aim at universalism quickly
reveal their particular anxieties about concrete others. Idris wants to bring our
attention here to how “idealizing ‘peace’ allows some to cast themselves as
superior, advanced, cultured, or civilized. It justifies certain kinds of hostility
and refuses others, but it does so in ways that often reveal particular interests,
anxieties, and desires—ones...

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