Cover image for Thermonuclear monarchy : choosing between democracy and doom
Title:
Thermonuclear monarchy : choosing between democracy and doom
Author:
Scarry, Elaine.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2014]
Physical Description:
582 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
In this incisive, masterfully argued new book, award-winning social theorist Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon--a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War--deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy. According to the Constitution, the decision to go to war requires rigorous testing by both Congress and the citizenry; when a leader can single-handedly decide to deploy a nuclear weapon, we live in a state of "thermonuclear monarchy, " not democracy. The danger of nuclear weapons comes from potential accidents or acquisition by terrorists, hackers, or rogue countries. But the gravest danger comes from the mistaken idea that there exists some case compatible with legitimate governance.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393080087
Format :
Book

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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library JX1974.7 .S2177 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

During his impeachment proceedings, Richard Nixon boasted, "I can go into my office and pick up the telephone and in twenty-five minutes seventy million people will be dead." Nixon was accurately describing not only his own power but also the power of every American president in the nuclear age.

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon each contemplated using nuclear weapons--Eisenhower twice, Kennedy three times, Johnson once, Nixon four times. Whether later presidents, from Ford to Obama, considered using them we will learn only once their national security papers are released.

In this incisive, masterfully argued new book, award-winning social theorist Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon--a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War--deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

According to the Constitution, the decision to go to war requires rigorous testing by both Congress and the citizenry; when a leader can single-handedly decide to deploy a nuclear weapon, we live in a state of "thermonuclear monarchy," not democracy.

The danger of nuclear weapons comes from potential accidents or acquisition by terrorists, hackers, or rogue countries. But the gravest danger comes from the mistaken idea that there exists some case compatible with legitimate governance. There can be no such case. Thermonuclear Monarchy shows the deformation of governance that occurs when a country gains nuclear weapons.

In bold and lucid prose, Thermonuclear Monarchy identifies the tools that will enable us to eliminate nuclear weapons and bring the decision for war back into the hands of Congress and the people. Only by doing so can we secure the safety of home populations, foreign populations, and the earth itself.


Author Notes

Elaine Scarry is the Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. Her book The Body in Pain was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Scarry (The Body in Pain) takes a long, hard look at America's nuclear arsenal and finds its existence to be completely incompatible with democracy. She shows how "out-of-ratio weapons"-those that allow a single person or small number of people to kill millions-are by their nature monarchical rather than democratic. Despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war to the legislative rather than the executive branch and places the distribution of armaments in the hands of the population as a whole through the Second Amendment, current executive policy arrogates these rights to itself. Scarry's work is an appeal to the American citizenry and to that of other nuclear powers to reassert their control over these weapons in order to abolish them. While her main arguments are straightforward and readily understood, she strays into lengthy forays on political philosophy and examples of questionable relevance. While 30-plus pages devoted to translations of The Iliad make the point that as long ago as Homer, the consent of soldiers was crucial in the prosecution of warfare, this and other arguments could have been made with more brevity. Specialists will applaud this work, but it will miss the mark with the general public, which most desperately needs to read it. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

Scarry's book radicalizes existing critiques of nuclear weapons, arguing that their possession is incompatible with democracy and the social contract. Her key claim is that because of their massive destructiveness, nuclear weapons must be controlled by a single individual or at most a small group, thus vitiating popular control of the decision to go to war and so undermining democracy. In its call for the abolition of nuclear arms, the book is reminiscent of Jonathan Schell's Fate of the Earth (1982) but goes far beyond Schell and other critics by embedding its argument in a deep study of the history of ethical and political thinking. Scarry (Harvard Univ.) will undoubtedly attract criticism for not developing a clear account of how nuclear weapons could be eliminated or not confronting the question of whether a nuclear standoff might paradoxically make the unrestrained use of violence less rather than more likely. In spite of the author's great erudition, the writing is clear and accessible to a wide range of readers. --J. Donald Moon, Wesleyan University


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Floor of the Worldp. 1
Part 1 The United States Constitution Outlaws Nuclear Weapons
A Prelude and Summaryp. 31
Chapter 1 The Constitution Requires a Congressional Declaration of Warp. 37
Chapter 2 Nuclear Weapons Violate the Second Amendment Requirement for Authorization by the Citizenryp. 85
Part 2 The Social Contract Outlaws Nuclear Weapons
A Prelude and Summaryp. 145
Chapter 3 The Social Contract Is a Covenant for Peacep. 157
Chapter 4 The Social Contract and the Double Brakes on Injuryp. 189
Part 3 Everyday Consent and Emergency Deliberation
A Prelude and Summaryp. 257
Chapter 5 Consent and the Bodyp. 267
Chapter 6 Thinking in an Emergencyp. 314
Conclusion: Against Us Allp. 397
Notesp. 405
Acknowledgmentsp. 539
Indexp. 545

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