Review: The Culture of National Security

4 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Culture, DVD - Light, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Security (Including Immigration)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great from an academic point of view, missing some pieces

January 19, 2008

Peter J. Katzenstein

I confess to some impatience with this book, published in 1996. It is very much state-centric, although to its credit in the conclusion it postulates a need to focus more on non-military resources and objectives, and on non-state actors.

The book opens with the statement that the key to understanding is to focus on how people view their interests and how that changes, but I searched in vain for any differentiation among the eight tribes that define my own study of international and internal relations: government, military, law enforcement, academia, business, media, non-governmental and non-profit (and in the US, especially, foundations), and finally, civil including religion, labor, and advocacy groups. This book may well be one of the last gasps of “state uber alles” literature.

I have a note, bridge between the European literature of the 1980’s and the new view emerging in the post 9-11 environment, where most of us now recognize that security in all its forms, including human, food, and water security, are easily as important and often more important than military security.

The editors themselves recognize that all the theories were wrong, and that academia slept through the revolution, failing to foresee or explain.

I am amused by the discussion of identity, and how this presents the academics–poor dears–with moral issues.

I love footnotes, and this book has many of them, but as I went on and on I felt two things: 1) holy cow, the best of the best talking to themselves; and 2) where is everything else? This book strives to examine the fault line between Kennedy’s focus on resources and Fukiyama’s focus on ideology, while missing the impact of technology on the rise of indigenous peoples. In some ways, this book marks the end of the state-centric academic era, and the rise of the practitioner non-state actor era. There is now more to be learned outside the university than inside.

On balance, I would recommend this book as torture for aspiring PhD’s who need to be steeped in the arcane debates among the varied schools of international politics and the effect of domestic politics on foreign policy, but very candidly, I find the books listed below to be a better investment of time and more accessible to broader minds.

Modern Strategy
Security Studies for the 21st Century
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century
Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

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