zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » New Article up at Pragati: Lethal Ideas & Insurgent Memories – Review of The Violent Image

New Article up at Pragati: Lethal Ideas & Insurgent Memories – Review of The Violent Image

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

The Violent Image by Neville Bolt 

I have a new book review up at Pragati this morning:

Lethal ideas and insurgent memory 

….One expert who does acknowledge a paradigmatic shift and posits a powerful explanatory model for the behavior of what he terms “the new revolutionaries” is Dr Neville Bolt of the War Studies Department of King’s College, London and author of The Violent Image: Insurgent Propaganda and the New Revolutionaries. Taking a constructivist view of irregular military conflict as the means by which insurgents weave an enduring political narrative of mythic power and shape historical memory, Bolt eschews some cherished strategic tenets of realists and Clausewitzians. The ecology of social media, powered by decentralised, instant communication platforms and the breakdown of formerly autarkic or regulated polities under the corrosive effects of capitalist market expansion, have been, in Bolt’s view, strategic game changers “creating room to maneuver” in a new “cognitive battlespace” for “complex insurgencies”.  Violent “Propaganda of the Deed”, once the nihilistic signature of 19th century Anarchist-terrorist groups like the People’s Will, has reemerged in the 21stcentury’s continuous media attention environment as a critical tool for insurgents to compress time and space through “…a dramatic crisis that must be provoked”.

As a book The Violent Image sits at the very verge of war and politics where ideas become weapons and serve as a catalyst for turning grievance into physical aggression and violence. Running two hundred and sixty-nine heavily footnoted pages and an extensive bibliography that demonstrates Bolt’s impressive depth of research. While Bolt at times slips into academic style, for the most part his prose is clear, forceful and therefore useful and accessible to the practitioner or policy maker. Particularly for the latter, are Bolt’s investigations into violent action by modern terrorists as a metaphor impacting time (thus, decision cycles) across a multiplicity of audiences.  This capacity for harvesting strategic effect from terrorist events was something lacking in the 19th and early 20thcentury followers of Bakunin and Lenin (in his dalliances with terrorism); or in Bolt’s view, the anarchists “failed to evoke a coherent understanding in the population” or a “sustained message”.

Read the rest here.


3 Responses to “New Article up at Pragati: Lethal Ideas & Insurgent Memories – Review of The Violent Image”

  1. Pete Says:

    I can dig this…and it apllies to the model of… we win militarily…they win socially, politically and culturally.  Deny the enemy that…and you move the populace.  It’s on my reading list…which is ever lengthening

  2. T. Greer Says:

    Bolt’s emphasis on violent action being less important as a discrete tactical action than as emotive symbolic imagery for the nurturance and amplification of grievance and empathic solidarity within a community feeling itself ‘oppressed’ or “under siege” has a deep political resonance in modern conflicts….. This theory explains why tactics that otherwise are fundamentally abhorrent, like suicide bombing or beheading hostage, and are essentially militarily futile and horrifying to most observers, can nonetheless be considered successful, if they manage to unify or radicalise the target community into a loyal base of support for the insurgents.”
    This a succinct expression of the exact point I was trying to get across withmy series on the ‘social context of radical Islamic terrorism.‘ Very well said. If the book has 260 pages of well researched footnotes to buttress the point – well, that sound like a book I ought to read!

  3. zen Says:

    T. Greer,
    It’s a good book. Some what Bolt discusses is politics moreso than strategy but it is politics intended to reinforce the collective will to prevail in a conflict.
    I think Matt Armstrong would find it interesting as well, given his public diplomacy job  
    Your post I think will be of great interest to Lexington Green and James Bennett – did you cross-post it at Chicago Boyz?
    Yes, I recommend it. I’d also suggest The Insurgent Archipelago by John Mackinlay 

Switch to our mobile site