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Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen

In this unique book, Peter Alexander Meyers leads us through the social processes by which shock incites terror, terror invites war, war invokes emergency, and emergency supports unchecked power. He then reveals how the domestic political culture created by the Cold War has driven these developments forward since 9/11, contending that our failure to acknowledge that this Cold War continues today is precisely what makes it so dangerous.
With eloquence and urgency Meyers argues that the mantra of our time—“everything changed on 9/11!”—is false and pernicious. By contrast, Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen provides a novel account of long-term transformations in the citizen’s experience of war, the constitution of political powers, and public uses of communication, and from that firm historical basis explains how a convergence of these social facts became the pretext for unprecedented opportunism and irresponsibility after 9/11. Where others have observed that our rights are under attack, Meyers digs deeper and finds that today “government by the people” itself is at risk.
Sparkling with historical and philosophical insight, this is a dramatic diagnosis of the American political scene that at once makes clear the new position of the citizen and the necessity for active citizenship if democracy is to endure.


“Just when it seemed as if there was nothing more to say about fear, terror, and emergency after 9/11, this original diagnosis and bracing call for a reassertion of the powers of citizenship offers a restorative work of democratic theory. Assertive and insistent, the eloquence of Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen compels attention and demands an active response.”

Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

“This is among the most important analyses that I’ve seen of what has happened to politics in the wake of the September 11 attacks. No other thinker has so clearly articulated how both terrorism and the response to it threaten democracy by suppressing contentious political speech. Meyers’s argument is timely, impressively learned, and compelling.”

Craig Calhoun, President of the Social Science Research Council

“After September 11, 2001, U.S. politicians embraced the rhetoric of war as a substitute for politics. Armed with 2,500 years of the European philosophical tradition, epigrammatic prose, and fiery detachment, Peter Meyers slays the monsters our sleep of reason brought forth. In its brilliant exposition of the duty of the citizen to exercise informed judgment in the collective self-defense, Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen is a remarkable addition to the literature of civic engagement.”

John Brady Kiesling, author of Diplomacy Lessons

" extended meditation on the meaning of war for citizens."


"...Meyer's focus as a theorist is [...] how democracy is shaped by the habits (and the failures) of political imagination."

Barnes and Noble Review

Table of Contents

Port of Entry

1 From Shock to Terror
2 From Terror to War
3 The Circle of War and Emergency
4 The Regeneration of Emergency through Violence
5  The Cold War Is Not Over
6 The Distemper of Monocracy
      1 The Cold War Today
      2 Today’s Cold War in the System of Civic War
      3 Civic War and the Monocratic Tendency
      4 Two Poles of Power: Monocratic Omnipotence and Jeffersonian Justification
      5 Phases of Communication: Secrets, Lies, and Publicness
      6 The Export of "Moral Clarity"
      7 The Cold War Comes Home: The Revival of Reaganism
      8 The Breeding Ground of Monocracy
      9 The Constitution of Power and the Corruption of the Citizen after September 11th

Works Cited

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