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Cooper (2006). Pre-empting emergence: the biological turn in the war on terror

Bibliographic details:

Cooper, M. (2006). Pre-empting emergence: the biological turn in the war on terror. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(4), 113-135


This article looks at the increasing prominence of bioterrorist threat scenarios in recent US foreign policy. Germ warfare, it argues, is being depicted as the paradigmatic threat of the post-Cold War era, not only because of its affinity for cross-border movement but also because it blurs the lines between deliberate attack and spontaneous natural catastrophe. The article looks at the possible implications of this move for understandings of war, strategy and public health. It also seeks to contextualize the US’s growing military interest in biodefence research within the commercial strategies of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. In its methodology, the article weaves together elements from defense literature, scientific perspectives on infectious disease, catastrophe theory and political economy. The conceptual underpinnings of the strategy of pre-emptive warfare, it argues, lie as much in the theory of biological emergence as in official US defense strategy.