cover of book

Of Death and Dominion: The Existential Foundations of Governance
by Mohammed A. Bamyeh
Northwestern University Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-8101-2440-0 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-6199-3 | Paper: 978-0-8101-2441-7
Library of Congress Classification JA71.B286 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 320


Death is the opposite not of life, but of power. And as such, Mohammed Bamyeh argues in this original work, death has had a great and largely unexplored impact on the thinking of governance throughout history, right down to our day. In Of Death and Dominion Bamyeh pursues the idea that a deep concern with death is, in fact, the basis of the ideological foundations of all political systems.

            Concentrating on four types of political systems—polis, empire, theocracy, and modern mass society systems—Bamyeh shows how each follows a specific strategy designed to pit power against the equalizing specter of death. Each of these strategies—consolation, expansion, preparation, and repression—produces a certain style of political behavior, as well as particular psychic traumas. In making his argument, Bamyeh revisits a wide range of empirical and theoretical discussions in existentialist philosophy, psychoanalysis, comparative historical sociology, literary studies, and anthropology. By demonstrating how schemes of power are by definition also schemes for defying death—despite their claims to the contrary—his book encourages us to think of a new style of politics, one oriented toward life.

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