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America and the Misshaping of a New World Order$
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Giles Gunn and Carl Gutierrez-Jones

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520098701

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520098701.001.0001

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Pre-Emption, the Future, and the Imagination

Pre-Emption, the Future, and the Imagination

(p.59) 4. Pre-Emption, the Future, and the Imagination
America and the Misshaping of a New World Order

David Palumbo-Liu

University of California Press

This chapter looks at how relatively blurry notions of culture and the imagination play a critical role in envisioning the future. In the case of Bush's war on terror, deterrence had been abandoned in favor of pre-emption, in which uncertainty became a reason for action. The abandonment of the commitment to act on hard empirical evidence is the fueling point for a particular kind of imagination. Maintenance of hegemony became the goal of pre-emption, which must always seek out threat in order to reanimate itself. It exists in the gray zone between the empirical and the possible, shuttling between reaffirmations of both strength and weakness, of both invincibility and vulnerability. The main point of this chapter is that in the tortuous playing out of these contradictions, recent United States foreign and domestic policies have appropriated and instrumentalized the basic humanistic and ethical character of the imagination.

Keywords:   pre-emption, future, notions of culture, imagination, United States foreign policies, Maintenance of hegemony

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