Verhoeven argues that terrorism as a phenomenon inextricably linked to the foundations of the modern world: capitalism, enlightened law and scientific reason, ideology, technology, new media, and above all, people’s participation in politics and in the making of history.
What is entirely missing from the perspective is how the so called enlightened law that supposed sprang from scientific reason led to not only capitalism but also marxism – both of which have in common that they are philosophies of materialism. While the cant of Kant and his descendents turned theology into ideology and materialism spawned technology, new media the ideas of rational government were dismissed in favor of the people’s participation in politics and in the making of history.
Just as so many have argued that older civilizations used the trappings of religion to keep the people under control it may be argued that the new order of materialism keeps them every bit as much under control. The only real difference is that they no longer fear the loss of Heaven and the pain of Hell but fear the loss of comfort and the pain of falling through a social safety net.
The phenomena of terrorism is a by product of the skepticism that was used to effect the rational revolution – if there is no longer any objectively knowable truth there are no longer any absolute standards of conduct. Society can not function with that doubt and so some men look into the abyss, see nothing, lose whatever tenous grasp on reason they may have had, become nihilist and, voilà, you have a terrorist. The irony to the true student of history is that this unstable crackpot is no proof of the people’s participation in politics and in the making of history but more often is proof that Cain may still be tempted to murder Abel.
While this book contains a very worthwhile recitation of the known facts surrounding Karakozov, his attempt on the tsar’s life and the subsequent trial we do not accept her arguments regarding terrorism.
The odd man Karakozov : Imperial Russia, modernity, and the birth of terrorism Claudia Verhoeven Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2009 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 231 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. -225) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
On April 4, 1866, just as Alexander II stepped out of Saint Petersburg‘s Summer Garden and onto the boulevard, a young man named Dmitry Karakozov pulled out a pistol and shot at the tsar. He missed, but his “unheard-of act” changed the course of Russian history — and gave birth to the revolutionary political violence known as terrorism.
Based on clues pulled out of the pockets of Karakozov’s peasant disguise, investigators concluded that there had been a conspiracy so extensive as to have sprawled across the entirety of the Russian empire and the European continent. Karakozov was said to have been a member of “The Organization,” a socialist network at the center of which sat a secret cell of suicide-assassins: “Hell.”
It is still unclear how much of this “conspiracy” theory was actually true, but of the thirty-six defendants who stood accused during what was Russia’s first modern political trial, all but a few were exiled to Siberia, and Karakozov himself was publicly hanged on September 3, 1866. Because Karakozov was decidedly strange, sick, and suicidal, his failed act of political violence has long been relegated to a footnote of Russian history.
In The Odd Man Karakozov Verhoeven argues that it is this neglected, exceptional case that sheds a new light on the origins of terrorism. The book argues that the idea of terrorism first emerged from the reception of Karakozov’s attack, but also, importantly, what was really at stake in this novel form of political violence, namely, the birth of a new, modern political subject. Along the way, in characterizing Karakozov’s as an essentially modernist crime, Verhoeven traces how his act profoundly impacted Russian culture, including such touchstones as Repin’s art and Dostoevsky’s literature.