Counterinsurgency Reexamined: Racism, Capitalism, and U.S. Military Doctrine

Authors: Jennifer Greenburg*, Stanford University, Jordan Camp, Harvard University
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: race, capital, counterinsurgency, Gramsci, policing, prisons
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 49
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The US has been engaged in coercive projects of counterinsurgency since the Indian Wars in the 19th century. Racist constructions of the enemy have been central to this process. Counterinsurgency has called forth new waves of contestation at every juncture, which has in turn shaped the very texture of military doctrine. This paper draws on archival research, historical geography, and Marxist theory to trace the dialectics of counterinsurgency and insurgency through a series of turning points in US imperial history from the development of small wars doctrine in the 1930s to renewal of counterinsurgency during hybrid wars in Venezuela and Latin America in the current conjuncture. Through a conjunctural analysis, we argue that racism performs fundamental work in achieving consent to counterinsurgency wars, allowing capitalism to survive challenges to its legitimacy.

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