Théorie du Drone, by Grégoire Chamayou
Studying the use of military drones with the tools of humanities: this is what Grégoire Chamayou undertook to do in Drone Theory, published in 2013, which is a unique contribution to the philosophy of war insofar as it highlights the importance of the political, legal, technical and ethical issues involved in the lethal use of this unprecedented technology.
An activist philosopher
Born in 1976, Grégoire Chamayou is a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). A qualified professor of philosophy and a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure in Fontenay-Saint-Cloud, he became known thanks to his book Manhunts (“Les Chasses à l’Homme”) (2010), which denounced the connection between the hunting of humans and modern developments of capitalism.
His latest essay, The Ungovernable Society (“La société ingouvernable”)(2018), is a critical history of the neoliberalism promoted by the American and British business world.
The first lines of Drone Theory are as poignant as they are absurd: a pilot, from the safety of a Nevada military base, controls a drone that will soon launch a missile at suspicious targets in Afghanistan.
The armed drone becomes a remotely controlled lethal weapon, under the guise of the war on terrorism. More offensive than defensive, sometimes from thousands of kilometres away, this is the challenge of asymmetrical terror: that of a manhunt on a global scale.
Unidentified Violent Object
Grégoire Chamayou states that he wanted to approach the drone as an “Unidentified Violent Object”. The drone, because it creates a distancing of combat, breaks down traditional mental categories. Can we still talk about war when the shooter is invulnerable and when any idea of heroism or sacrificial courage has disappeared?
The starting point for this political text is the author’s desire to analyse certain philosophical crises which affect the concepts of military ethics and, more broadly, our entire technological civilisation.
An international influence
Drone Theory resonates with the hottest international news of the twenty-first century, notably as it sheds light on France’s choice to arm its drones in 2019. Furthermore, the text reflects on a completely digital world which has made security a priority, sometimes at the expense of morality.
This aspect explains its resonance abroad: the text has already been translated into English, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Japanese.
Grégoire Chamayou's Drone Theory was supported in 2018 by the Publication Assistance Programme for its release in Russia. Find out more about the Publication Assistance Programme