The Enemy of All

The Enemy of All

Piracy and the Law of Nations

By Daniel Heller-Roazen

The philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist: the pirate, the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe.

Distributed for Zone Books





The philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist: the pirate, the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe.

The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists considered to be “the enemy of all.” In this book, Daniel Heller-Roazen reconstructs the shifting place of the pirate in legal and political thought from the ancient to the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods presenting the philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist. Today, Heller-Roazen argues, the pirate furnishes the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe. This is a legal and political person of exception, neither criminal nor enemy, who inhabits an extra-territorial region. Against such a foe, states may wage extraordinary battles, policing politics and justifying military measures in the name of welfare and security. Heller-Roazen defines the piracy in the conjunction of four conditions: a region beyond territorial jurisdiction; agents who may not be identified with an established state; the collapse of the distinction between criminal and political categories; and the transformation of the concept of war. The paradigm of piracy remains in force today. Whenever we hear of regions outside the rule of law in which acts of “indiscriminate aggression” have been committed “against humanity,” we must begin to recognize that these are acts of piracy. Often considered part of the distant past, the enemy of all is closer to us today than we may think. Indeed, he may never have been closer.


$28.95 T | £25.00 ISBN: 9781890951948 280 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Combining the political, legal, philosophical, geographical, and historical aspects of his subject, Heller-Roazen leads us from antiquity to Afghanistan with clarity. While America's present-day struggles are not his main concern, the long-view positions he takes will certainly be of interest to readers who are asking more-crucial-than-ever questions.

    Rain Taxi Review of Books

  • Brilliant, well-researched, and politically acute.

    Il Manifesto

  • Brimming with learning and yet delightful to read, this brief book offers an enlightening and truly original reflection, at the crossroads of history, law and philosophy, on the confusions that threaten us since September 11th.

    Le Figaro

  • Daniel Heller-Roazen has dropped an intellectual explosive whose dangerousness we only notice once we have read the book through to the end…Even if one doesn't follow Heller-Roazen's political conclusions: This is book is as wise as it is learned. In a country that does not think about the figure of the pirate much because of its focus on the land, it can clarify a great deal.

    Herfried Münkler

    Die Zeit


  • Classics, history, law, literature, philosophy, jurisprudence, and above all language—these are the archives Heller-Roazen artfully enlists for his story of the development and contemporary relevance of the 'piratical paradigm'. One need not concur precisely with the political finale of this learned and lucid work to be awed, instructed, and sometimes even delighted by its masterful unfolding. The Enemy of All makes an invaluable contribution to comprehending the altered terrain of international politics and ethics occasioned by the emergence of terror and rogue states.

    Wendy Brown

    Emanuel Heller Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley