International Politics

, Volume 48, Issue 2–3, pp 390–411 | Cite as

Culture, identity and hegemony: Continuity and (the lack of) change in US counterterrorism policy from Bush to Obama

  • Richard Jackson
Original Article


This article explores the social and political construction of US counterterrorism policy since the onset of the war on terrorism. The first part of the article focuses on the period of the Bush administration. It explores the cultural grammar expressed in the language of the war on terror, as well as administration attempts to ‘sell’ the policy to the American public. In addition, it explores the ways in which the war on terror has been institutionalised in counterterrorism practices and institutions, and how it has been normalised and embedded in American popular culture and linked by the national identity narratives surrounding ‘9/11’ and the negative ideograph of ‘terrorism’, to American identity. Section two of the article explores the discourse and practice of the war on terrorism in the initial period of the Obama administration. It questions the extent to which counterterrorism policy can be rewritten, given the degree to which it accords with the deep cultural grammar of American identity and is now a well-established ideograph, the extent to which it has been institutionalised in American political practice and embedded in American culture and the ways in which it is rooted in the political-economic interests of the American polity and empire. Finally, the article briefly reflects on questions of change and identity in the construction of US foreign policy.


war on terrorism US foreign policy Obama Bush identity 9/11 



For helpful comments and suggestions, the author is grateful to Inderjeet Parmar, Stuart Croft, Matt McDonald, Stephen Burman, Daniel McCarthy, J. Simon Rolfe, Andrew Priest and Nicholas J. Wheeler. The author benefited from the opportunity to present earlier versions of this article at the 2009 European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference, Potsdam Universität, Germany and the International Politics Research Seminar, Aberystwyth University. All remaining errors belong solely to the author.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of International PoliticsAberystwyth UniversityCeredigionUK

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