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Sovereignty, Violence and the State of Exception

  • Damian Cox
  • Michael Levine
  • Saul Newman

Abstract

So far we have considered a number of dimensions to what we have seen as a new political paradigm that is emerging with the ‘war on terror’. The first of these has been the politics of security — that is, the overwhelming obsession with security that has come to dominate our societies. As we have shown, however, not only does the deliberate vagueness and permeability of idea of ‘security’ lead to greater insecurity — in both real and psychological terms — it also seriously undermines democratic politics by restricting spaces for autonomy, freedom and political agency. The second of these dimensions has been the resurgence — or at least a re-articulation — of religious fundamentalism and racial intolerance, not only in the Islamic world, but also here in our supposedly secular West. Thus, it also poses a threat to liberal democratic politics, which relies upon a clear separation between the political and the religious. The third element of this paradigm has been the cynical manipulation of the truth — or downright lying — that has come to be a feature of contemporary political life. This lack of accountability — and, more worryingly, people’s apparent complacency in the face of the lies and distortions of their political leaders — also suggests a profound debilitation of democratic politics.

Keywords

Terrorist Attack Liberal Democracy Legal Order Sovereign State State Sovereignty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See S. Drury (1999) The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (New York: Palgrave Macmillan) and (1999) Leo Strauss and the American Right (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).Google Scholar
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    See J. Caputo (2003) ‘Without sovereignty, without being: Unconditionality, the coming God and Derrida’s democracy to come’, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, vol. 4: 3 (August), pp. 9–26.Google Scholar
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    Here I am referring to Giorgio Agamben, who invokes Walter Benjamin’s famous aphorism from his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ that the state of exception is no longer the exception, but the rule. [W. Benjamin (1982) Illuminations (ed.) H. Arendt and (trans.,) H. Zohn (London: Fontana) p. 259].Google Scholar
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    C. Schmitt (2005) Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans., G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), p. 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See C. Johnson (2006) Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books), p. 39.Google Scholar
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    Here John Armitage refers to a ‘hypermodern’ State of Exception, which is based on a certain conception of the political: what is perceived as global lawlessness and lack of order can only be met with an application of excessive military force and political control which itself often exceeds the rule of law. See Armitage (2002) ‘State of Emergency: An Introduction’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 19: 4, pp. 27–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See J. C. Paye (2007) Global War on Liberty: Anti-terrorism, dictatorship, permanent state of exception, trans., J. H. Membrez (Telos Press Publishing).Google Scholar
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    M. Foucault (1978) The History of Sexuality VI: Introduction, trans., R. Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books), p. 136.Google Scholar
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    The paradoxical relationship between sovereignty, violence and law is something that has been explored by thinkers such as Walter Benjamin [(1985) ‘Critique of Violence’, One Way Street and Other Writings, trans., E. Jephcott and K. Shorter (London: Verso)];Google Scholar
  16. and Jacques Derrida [(1992) ‘Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority,’ in D. Cornell (ed.) Deconstruction & the Possibility of Justice (New York: Routledge)].Google Scholar
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    J. Derrida (1995) The Gift of Death, trans., D. Wills (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
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  20. A similar link between terror and the sacred is also found by Terry Eagleton in (2005) Holy Terror (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
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    T. Ali (2003) Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (London: Verso).Google Scholar
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    C. Schmitt (1996) The Concept of the Political, trans., G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), p. 26.Google Scholar
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    See J. Reid (2007) The Biopolitics of the War on Terror: Life Struggles, Liberal Modernity and the Defence of Logistical Societies (Manchester: Manchester University Press).Google Scholar
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    See J. K. Puar and A. S. Rai (2002) ‘Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots’, Social Text, vol. 20: 3, pp. 117–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Damian Cox, Michael Levine and Saul Newman 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damian Cox
    • 1
  • Michael Levine
    • 2
  • Saul Newman
    • 3
  1. 1.Bond UniversityAustralia
  2. 2.University of Western AustraliaAustralia
  3. 3.Goldsmiths — University of LondonUK

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