Violence, Order, and Terror

Richard Devetak

in International Society and its Critics

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265206
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601866 | DOI:
Violence, Order, and Terror

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In his chapter on the rise of terrorism, the author points to two principal challenges to international society: first, terrorism challenges the state's monopoly of legitimate violence (which is also being eroded in a number of other ways); and second, the reaction that Al‐Qaeda has drawn from the USA threatens to create as significant a problem for international society as terrorism itself. The author opens his discussion with a brief survey of the nature of terrorism and the position it has held in the thought of the English School of International Relations: with only one or two minor exceptions, English School writers tended not to incorporate terrorism into their study despite the proliferation of terrorist incidents in the 1970s, and Hedley Bull identified terrorism as simply one of several types of ‘private international violence’. The author suggests two reasons for this apparent oversight: the School's state‐centrism and its resistance to presentism. After discussing the changing nature of terrorism in both its non‐state and state varieties, he moves on to address how terrorism poses a threat to contemporary international order, focusing in particular on terrorism as a breakdown of the state's monopoly on legitimate violence that is essential for the proper functioning of international society. The last part of the chapter describes the rise of the ‘new terrorism’ – which is characterized by religious motivation, greater lethality of attacks, greater technological and operational competence, and the desire to obtain weapons of mass destruction – and its impact on international society, and concludes by arguing that US attempts to tackle terrorism by undermining the basic principles of international society may only help to exacerbate the problem by casting further doubt on the relevance and legitimacy of international order.

Keywords: Al‐Qaeda; English School of International Relations; international order; international relations; international society; new terrorism; non‐state terrorism; order; presentism; private international violence; state terrorism; state‐centrism; terrorism; USA; violence

Chapter.  9149 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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