Benito Cerino: Freud and the Breakdown of Politics

In a world shaken by terrorists’ assaults, it can seem as if no one is in control. Political leaders often appear at a loss. They cast about for opponents, for those on whom they can exert their political will. The terrorists, however, need not identify themselves. If they do, the languge they use may be messianic rather than political. Rather than indicating negotiable political solutions, it points to something else. Coincident with this, is the pursuit of terror dispite the harm it causes to a given political agenda. The extreme form of terrorism does not speak at all. It bombs and kidnaps, not to negotiate, not to use its victims as pawns to gain a political advantage, but simply to terrorize, to involve innocent bystanders in its own suicidal acts. How does politics confront the absense of negotiable demands? By seeing terrorist’s acts as a “declaration of war?” War, however, has its goals. It is, Clausawitz teaches, a continuation of politics by other means. Yet in the absence of any clear statements, can we know what someone who mails anthrax has in mind? Can we tell what would actually satisfy those who use passenger planes as missiles to kill themselves and thousands of others? Terrorism, here, represents, not politics, but its breakdown. It is not some state power in control of a political process. It cannot be characterized as a political opponent. It is, rather, a method. By implying a way to achieve a political goal, even the word, “method,” says too much. As a sign of the breakdown of politics, it should rather be called a symptom
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DOI 10.5840/symposium20037210
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