Terrorism and the uses of terror

Journal of Ethics 8 (1):5-35 (2004)
“Terrorism”' is sometimes defined as a “form ofcoercion.” But there are important differences between ordinary coercion and terrorist intimidation. This paper explores some of those differences, particularly the relation between coercion, on the one hand, and terror and terrorization, on the other hand. The paper argues that while terrorism is not necessarily associated with terror in the literal sense, it does often seek to instill a mental state like terror in the populations that it targets. However, the point of instilling this mental state is not necessarily coercive or intimidatory: one can try to instill terror as an act of punishment, or as an expressive or therapeutic act, or because one values the political consequences that might follow, or because one thinks terror is preferable, from an ethical point of view, to the inauthentic complacency that characterizes the targeted population at present. Though this paper asks questions about the definition of “terrorism,” these questions are not asked for their own sake. The quest for a canonical definition of “terrorism” is probably a waste of time. But asking questions which sound like questions of definition is sometimes a fruitful way of focusing our reflections on terrorism and organizing our response.
Keywords Hannah Arendt  coercion  definition  fear  Thomas Hobbes  intimidation  liberty  means/end distinction  rational choice  state  terror  terrorism  terrorize  threat
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DOI 10.1023/B:JOET.0000012250.78840.80
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Samuel Scheffler (2006). Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive? Journal of Political Philosophy 14 (1):1-17.
Tamar Meisels (2009). Defining Terrorism – a Typology. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (3):331-351.
Clive Barnett (2009). Violence and Publicity: Constructions of Political Responsibility After 9/11. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (3):353-375.

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