Exceptionalism and the 'War on Terror': Criminology meets international relations

Aradau, Claudia and van Munster, Rens (2009). Exceptionalism and the 'War on Terror': Criminology meets international relations. British Journal of Criminology, 49(5) pp. 686–701.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azp036


Criminology and International Relations (IR) share a relatively wide vocabulary: political violence, crime, security, deterrence, war on terror, risk, human rights and freedom. Particularly in the case of the ‘war on terror’, similar concerns and conceptual tools have increasingly surfaced on both sides. Nonetheless, one debate—namely Carl Schmitt's theory of the exception and its uptake in IR—has travelled less well. This article argues that there is value in engaging with the IR debates on the exception. From the perspective of IR, the exception makes possible different insights about the dialectics between law and crime by unpacking the constitutive role of the politics of fear, the importance of the ‘international’ and the transformed relationship to the future. It also exposes the deteriorating effects of the ‘war on terror’ on justice, democracy and social transformation.

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