Violence and publicity: constructions of political responsibility after 9/11

Barnett, Clive (2009). Violence and publicity: constructions of political responsibility after 9/11. Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy, 12(3) pp. 353–375.



Focussing upon recent political philosophical reflections on the War on Terror, this paper asks whether violence can be understood without undermining the empirical and normative potential of public action to curtail it. Explanations of political violence are often either dismissed as mere exoneration, or end up reducing all forms of power to violence. Negotiating a path between these poles requires developing a double sense of responsibility that affirms that while violence can be comprehended as a rational phenomenon this does not in principle undermine the potential of public action to democratize violence. Theoretical approaches that ontologize violence as an ineradicable feature of 'the political' are criticized for leaving little space for thinking about the possibility of legitimate public action in curtailing political violence. The public dimensions of the relationships between justification, legitimacy and political violence are considered by relating contemporary left-liberal arguments about terrorism and legitimate violence to recent feminist conceptualizations of the practice of taking responsibility.

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