Understanding sovereign leadership as a response to terrorism: A post-foundational analysis

Smolovic Jones, Owain; Smolovic Jones, Nela and Grint, Keith (2020). Understanding sovereign leadership as a response to terrorism: A post-foundational analysis. Organization, 27(4) pp. 537–556.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508419834128

Abstract

This study seeks to better understand how notions of sovereign power as a response to terrorism are built and bolstered through use of the signifier ‘leadership’. Through a post-foundational analysis of the speeches, press conferences and writings of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, we theorise ‘sovereign leadership’ as the deployment of the signifier leadership in ways that foreclose language so as to normalise the discourse and acts of sovereign power. Our key finding is that sovereign leadership offers a (misleadingly) straightforward solution to the complex problem of terrorism through foreclosing language so that alternative responses are excluded. In exploring articulations of sovereign leadership, we illuminate its contingency, and therefore, also its contestability, within a system of discursive resources. We posit three foreclosing moments that are drawn upon to bolster the urgency, affective salience and justness of sovereign leadership: emergency, positivity and vulnerability. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of our study for interpreting articulations of leadership in everyday organisational and political life.

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