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Civil Disobedience and Terrorism

Testing the Limits of Deliberative Democracy

Michael Allen

This article explores the boundaries of the commitment of deliberative democrats to communication and persuasion over threats and intimidation through examining the hard cases of civil disobedience and terrorism. The case of civil disobedience is challenging as deliberative democrats typically support this tactic under certain conditions, yet such a move threatens to blur the Habermasian distinction between instrumental and communicative action that informs many accounts of deliberative democracy. However, noting that civil disobedience is deemed acceptable to many deliberative democrats so long as it remains 'relevantly tied to the objective of communicative action', Allen holds that certain kinds of terrorism cannot be ruled out either. Whilst acknowledging that the deliberative democrat cannot really justify taking life as a tactic to induce deliberation, as 'dead people cannot deliberate', Allen notes that this does not rule out terrorism per se, the object of which is not death so much as generating overwhelming fear. Further, while a permanent condition of fear would set limits on deliberation, limited and temporary physical harm to persons need not. This implies that deliberative democrats must explain why intentionally causing some physical harm to property or persons is always an illegitimate form of communication.

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The World Trade Center and Global Crisis

Some Critical Perspectives

Bruce Kapferer, Marshall Sahlins, Keith Hart, Jonathan Friedman, Allen Feldman, Michael Humphrey, Ibrahim Aoude, Michael Rowlands, John Gledhill and Leif Manger

The World Trade Center disaster is an event of such significance that it exhausts interpretation. This is not because of the enormity of the event itself. Numerous humanly caused destructed of just the last hundred years dwarf it in scale, and the attention now addressed to it may over the next year appear disproportionate. But events are never significant in the imagination of human beings independently of the way they are socially constructed into significance in the context of the social, political and cultural forces that somehow are articulated through a particular event, and thrown into relief by its occurrence. Undoubtedly, much of the significance that attaches to the World Trade Center catastrophe relates to the character of the conflict it defines, and the several paradoxes the event gathers up in its prism: of the strong against the weak, the powerful as victims, the cycle of revenge, the generalization of suffering, the vulnerability of technological potency, and so on.

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Michael Shorb, Louis Daniel Brodsky, Allen C. Fischer, Yehoshua November and Jason Lee

The Holocaust Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany By Michael Shorb

Late By Louis Daniel Brodsky

The Stasi String Theory By Allen C. Fischer

Walking Already I Feel Like an Old Man Yehoshua November

A River Flowed from Eden Jason Lee

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Rohan Bastin, Marit Brendbekken, René Devisch, Allen Feldman, Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, Bruce Kapferer, Michael Lambek, Knut Rio and Kari G. Telle

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Ibrahim Aoude, Mohammed A. Bamyeh, Allen Chun, Chuang Ya-chung, Yiu-wai Chu, Andrew Davidson, Sergio Fiedler, Jonathan Friedman, Michael Humphrey, Epifanio San Juan Jr., Owen Sichone, Terence Turner, William H. Thornton and Wang Horng-luen

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Ibrahim G. Aoude, Sandra Bamford, Mark T. Berger, Doug Dalton, Allen Feldman, Jonathan Friedman, John Gledhill, Richard Handler, Keith Hart, Michael Humphrey, Dan Jorgensen, Bruce Kapferer, Clive Kessler, Leif Manger, David A. B. Murray, Joel Robbins, Michael Rowlands, Marshall Sahlins, Elizabeth Stassinos, Marilyn Strathern, Karen Sykes and Souchou Yao

Notes on contributors