Terrorism Is More Dangerous Than Your Furniture

Europe’s effectiveness in combatting terrorism has been diagnosed many times as being very low. There is increasing solid evidence about the devastating nature of global Islamist terrorism and its thousands of victims each month, from Nigeria to Southeast Asia and also, increasingly, in Europe. A recent survey by the French daily Le Monde revealed that in Europe alone, there have been 2,239 victims of terrorist attacks since 2001. Increasingly, global terrorism is not only a political problem; it also has become a global public health problem, despite certain tendencies among Western social scientists to portray global terrorism as a relatively rare phenomenon.

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Telos 170 (Spring 2015): Security and Liberalism

When Edward Snowden, on June 9, 2013, revealed his identity in a video interview posted on the website of the Guardian, he invoked the intellectual framework of liberalism in order to explain why he had leaked a massive trove of secret documents about the spying and data collection practices of the National Security Administration (NSA) and its partner agencies. Having regularly witnessed the legal abuses of the NSA as a technical assistant for the CIA and, subsequently, as an employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden explained that “over time [the] awareness of wrongdoing builds up and you feel compelled to talk about it . . . until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who’s simply hired by the government.”

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Žižek, Subjectivity, and the Risk Pool

Kevin S. Amidon and Zachary Gray Sanderson’s “On Subjectivity and the Risk Pool; or, Žižek’s Lacuna” appears in Telos 160 (Fall 2012). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.

In his In Defense of Lost Causes, Slavoj Žižek poses more than a few heavy-gauge questions. Foremost among them: “The only true question today is: do we endorse this ‘naturalization’ of capitalism, or does contemporary global capitalism contain antagonisms which are sufficiently strong to prevent its infinite reproduction?” Žižek’s analysis of this question, however, seems to us to be missing a crucial element. Where Žižek seems to posit a kind of reconvergence of the classical autonomous subject of the (neo-)liberal (and Frankfurt School) traditions with the class-based vocabulary of more radical Marxist and Lacanian analyses, we see another layer: the subject under the condition of the risk pool. The risk pool, protean and ubiquitous in today’s political economy, takes form in those meta-structures of institutionalized financial, political, and medical (i.e. bio-political) insurance and quasi-insurance that do not so much control the subject’s spheres of activity as regulate them. The (voluntarily or involuntarily) risk-pooled human being is thus in many ways neither subject nor class. She is always both, and navigating always between them in the sphere of financially and actuarially mediated risk. Such navigation in many ways evacuates the forms of political agency posited in both liberal and Marxist traditions, and focuses the individual centrally on the problem of uncertainty. Žižek’s complex analyses of topics as diverse as terrorism and Christianity approach reflections like these, but end where they must in fact begin.

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