The Rhetoric of Hegemony : How the extended definition of terrorism redefines international relations

Working Paper, NUPI
Midtøsten og Nord-Afrika
Written by

Daniel Heradstveit

Tidligere ansatt


This paper looks at the rhetorical extension of the word “terrorism” to cover what used to be called guerrilla war, separatism, civil war, armed resistance and all other forms of political violence, down to and including non-lethal sabotage and vandalism. It begins by reflecting on how political power must be buttressed by legitimacy, which in turn involves the de-legitimisation of challengers. This is often achieved by assimilating political dissent to the “criminality” that by definition governments are created to combat. When governments use the term “order” to mean their own convenience, and the converse, this can effectively evoke the individual citizen’s fear of personally suffering violence, even when he is in fact more at risk from the government itself than from its critics. In much the same way, “terror” no longer means government violence against citizens (as in the 19th century), nor solely violence against civilians by dissident groups; it has recently mutated to mean any armed resistance to the party deploying the rhetoric, even in conventional military forms. The terrorist label is the ultimate delegitimising technique, which may be employed to mobilise metropolitan populations to support a globally-coordinated suppression of resistance to the new world order.