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In defence of civilisation: terrorism and environmental politics in the 21st century

Welsh, Ian 2007. In defence of civilisation: terrorism and environmental politics in the 21st century. Environmental Politics 16 (2) , 356 - 375. 10.1080/09644010701211981

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The use of the term civilisation has assumed renewed prominence within high profile speeches by political leaders in the opening decade of the 21st century. Initially articulated in relation to the ‘war on terror’ following September 11 in 2001, the discourse of terrorism was extended to elements of environmental and social justice movements. This extension of the discourse of terrorism within the public sphere followed a period in which state surveillance and security resources were targeted on environmental protestors. Primary legislation, such as the US Patriot Act, and successive Crime and Criminal Justice Acts in the UK, combined with global collaboration between national security services, increased the range of formal charges which can be brought against individuals. This contribution explores the symbolic stakes and processes associated with this discursive return to civilisation as a prominent political discourse that simultaneously defends unsustainable ‘western’ practices against external and internal enemies. It is argued that the evocation of civilisation as part of a ‘war’ implicitly and explicitly legitimates the introduction of extraordinary measures consistent with wartime contingencies. Such measures apply to both internal and external affairs of state and include those sections of environmental movements explicitly linking environmental degradation with critiques of contemporary neo-liberalism. It is argued that the attempt to define such movements as ‘enemies within’ is a tacit recognition of the symbolic potency of both global and national stakes raised through recourse to extra-parliamentary forms of protest and the founding of alternative deliberative forums at a global level. Such movements render visible elements of a prevailing neo-liberal civilisation inimical to environmental and societal integrity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0964-4016
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Last Modified: 23 Jul 2020 01:52

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