The Elephant in the Room: A Response to John Horgan and Michael Boyle

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Blakeley, Ruth (2008)

This paper is written in response to John Horgan and Michael J. Boyle, whose article, ‘The Case Against a “Critical Terrorism Studies”’, appeared in the last issue of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism. The paper addresses the claim that the call for a greater emphasis on state terrorism by liberal democratic states in terrorism studies constitutes a ‘reinventing of the wheel’. I show that there continues to be a selective application of definitions of terrorism so that state terrorism in which liberal democratic states are complicit continues to be widely ignored. This results in considerable gaps in the literature, which I identify. I argue that the absence of state terrorism by liberal democratic states from debate results from a complex range of factors that influence scholars across the social sciences, which I discuss in detail. I then show that a credible research agenda exists and is already being pursued by Critical Terrorism Studies scholars, and that that this goes well beyond simply reinventing the wheel. Finally I show that where work on state terrorism by liberal democratic states is concerned, an explicit aim is to explore the use of state terrorism within the broader context of the foreign policy objectives of liberal democratic states. Those objectives have consistently involved widening access to resources and markets in the global South, and competing for political and economic dominance. I show that a priority of those working on state terrorism by liberal democratic states should be to offer alternatives to foreign policy practices that involve state terrorism and other forms of repression.
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