The use of force beyond the liberal imagination: Terror and Empire in Palestine, 1947

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Abstract

The question of the use of force and its relation to political power has resurfaced in an era of terror attacks and wars against terror. The liberal conceptualization of this relation is limited by the bipolar understanding of force as either legitimate or illegitimate. Turning to the history of the Irgun, a Jewish underground movement, and its struggle against the British Empire in 1947 Palestine, this article seeks to expand the understanding of force beyond the liberal paradigm. The article offers a new model for understanding the use of force by the liberal nation-state and distinguishes between four different modes of force: violence, legality, terror, and empire. Whereas the liberal paradigm is limited to a conception of force as either justified and, hence, just (legality), or unjustified and, hence, unjust (violence), one may think of two additional forms of force, which, at first, may seem paradoxical: the unjust but justified force of terror and the force of empire, which is just but not in need of justification. Rather than using these forms as stable categories, the article seeks to understand the ways in which the uses of force became destabilized in times of political contestation. The article concludes by pointing out the broader implications of this model for the political analysis of the liberal nation-state and its use of force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-243
Number of pages31
JournalTheoretical inquiries in law
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2005

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