The Cold-War As a Mode of Subjection: Power / Knowledge Dynamics in the Age of Empire

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 49
Oral Presentation
Michael BLAIN , Sociology, Boise State University, Boise, ID
Hardt and Negri (2000, 2009) argue that modern forms of Empire provoke power struggles among sovereign states for global hegemony as well as resistance from the multitudes.  Actors who resist Empire are ritually defined as “terrorists” by the agents of the US power elite who are tasked with the management of contemporary Empire (Domhoff 2010). Blain (2009, 2012) argues two modes of power and subjection come into play in these power struggles. The first type is victimage ritual rhetoric designed to motivate masses to support warfare to destroy “the enemies of empire.” The second type of discourse is associated with the social and psychological sciences and the bio-political practices of national security “experts.”

A main finding was the role a small number of “terror” journals in the discursive formation “terrorism.” They published many influential texts prior to the 9/11 attacks and WOT. They continue to exercise a disproportionate influence.

Table 1 Percent Influential Journal Articles (> 5) by Type of Journal Pre-9/11 (1960-2001) and WOT (2002-2012) in Sociology Abstracts




Journal Type










n = 63

n = 277

n = 340

Note: Source Sociology Abstracts, 1960-2011. *Z test for column proportions, p < .05

In conclusion, two dangers are discussed. First, the WOT has reduced the problem of political violence to "terrorism" and the ritual victimage of Islamic subjects. A second danger is the way the dynamics of Empire tends to reduce knowledge to its auxiliary function in the project to produce powerful regimes of governmentality, intensifying surveillance and the detention of the “suspicious.” On the other hand, there are grounds for hope. A huge amount of critical research is going on in response to the WOT.