Progressive Violence: Theorizing the War on Terror

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:10
Oral Presentation
Michael BLAIN, Sociology, Boise State University, Sociology, Boise, ID, USA
Many sociologists have idealized sociality to legitimate their role as “positivist” social scientists and fulfill their desires for progressive social change. They have ignored or played down the intense in-group solidarity generated by hatred of out-group enemies. It is anathema to many social scientists that groups can fall into hate as well as love, that we get intense pleasure from vicarious participation in power elite orchestrated victimage rituals (VR) that feature the ritual domination and destruction of villainous powers.

As a corrective, theorists should deal directly with the actual geopolitical practices of political and military violence. The power / terror dynamic was central to the emergence of the liberal nation state, Empire and settler colonialism, and the social sciences. This dynamic continues to essential to any theory of the US lead WoT. The imperial tradition survives in the contemporary strategic practices of the national security state. Geopolitics produces cycles of resistance and political violence.

The WoT is conceptualized as a mode of empire by means of global victimage ritual, involving the practices of vilification and glorification of heroes and the ritual destruction of villainous powers. Conceptions of power, good and evil, and life and death organize and glorify these violent power struggles. Heroic sacrifice has appeared in mass media spectacles broadcast to a global audience —for example, the "man-hunt" and "assassination" of Osama bin Laden and its reflection in contemporary politics and culture.

This paper proposes that sociologists should reengage with the problem of theorizing political violence by reactivating the Weberian tradition of historical sociology and its elaboration in terms of research in political sociology derived from C. Wright Mills’ theory of the US power elite. This argument is elaborated in terms of three related issues: power, knowledge, and ethics.