9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Terror - Security I Building I, 2E3

The Struggle with Terrorism and Political Authenticity

Observers of world politics and the world public attribute damages to risk, because there has to be someone who is guilty. For example, they attribute bombings to entities with the assumed ability to act, primarily al-Qaida. For these observers, the temporal, material and social uncertainties of the organized and globally operating terrorism are a danger that must be attributed to a concrete enemy. Consequently, the political system is expected to deal with the problem, which thus is transformed into a political risk of preventive decisions. The style of this prevention is typically displaying authenticity. The politics of prevention is following the "credibility imperative". The heroic expression of this style is the term "war on terror". What I want to show is that this display of authenticity provokes counter-effects of disbelief and distrust. The reason is, that modern society undermines the display of authenticity. The general loss of basic values, religious or moral substance produces a tendency of "suspicion of motive". Whenever someone displays his motives as authentic he will be suspected as hiding his real motives. This tendency is strengthened by the difference between risk and danger. Those who feel affected by the side-effects (danger) of preventive politics (risk) like a loss of liberal rights and/or the questionable support for authoritarian regimes will not believe in the display of authenticity.
This constellation possibly results in an -authenticity trap: Politics of the "credibility imperative" will be undermined by a tendency of suspicion. It is a trap because politics on the one side cannot do without authenticity and on the other side this authenticity will produce disbelief resulting in a decrease of political support. The end of the Bush-Regime is one example - but how long will the presumed authenticity of Barak Obama be perceived as a solid political style?