Sociology

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Michael Byers

This chapter considers how the actions of the United States have stressed and stretched two distinct but related areas of international law: the right of self-defence, and the rules of international humanitarian law. It argues that even a disproportionately powerful state is constrained, in its ability to change international law, by the actions of other countries and public opinion both at home and abroad. The United States deliberately seek to modify international law in accordance with their changing interests by pushing for a right of self-defence against terrorism, or more flexible rules concerning the treatment of detainees. The George W. Bush administration relied on both this argument and pre-emptive self-defence to justify the 2003 Iraq War, while Britain and Australia relied solely on the resolutions. The Bush administration has already asserted that Iran is supporting terrorists who are attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, notably by providing sophisticated explosive devices.

in ‘War on terror’
Sexual violence and trauma in the ‘war on terror’
Joanna Bourke

The threshold of humanity has become the torture chamber. Torture does indeed define the threshold of the human: it is the attempted destruction of an individual; rendering that being 'non-human' through infliction of pain and through systematic exposure of the body. Even more noticeable is the use of the secular religion to justify suffering by deciding who stands outside the threshold of the human. Pathologizing some acts of sexual violence, particularly those against a racially different enemy, but also those against certain classes of women, normalized sexual violence. Four main anthropogenetic strategies help draw the line between the human, the inhuman, and the non-human: torture, religion, human rights, and trauma narratives. The 'war on terror' is a politics in which humanity is defined through the actions of the inhuman (torturer) on the non-human (victims).

in ‘War on terror’
Abstract only
Anthony King

Jurgen Habermas is one of the most prominent social theorists writing today and his work illustrates central characteristics of contemporary social theory more widely. The majority of his work revolves around questions of structure and agency. The interaction order of the lifeworld is replaced by a dualism of system and individual or, in the language of many social theorists, structure and agency. According to Habermas, the system is the product of the enactment of abstract rationalized codes by individuals. Thus the recovery of the lifeworld in Habermas' work and the rejection of dualism can rectify the shortcomings of contemporary social theory more generally. Consequently, as Habermas stresses with increasing conviction from The Theory of Communicative Action on, there is 'system'. Organisations may aspire to the kind of purposive-rational decision- making which Habermas describes; in reality, however, organisations operate quite differently.

in Human agents and social structures
The myth and reality of social existence
Anthony King

The structure and agency debate in one form or another has been a periodic feature of sociology since the origins of the discipline. However, as a symbol of individualism, the Ring demands a distinctive kind of social order, and it is precisely at this point that the novel becomes deeply relevant to current debates in social theory. The Lord of the Rings, with its Ring and Fellowship, represents the current predicament of contemporary social theory, but in fantastical form. Consequently, although perhaps an unusual strategy, the myth of The Lord of the Rings might be drawn upon for sociological and more specifically social theoretical insights. The Lord of the Rings stands as a metaphor for social theory today; it counterposes the fantastical ontology of structure and agency against an interactional account of social existence.

in Human agents and social structures
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The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2006
Editor: Chris Miller

'Terror' is a diffuse notion that takes no account of local particularities and 'war on terror' is a contradiction in terms. This book is based on the lectures that were given on the subject in Oxford in 2006. Amnesty has described 'war on terror' as a war on human rights. It is also a contest of narratives: stories that the protagonists tell about themselves, about their enemies, and about what is happening now. The book considers how the recent actions of the United States have stressed and stretched two areas of international law: the right of self-defence, and the rules of international humanitarian law. State terrorism, with a bit of careful spin, can be reclassified as counter-terrorism, in other words as inherently good in the same way that terrorism is inherently bad. The book engages with the politico-conceptual difficulties of distinguishing between war and terrorism. The interface and tensions between the human rights tradition and the Islamic tradition, particularly Islamic law, is discussed. The intensification of Western repression against Islamic thinkers or activists has at times been coupled with policies that seemed designed to change the religious trajectory of society. The sexualization of torture is only one way in which the 'war on terror' has delineated who is (and who is not) human. Religion, human rights, and trauma narratives are three other mechanisms for rationalizing suffering. The book also discusses the subject of censuring reckless killing of innocent civilians by the issue of fatwas by Muslim teachers.

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Bat-Ami Bar On

This chapter aims to engage with the politico-conceptual difficulties of distinguishing between war and terrorism. It considers Mary Kaldor's distinction between 'old' and 'new' wars in an attempt to address the contraction of the distinction between war and terrorism is a mark of 'new' wars. The chapter also considers the merits of a free-standing conception of terrorism, that is, one independent of a relationship with war. It argues that terrorism and war have a shared logic; they both derive from a belief in the efficacy of violence in politics and a consequent assumption that violence can therefore justifiably be relied on. The chapter describes that the 'supreme emergency exemption' is extremely problematic. It suggests that the shared logic of war and terrorism that needs to be focused on by those who are concerned about the relationship of violence and politics.

in ‘War on terror’
Jeff McMahan

Acts of terrorism are intentional efforts to kill or seriously harm innocent people as a means of affecting other members of a group with which the immediate victims are identified. Because terrorism involves intentionally killing the innocent, it can be morally justified, only in conditions of extremity. The substantive sense of the term gives a criterion of liability to attack. According to the regnant version of the theory of the just war, the criterion of liability to attack is posing a threat to another. Terrorists themselves often claim to be combatants, particularly when they are captured, since they would like to be accorded prisoner of war status. There are general differences between terrorists as a class and ordinary domestic criminals that tend to make anti-terrorist action rather different from domestic police action. The George W. Bush administration claims that terrorists are enemy combatants in its 'war on terror'.

in ‘War on terror’
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Garda accountability
Vicky Conway

The events in Donegal were the final catalyst in the reform of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board (GSCB) and the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). This chapter explores that change and analyses its significance. Its establishment is contextualised with critical discussion of police governance and accountability, paying particular attention to complaints systems and their role in police oversight. The chapter provides a review of police complaints systems in Ireland. It argues that the reforms to the complaints mechanism are predominantly procedural in nature. The GSOC's annual reports provide information based on which its contribution to police accountability and the state of police accountability more broadly in Ireland can be critically analysed. Analysis based on complaints per 1,000 gardaí, which can account for changing garda numbers since the recession, reveals that despite the increase, complaints against the gardaí remain low compared with police forces in England and Wales.

in Defining events
A critical space for social movements in Ireland
Margaret Gillan and Laurence Cox

The 2001 launch of Indymedia Ireland marked a radically different model of media: internet-based, non-profit, run on a shoestring, democratically produced, open to many different voices, and telling the stories that were firmly kept out of the nation's living room. This chapter discusses its significance, with reference to the context of media politics in Ireland. N. Chomsky and N. S. Herman's propaganda model discusses how ownership, funding, sourcing, flak and anti-communism are used to mould the media to ruling class interests. The longest-established among many kinds of alternative media is radical media, usually associated with political organisations (socialist, republican, feminist) and tied to their campaigning activity. Indymedia Centre Ireland came out of the wave of Irish protests against neo-liberalism around the turn of the twenty-first century. Indymedia activists approached two protest organiser groupings around setting up an independent media centre to cover the Mayday events, Dublin Grassroots Network, and CMN.

in Defining events
Love and (same-sex) marriage in the twenty-first century
Angela O’Connell

Same-sex marriage disrupts the gendering of marriage and so threatens the familiar social and economic order. However, the twenty-first century has witnessed a major increase in public support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. This chapter traces how an apparently isolated court case grew into a new social movement. It focuses on the 2004 High Court case taken by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan (the KAL case) for legal recognition of their marriage as a same-sex couple, which had taken place a year previously in Canada. The chapter explains the origins of the campaign for full marriage rights for same-sex couples by MarriagEquality, the advocacy organisation that emerged from the KAL case. It presents an alternative route towards the same goal that was adopted by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN). The KAL case provides a platform to explore the hegemonic status of (heterosexual) marriage in Irish society.

in Defining events