The Dilemma of Democracy: Collusion and the State of Exception

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    In what sense might the authoritarian practices and suspension of legal norms as means to combat the supposed threat of “terrorism,” within and by contemporary western democratic states, be understood as a problem of and not for democracy? That question lies at the heart of this article. It will be explored through the theoretical frame offered in the work of Giorgio Agamben on the state of exception and the example of British state collusion in non-state violence in the North of Ireland. The North of Ireland provides a particularly illuminating case study to explore how the state of exception—the suspension of law and of legal norms and the exercise of arbitrary decision—has increasingly become a paradigm of contemporary governance. In so doing it brings into question not only the traditional conceptualization of the “democratic dilemma” of liberal democratic states “confronting terrorism” but also challenge dominant paradigms of transitional justice that generally fail to problematize the liberal democratic order. After outlining Agamben’s understanding of the state of exception the article will chart the development of “exceptional measures” and the creation of a permanent state of emergency in the North, before critically exploring the role of collusion as an aspect of counter-insurgency during the recent conflict. The paper will argue that the normalization of exceptional measures, combined with the need to delimit the explicitness of constitutional provision for the same, provided a context for the emergence of collusion as a paradigm case for the increasing replication of colonial practices into the core activity of the contemporary democratic state.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)213-230
    JournalStudies in Social Justice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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