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Fear and Terror in a Post-Political Age

  • Bill Durodié


Despite an investigation lasting almost a year there is still no clarity as to why the perpetrators of the London bombings of 2005 acted as they did. Many commentators projected their own views into the vacuum left by the terrorists. These ideas, ranging from revenge for British foreign policy to the logical outcome of social exclusion, may shape security and community-related policies adversely. This article suggests that the bombers reflected a wider sense of disgruntlement in contemporary culture, one that is largely home grown and inculcated. Exploring the recent development of this politics of alienation, and a concomitant search for identity and meaning, it is proposed that the biggest danger is to live in a society with no clear sense of direction or purpose.



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1 Phrase attributed to and forming the essence of V. E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, Boston, Beacon Press, 1959.

2 Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7 July 2005, Norwich, HMSO, 2006, HC 1087.

3 Such a view has become mainstream across the political spectrum, migrating from George Galloway's tirade against Tony Blair upon being elected MP for the Respect Party in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 2005, to the authors of ‘Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a High-Risk Policy’, Security, Terrorism and the UK, ISP/NSC Briefing Paper 05/01, London, RIIA, 2005.

4 R. Briggs, C. Fieschi and H. Lownsbrough, Bringing it Home: Community-Based Approaches to Counter-Terrorism, London, Demos, 2006.

5 Report into the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005, Norwich, HMSO, 2006, Cm 6785.

6 ‘Not in my name’ was the slogan used by many of those opposed to the Iraq War of 2003. Faisal Devji points to a growing usage of such non-political statements by a wide variety of groups encompassing environmental protestors and others in Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity, New Delhi, Foundation Books, 2005.

7 This is not to belittle the genuine grief of all those concerned, or indeed their understandable desire for support.

8 Cited in De Telegraaf, 26 July 2005, available at;

9 A common warning from the prime minister, the head of the Security Service and many others.

10 A phrase attributed to the IRA after failing to assassinate the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

11 Z. Laïdi, A World Without Meaning, London, Taylor & Francis, 1998.

12 S. P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

13 T. Blair, ‘Not a Clash Between Civilisations, but a Clash About Civilisation’, speech, London, Foreign Policy Centre, 21 March 2006, available at

14 Countering International Terrorism: The United Kingdom's Strategy, Norwich, HMSO, 2006, Cm 6888.

15 T. Blair, uncorrected transcript of oral evidence to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 4 July 2006, available at

16 J. Reid, speech to Muslim groups in East London, 20 September 2006, available at

17 There is a burgeoning literature on the causes of so-called radicalization emerging from a wide variety of organizations, very little of which is peer reviewed.

18 ‘Towards a Community-Based approach to Counter-Terrorism’, report on Wilton Park conference, 20–2 March 2006, WPSO6/5, available at

19 ‘Gang “Planned to Bomb London Nightclub” ’, Guardian, 25 May 2006.

20 M. Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

21 Osama bin Laden, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, ed. by B. Lawrence, trans. by J. Howarth, London, Verso, 2005.

22 S. Milne, ‘They Can't See Why They are Hated’, Guardian, 13 September 2001.

23 Cited in ‘God Gave U.S. “What We Deserve” Falwell Says’, Washington Post, 14 September 2001.

24 M. Bookchin, Re-Enchanting Humanity: A Defense of the Human Spirit against Anti-Humanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism and Primitivism, London, Cassell, 1995.

25 M. Rees, Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-First Century?, London, William Heinemann, 2003.

26 J. Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, London, Granta, 2003.

27 ‘Earth Without People: What if we All Disappeared Tomorrow?’, New Scientist, 14 October 2006.

28 M. Moore, Stupid White Men … and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!, London, Penguin, 2002.

29 F. Furedi, Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectations, London, Continuum, 2002.

30 F. Furedi, Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, London, Routledge, 2004.

31 M. Thatcher, ‘Aids, Education and the Year 2000’, Woman's Own, 23 September 1987.

32 A. Rosenthal, The Decline of Representative Democracy: Process, Participation, and Power in State Legislatures, Washington, DC, Congressional Quarterly Books, 1997.

33 P. F. Whiteley and P. Seyd, High-Intensity Participation: The Dynamics of Party Activism in Britian, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2002.

34 POWER Inquiry, Power to the People: An Independent Inquiry into Britain's Democracy, York, JRCT, 2006.

35 M. Saatchi, In Praise of Ideology, London, Centre for Policy Studies, 2006.

36 A. Giddens, Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics, Cambridge, Polity, 1994. See also F. Furedi, The Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right, London, Continuum, 2006.

37 R. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2000.

38 R. Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

39 J. Heartfield, The ‘Death of the Subject’ Explained, Sheffield, Perpetuity Press, 2002.

40 F. Furedi, Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May be Best for your Child, London, Allen Lane, 2001.

41 A. Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge, Polity, 1991.

42 See for example, C. Hale, Crime in Modern Britiain: Interpreting Trends in Crime, Harlow, Longman Criminology, 1996; D. Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001; or Silverman, E. B. and Della-Giustina, J-A., ‘Urban Policing and the Fear of Crime’, Urban Studies, 38: 5–6 (2001) pp. 941–57.

43 Furedi, Culture of Fear.

44 U. Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, Nottingham, Sage, 1992.

45 Better Regulation Commission, Risk, Responsibility and Regulation: Whose Risk is it Anyway?, London, Whitehall, 2006.

46 D. L. Altheide, Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crises, New York, De Gruyter, 2002.

47 Furedi, The Politics of Fear.

48 J. Morris (ed.), Rethinking Risk and the Precautionary Principle, London, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001.

49 B. Durodié, ‘The Precautionary Principle – Is it Killing Innovation?’, in S. Kumaria (ed.), An Apology for Capitalism?, London, Profile Books, 2004, pp. 68–77.

50 J. Porritt, Playing Safe: Science and the Environment, London, Thames and Hudson, 2001.

51 B. Durodié, ‘Political Tunnel Vision is Today's Real Terror’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 26 March 2003.

52 A. B. Seligman, The Problem of Trust, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000.

53 Guzelian, C. P., ‘Liability and Fear’, Ohio State Law Journal, 64: 4 (2004), pp. 713851.

54 This is the view of Bob Worcester, the founder of the public polling company MORI.

55 Durodié, B., ‘Limitations of Public Dialogue in Science and the Rise of New ‘“Experts”’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 6: 4 (2003), pp. 8292.

56 R. W. Dozier, Fear Itself: The Origin and Nature of the Powerful Emotion that Shapes Our Lives and Our World, New York, Thomas Dunne Books, 1998.

57 See for example C. Robin, Fear: The History of a Political Idea, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006; or J. Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History, London, Virago Press, 2005.

58 D. L. Scruton (ed.), Sociophobics: The Anthropology of Fear, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1986.

59 E. L. Quarantelli, What is a Disaster?, London, Routledge, 1998.

60 Quarantelli, E. L. and Dynes, R. R., ‘Response to Social Crisis and Disaster’, Annual Review of Sociology, 3: 1 (1977), pp. 2349.

61 B. Durodié, ‘Cultural Precursors and Psychological Consequences of Contemporary Western Responses to Acts of Terror’, in S. Wessely and V. Krasnov (eds), Psychological Aspects of the New Terrorism: A NATO Russia Dialogue, Amsterdam, IOS Press, 2005, pp. 37–53.

62 Durodié, B. and Wessely, S., ‘Resilience or Panic? The Public and Terrorist Attack’, The Lancet, 360: 9349 (2002), pp. 1901–2.

63 F. Furedi, ‘Disaster and Contemporary Consciousness: The Changing Cultural Frame for the Experience of Adversity’, draft report 2004, available at

64 R. Dynes, ‘On Disasters and Popular Culture’, University of Delaware Disaster Research Centre Preliminary Paper 295, Newark, University of Delaware, 2000.

65 R. M. Titmuss, Problems of Social Policy, Nottingham, HMSO, 1950.

66 A. Calder, The Myth of the Blitz, London, Jonathan Cape, 1991.

67 Jones, E., Woolven, R., Durodié, B. and Wessely, S., ‘Civilian Morale During the Second World: Responses to Air Raids Re-Examined’, Social History of Medicine, 17: 3 (2004), pp. 463–79.

68 Furedi, Therapy Culture.

69 Rose, S., Bisson, J., and Wessely, S., ‘A Systematic Review of Single-Session Psychological Interventions (“Debriefing”) Following Trauma’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 72: 4 (2003), pp. 176–84.

70 C. Marsden and J. Hyland, ‘Britain: 20 Years Since the Year-Long Miners' Strike’, World Socialist website, 2004, available at

71 Glass, T. and Schoch-Spana, M., ‘Bioterrorism and the People: How to Vaccinate a City Against Panic’, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 34: 2 (2002), pp. 217–23.

72 Hubbard, P., ‘Fear and Loathing at the Multiplex: Everyday Anxiety in the Post-Industrial City’, Capital and Class, 80 (2003), pp. 5176.

73 Durodié, B., ‘Facing the Possibility of Bioterrorism’, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 15: 3 (2004), pp. 264–8.

Fear and Terror in a Post-Political Age

  • Bill Durodié


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