|Fear: Its Political Uses and Abuses
Volume 71 No. 4 (Winter 2004)
Arien Mack, Editor
|Table of Contents||Notes on Contributors||Ordering information|
This issue is devoted to the papers from the thirteenth Social Research conference, which was held at the New School in February 2004. The decision to organize this conference, “Fear: Its Political Uses and Abuses,” was motivated by the painful recognition that we are living at a time, not the first, of collective fear--fear that is encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media.
This fear has its origins in the shocking events of September 11, which horrified and mesmerized the nation and many in the rest of the world as we watched the planes smashing into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and saw the buildings collapsing over and over again as the tapes of these scenes were replayed endlessly on our television screens. A nation that had seemed impervious to attack from the outside suffered grievously at the hands of a small, determined band of fanatics who saw us as the “great Satan.” We were no longer invulnerable, and our vulnerability required swift and decisive action.
This sense of vulnerability, and the fear it engendered, quickly became the justification for so much that our government had done since in the name of protecting us. It has been the justification for two wars, and for “slashing away” our constitutional protections, all in the name of fighting terrorism. The Justice Department now claims the power to hold American citizens in prison indefinitely, without access to lawyers, simply because they have been labeled “enemy combatants.” Terrorism suspects have been held in secret detention for many months, some with no access to an attorney, while their hearings, when they occur, are closed to the public and the press. Treatment amounting to the torture of prisoners, both in Iraq and in Guantánamo, has been tolerated, if not authorized. Questioning the legitimacy of these actions, including the preemptive war on Iraq, is explicitly seen by many as un-American, as aiding and abetting the enemy. These actions, we are told, are necessary to combat and eliminate the very sources of our fears. How can we legitimately oppose them?
This may be the only time in our history when we are not only warned that we should be afraid, but told exactly how afraid we should be (red, orange or yellow alerts). And yet, regardless of how afraid we should be, we are given no advice about what to do, except perhaps to be wary of strangers and stock up on duct tape and bottled water. What is the effect of this?
Fear, of course, also has its positive side, which can be seen when we are asked to be afraid of not only terrorism but also second-hand smoke, bioengineered food, or even diseases, such as SARS or AIDS. When does the invocation of fear go from public education to hysteria, which may lead to unforeseen negative consequences?
What better time then, to step back and reflect on the political uses and abuses of fear. What can we learn from looking at other periods in our own history, or in the history of other countries, when fear was the order of the day? For example, 50 or more years ago this country was in the midst of the “Red Scare,” McCarthy was in his ascendancy, and American civil liberties were being seriously threatened and eroded. Are these similar moments?
There are many unanswered questions about the political uses and abuses of fear, and the processes at work during times such as these, that call for discussion and reflection. What do our social sciences have to tell us about how we respond to fear, and how those responses can be manipulated? Can we learn something relevant to our understanding of these processes from the neuroscience of fear? How can the most significant political theories help us understand fear, and in turn, how has fear figured in these influential political theories? How have new communication technologies changed the ways in which fear is propagated? Can fear and even terror play a positive role in political life, perhaps by inspiring a moral reawakening? Finally, can these avenues of knowledge improve our understanding of the processes now at work? What do they teach us about appropriate action--action we can take both in the name of fear and as a means of reducing it? These are the questions addressed at the conference and in the papers in this issue. One only wishes that they were less relevant now than they were a year ago when the conference was convened.
Vol. 75 No. 2 (Summer 2008)
Politics and Science: How their Interplay Results in Public Policy
Vol. 73 No. 3 Fall 2006))
International Justice, War Crimes, and Terrorism: The U.S. Record
Vol. 69 No. 4 (Winter 2002)
In Time Of Plague: The History And Social Consequences Of Lethal Epidemic Disease
Vol. 55 No. 3 (Fall 1988)
You may also be interested in the other issues in our conference series.
Back to the Top
Table of Contents
|Part I: Keynote Address
|Albert A. Gore, Jr.
Politics of Fear [View webcast of Gore's talk]
|Part II: Fear and How it Works - - Science
and Social Science
|Jacek Debiec and Joe LeDoux
||Fear and the
Techniques of Fear Mongering
|Tom Pyszczynski||What Are We So Afraid
Of? A Terror Management Theory
Perspetive on the Politics of Fear
||The Ministry of Fear
|Part III: The Political Theory and
Vocabulary of Fear
Itself [Read Hollander's complete paper]
||A Life of Fear
||Liberalism at Bay,
Conservatism at Play: Fear in the Contemporary Imagination
|Part IV: What We Gain, What We Lose - - The
Effects of Fear
and Liberty [Read Sunstein's complete paper]
What is It Good For?
on Fear in Global Society
[Read Hoffman's complete paper]
|Part V: Case Studies - - What an They Teach
|Aristide R. Zolberg
Political Repression and the Fear of Communism
|E. Valentine Daniel
Semeiosic Economy of Fear
|Part VI: Politics of Fear After 9/11 - -
Can the Past Inform the Future?
Andrew Arato, Corey Robin, Tom Pyszczynski, and Jessica Stern
Introduction: What We Gain, What We Lose: The Effects of Fear
Arato is the Dorothy Hart
Hirshon Professor in Political Social Theory
at the Graduate Faculty of the New School University and a member of
the USIP/UNDP Workship on Constitution Making, Conflict Resolution and
Peace Building. His recent books include Revolution, Constitution
Civil Society in the Transitions (2000).
What Is It Good For?
Alterman, Professor of English at CUNY–Brooklyn College
and a senior
fellow of the Center for American Policy, writes the "Liberal
column in The Nation and the “Altercation” weblog
<www.altercation.msnbc.com> for MSNBC.com. The most recent
his six books is When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception
and Its Consequences (2004).
Semeiosic Economy of Fear
E. Valentine Daniel is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of Fluid Signs: Being a Person in the Tamil Way (1984). His recent publications include Culture/Contexture: Essays in Anthropology and Literary Study (1996) and Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence (1997).
Narrative Techniques of Fear Mongering
Barry Glassner is Professor of Sociology at University of Southern California. He is the author of Culture of Fear (2000), and his articles have appeared in American Sociological Review, Social Problems, and American Journal of Psychiatry, among other journals.
The Politics of Fear
Albert A. Gore, Jr.
[View webcast of Gore's talk]
Albert A. Gore, Jr. served as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States, from 1993 to 2001. He is the author of Earth in the Balance (1992).
The Ministry of Fear
Steven Heller is Art Director of the New York Times Book Reviw and co-chair of the MFA/Design Program at the School of Visual Arts. His books include Red Scared! The Commie Menace in Propaganda and Popular Culture (with Barson, 2001) and Design Literacy, 2nd ed. (2004).
Back To Top
Thoughts on Fear in Global Society
[Read Hoffman's complete paper]
Stanley Hoffmann is the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor at Harvard University. His books include The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention (1997), World Disorders (1998), and Gulliver Unbound (2004).
[Read Hollander's complete paper]
Hollander is Sterling
Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University, and a poet and
critic. Most recent among his books of poetry are Picture Window (2003)
and Figurehead (1999); his essay collections include The Poetry of
Everyday Life (1998) and The Work of Poetry (1997).
Introduction: Fear and How It Works - - Science and Social Science
Huddy is Associate
Professor of Political Science at SUNY Stony Brook. Her recent
addresses personal and national reactions to terrorist threat.
the author or coauthor of two books and numerous papers appearing in
Political Psychology, Public Opinion Quarterly, and other
A Life of Fear
George Kateb is William Nelson Cromwell Professor Emeritus of Politics at Princeton University. His books include The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture, winner of the 1994 Spitz Book Prize by the Conference for the Study of Political Thought.
Back To Top
Fear and the Brain
Jacek Debiec and Joe LeDoux
Jacek Debiec is a psychiatrist and a philosopher, currently at the Center for Neural Science, New York University. Together with Joseph LeDoux and Henry Moss he is the author and editor of The
Self: From Soul to Brain (2003).
LeDoux is Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science and
Neural Science and Psychology at New York University. His
in the Center for Neural Science conducts research aimed at
understanding the biological underpinnings of emotions such as
He is the author of Synatpic Self (2002 and The Emotional Brain (1996).
America's New Nationalism
Aryeh Neier is President of the Open Society Institute. Formerly Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, he also served as National Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is the author, most recently, of Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights (2003).
Back To Top
Introduction: Politics of Fear After 9/11: Can the Past Inform the Future?
Kenneth Prewitt is Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University and a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau. His research includes the use of ethnoracial classification in national statistics and the recent changes the classification has undergone, and his most recent book is Politics and Science in Census Taking (2003).
Back To Top
What Are We So Afraid Of? A Terror Management Theory Perspective on the Politics of Fear
Tom Pyszczynski is Professor of Psychology at Colorado University---Colorado Springs. His research deals the role of self-esteem, cultural world views, and interpersonal relationships in the management of anxiety and fear. He is co-author (with Solomon and Greenberg) of In the Wake of 9/11: the Psychology of Terror (2003).
Back To Top
Liberalism at Bay, Conservatism at Play: Fear in the Contemporary Imagination
Robin is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn
and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His essays and
articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, The New
York Times Magazine, Raritan, The London Review of Books, and Social
Research. His first book is Fear: The History of a Political Idea
McCarthyism: Political Repression and the Fear of Communism
Ellen Schrecker is Professor of History at Yeshiva University. Her books include Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998) and No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (1987). She also served as Editor of the journal Academe from 1998-2002.
Back To Top
Stern is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University. She is the author of Terror
in the Name of God (2003), The Ultimate Terrorists (1999), and numerous
articles on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Fear and Liberty
Cass R. Sunstein
[Read Sunstein's complete paper]
Cass R. Sunstein is Karl N. Llewellyn Dist. Service Professor of Jurisprudence, Law School, Department of Political Science and the College, University of Chicago. He is author of many books, including Laws of Fear (2005), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), Risk and Reason (2002), and Republic.com (2001).
Back To Top
Introduction: Case Studies - - What Can They Teach Us?
Aristide R. Zolberg
Aristide R. Zolberg is Director of
the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship and
University-in-Exile Professor of Political Science at the Graduate
Faculty of the New School University. His book A Nation by
Design? Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America is forthcoming.
|Table of Contents||Back to the Top|