Criminology and terrorism: Which thesis? Risk society or governmentality?

Gabe Mythen, Sandra Walklate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Since the events of 11 September 2001, terrorism has been the subject of intense media interest, political dialogue and public scrutiny. Through well publicized discussions about its constitution and consequences, the 'new terrorism' has been open to heavy institutional construction. Yet, criminological incursion into the debate about 'new terrorism' has so far been relatively limited. This article seeks to direc tly address this lacuna by employing two distinct theoretical perspectives on risk and demonstrating how each can aid our understanding of the manufacture of the terrorist threat. The risk-society thesis proposed by Beck is employed to examine the novel features of 'new terrorism', including the deployment of hi-tech weaponry, the reproduction of catastrophic effects and the changing geography of danger. Through the Foucauldian looking glass of governmentality, we inspect the means through which risk is rendered thinkable, the discursive construction of terrorism and the intensification of a wider culture of surveillance and control. Our application is governed by two key objectives. First, we wish to critique the ways in which the terrorist threat is being discursively and materially shaped by law and order institutions. Secondly, we wish to explore the possibility of setting a criminological agenda that is both inclusive of and responsive to current concerns about the management of 'new terrorism'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-398
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006
Externally publishedYes

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