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Between the Exception and Biopolitical Security: A Critical Discourse Analysis of US and EU Securitization Strategies Post -9/11

Fiaccadori, Elisa. 2011. Between the Exception and Biopolitical Security: A Critical Discourse Analysis of US and EU Securitization Strategies Post -9/11. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In line with Carl Schmitt’s characterization of the sovereign as ‘he who decides on the state of exception’, Giorgio Agamben argues that the exception is not only central to contemporary security developments but is increasingly becoming the rule. Starting from a critical exploration of biopolitics and sovereignty in the works of both Agamben and Foucault, through a theoretically informed discursive analysis, this thesis explores three important instances of securitization discourse, whose conceptualizations of sovereignty and security it uses to explain how exactly ‘the (state of) exception’ is generalized in the context of the war on terror. These are two US National Security Strategies (2002; 2006) and the European Security Strategy (2004).

What the analysis of these documents, and in particular of the NSSs, demonstrates is that, as Agamben suggests, the exception is indeed essential to an articulation of sovereign power at the national level. It is through the decision on the exception exemplified by the decision on the enemy (i.e., terrorism) and the best means to combat it that the US tries to secure its status as a powerful state, legitimize a global leading role for itself in the war on terror. However, what it also shows is that whilst the theme of emergency is constitutive in different ways of both the US and EU (bio)political foreign policy and sovereignty, the attempt to ‘generalize the (state of) exception’ also relies on other mechanisms of (bio)power or (bio)security. These mechanisms of (bio)security, I argue, are operationalized differently from the logic of exception, but are not unconnected to it. They permit the globalization of (the state of) exception in the form of what I have called a ‘global (bio)emergency-State’, whose primary enabler is the US state and of which the EU is an active, if ‘indirect’, participant.

This thesis argues that the logic of exception and security are in fact coextensive. However, contrary to Agamben, it claims that they are not coextensive in the absolute sense of being one and the same as his understanding of biosovereignty implies. They are coextensive in the very specific senses of the logic of exception finding its continuation in the transformation of security into strategic objective at both US national and European level.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


sovereignty, exception, biopolitics, human security, agamben, foucault, schmitt, empire and imperialism, US, EU, foreign and security policy, balibar, discourse analysis.

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Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 13:48

Last Modified:

21 Jul 2017 14:23


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