Department of Political Science

Gorm Harste

Fear as a medium of communication in asymmetric forms of warfare

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  • Department of Political Science
Fear is defined as the distinction between risk and danger, a distinction that operates in communicative forms. War is always also warfare about the form of war. The article describes how fear in warfare becomes a symbolically generalized medium of communication, mainly focusing on how the form of fear evolves in asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric war induces fear in both parties, but in a communicative form that leads to very different experiences of fear. Fear is observed and analysed with Niklas Luhmann’s theory of self-referential systems of communication and well as his theory of risk. Following Luhmann and in continuation of Clausewitz’ conceptual tools, yet with other means, the article proposes to observe war as a system that can de-ontologize itself and thereby concern moving centres of gravity such as communication lines, motivation, public fear as well as perceptions of risk and insecurity. The final section draws together the theoretical insights by formalizing a risk analysis of fear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-213
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2011

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