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Arguments for exception in US security discourse

Hunter, Duncan; MacDonald, Malcolm N


Duncan Hunter

Malcolm N MacDonald


In his influential State of Exception, Giorgio Agamben proposes that, even in apparently liberal western democracies, the state will routinely use the contingency of national emergency to suspend civil liberties and justify expansion of military and police powers. We investigated rhetorical strategies deployed in the web pages of US security agencies, created or reformed in the aftermath of the 9/11 events, to determine whether they present argumentation conforming to Agamben’s model. To expose rhetorical content, we examined strategies operating at two levels within our corpus. Argument schemes and underlying warrants were identified through close examination of systematically selected core documents. Semantic fields establishing themes of threat and danger were also explored, using automatic corpus tools to expose patterns of lexical selection established across the whole corpus. The study recovered evidence of rhetoric broadly consistent with the logic predicted by State of Exception theory, but also presented nuanced findings whose interpretation required careful re-appraisal of core ideas within Agamben’s work.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2017-09
Journal Discourse & society
Print ISSN 0957-9265
Electronic ISSN 1460-3624
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 5
Pages 493-511
APA6 Citation Hunter, D., & MacDonald, M. N. (2017). Arguments for exception in US security discourse. Discourse and Society, 28(5), 493-511 .
Keywords Security; Critical discourse analysis; Argument schemes; Topoi; Corpus analysis; Discourse; 9/11; Agamben
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Discourse & society, 2017. v.28, issue 5.


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