chapter
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DEBATING RIGHTS AND VIOLENCE

Moral claims are also intrinsic to the political process, to integrate or to exclude, to endorse or to reject. Ethically inflected struggles over the validity of the use of force, the legitimate basis of power or the justifiable behaviour of opponents are central to the pursuit of political action. Proclaiming moral purpose or moral authority is a strategy used to purify the use of force and to ‘sacralise’ political intentions (Falk Moore 1993: 1). It can be used to defend them from debate and even to suspend the normal conventions of government or law. Far from being timeless cultural truths, these questions are often crystallised in acute moments of crisis, through which the definition and the congruence of familiar concepts is reinforced or called into question. Alternatively, they may involve longer-term cleavages between opposing groups, who draw on moral rhetoric as a justificatory discourse. The definition of external threats posed by others helps to endorse the moral legitimacy of force. Morality in action comes to be constituted through history, myth, symbol and memory and appeals to universal ‘fact’ become indistinguishable form moral conflicts.