Moles, Martyrs and Sleepers


The paper addresses two issues: the events of September 11 in terms of the traditional vocabulary of terrorism, and the implications of these acts for the modern political project. I argue that the traditional vocabulary of the law of war, adapted to the circumstances of armed conflict, remains useful. In appraising the effect of these actions on the realization of the political project of modernity, I look to Hobbes, as he suggested peace was possible only when “fundamentalist”

questions were eliminated from the political agenda. Only under a secular version of political rule can the sovereign become an effective guarantor of law. Hobbes’s arguments resulted in a new vision of politics based on fear and its manipulation, but also on a certain rationality allowing individuals (and sovereign states) to pursue their own interests. Insofar as both the domestic and international social order is based on such notions, the emergence of fundamentalist-inspired terrorism decisively challenges the modern political project.

How to Cite

Kratochwil, F., (2003) “Moles, Martyrs and Sleepers”, Ethnologia Europaea 33(2), 57-68. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


Download PDF



Friedrich Kratochwil (European University Institute)



Publication details



All rights reserved


File Checksums (MD5)

  • PDF: e9069c5602b38363f3664a5a2b6814a4