Defining by naming: Israeli civic warring over the second lebanon war

Piki Ish-Shalom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Politics is a public effort directed at the allocation of resources, both material and symbolic. Quite often it involves conflict in the form of a public struggle over the allocation of resources. Informed by Antonio Gramsci's theory of hegemony, this article offers a political reading of constructivism (a theoretical perspective here called Political Constructivism). It maintains that politics is guided by a conscious effort by political agents to control the commonsensical understanding of social reality using the media of political concepts, metaphors, symbols, and - the focus of this article - names and definitions. Political agents regard controlling the commonsense as one of the most effective political tools. They understand that it can be controlled by attaching meanings to political concepts, by linking metaphors and symbols to ideas, and by linking events to classes of events through naming and defining. This article examines the civic warring in Israel over the defining and naming of the Second Lebanon War as a case in point. Defining and naming the event involved a political struggle to frame the commonsense, gain the upper hand in the political process of constructing socio-political reality, and reap the political gains. The article argues that the political struggle was resolved by what I call a weak Kripkean-like defining, in other words, defining by naming.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)475-493
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An earlier version of this article was presented at the workshop on Arguing Global Governance: Lifeworlds, Reasoning, Persuasion, Power and Change, at the University of Oxford, 21 June 2008 and at the 50th Annual International Studies Association Convention, New York City, 17 February 2009. I would like to thank Corneliu Bjola, Alan Cienki, Dalia Gavriely-Nuri, Katty Ish-Shalom, Arie Kacowicz, Markus Kornprobst, Ido Oren, Shaul Shenhav, Dvora Yanow, and the workshop participants for their very helpful comments. The research for this article was supported by a grant from the Israel Foundations trustees (2008–10).


  • Critical Theory
  • Political Constructivism
  • discourse
  • hegemony
  • power


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