Sociology Index

Sociology of Terrorism

The developing subfield sociology of terrorism seeks to understand terrorism as a widespread social phenomenon and how nation states should respond to terrorism. Sociology of terrorism is about What Motivates Terrorists? Sociology of terrorism is also about terrorist's rationalization of violence, and their moral justification of terrorism imagining themselves as the saviors. New trends and technologies of the 21st century have brought immense changes in the methods employed in the acts of terrorism. Sociology of terrorism is about who becomes a terrorist? What kind of individuals join terrorist groups and commit public acts of shocking violence?

While analysing the causes of terrorism, religious, sociological and psychological factors appear to be more pronounced, though economic and political factors also have their impact. Joseph Margolin's argues in his analysis of the sociology of terrorism, that "much terrorist behavior is a response to the frustration of various political, economic, and personal needs or objectives" in one of the many hypotheses of terrorism. Syrian official position that Syria does not assist terrorist organizations but it supports national liberation movements leads to the concept of terrorism for National Liberation. There is involvement of States in terrorism, but the September 11 attacks had come from non-state terrorism. The number of victims, in particular, was unprecedented. The media and quite a few public intellectuals like Salman Rushdie have highlighted these attacks as “the worst case of terrorism ever.” Mass-destruction terrorism and WMD use is becoming a huge threat to the world. Terrorist organizations operate in many countries; the victims of attacks are of different nationalities; terrorist groups receive assistance from different states, receive support from different ethnic communities. What are terrorist group typologies?

Defining terrorism, or a terrorist is not just a theoretical issue. Terrorism is no longer a local problem of specific countries. Terrorism is an issue involving a number of international implicatons. An effective strategy requires a proper terrorism definition and definition of a terrorist. There is also the need to define Guerrilla Warfare vs Terrorism. Definition of terrorism related terms is also important. We need to answer questions like  what is terrorism? or who is a terrorist? in order to impose responsibility on countries supporting terrorism, or to combat terrorist groups. The physiological approach to terrorism suggests the role of the media in promoting the spread of terrorism. In Netanyahu’s third book, Fighting Terrorism, the phrase “the innocent” was replaced by the term “civilians”: “Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic assault on civilians to inspire fear for political ends.”

Isn't it ironic that humans kill fellow humans in the name of God. Isn't it even more ironic that the terrorists hope to receive rewards for such acts of terrorism. - rajrathnamvp.

What is terrorism? Terrorism is “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” The noun form of terrorism is a terrorist. The word terrorism was first recorded in the late 1700s. It is based on the word terror, which comes from the Latin verb terrēre, meaning “to frighten.” Chapter 113B in Title 18 of the US Code has extensive provisions and definitions regarding terrorism. In the US, protecting terrorists acts is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Based on Chapter 113B, the Federal Bureau of Investigation also provides definitions for international terrorism and domestic terrorism.

International terrorism: violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by, or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or state-sponsored.

Domestic terrorism: violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.

Terrorism vs. Insurgency vs. Sedition vs. Treason vs. Insurrection vs. Coup

Sedition is incitement or promotion of rebellion against the government, while an insurrection is an active rebellion or uprising against the government. The word coup is short for coup d’état, which narrowly refers to an illegal or forceful change of government, as opposed to an uprising in general. A coup may be attempted with the intention of removing a single political leader, rather than instituting an entirely new form of government. The terms sedition, insurrection, and coup are sometimes used in the discussion of the same events. Sedition may inspire an insurrection that results in a coup. Terrorism involves the use of violence or threats of violence, especially against civilians, to achieve some political aim. Domestic terrorism specifically refers to acts of terrorism against one’s fellow citizens. Acts of international terrorism are perpetrated by people connected to foreign groups or nations. By contrast, the word insurrection typically refers to acts that target the government, rather than civilians. Some acts of insurrection may also be considered acts of terrorism.

What is a terrorist's ideology and religious perception?

Speaking about terrorism or the violent world of fundamentalism Dr Salman Akhtar, of Harvard Medical School said "there is the deepest dread of total mortality which all human beings live with. The fundamentalist denies total mortality with fantasies like: you'll go to heaven, you'll get 72 virgins, or that you'll be born again and you'll come back, and if you believe, well you'll have a good next life. It is simply not going to happen."

"Islamic suicide squads are promised an afterlife replete with gold palaces, sumptuous feasts, and obliging women". - Who becomes a terrorist and why? Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.

Israel occasionally acknowledged the terrorist nature of its strategy, most notably when its Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin explained that the aim of shelling and bombing south Lebanon was “to make it uninhabitable” and thereby force the Beirut government to repress the activities of the Palestinian liberation movement on its territory.

Terrorist Group and Group Dynamics

“In brief, the psychology behind terrorist violence is normal psychology, abnormal only in the intensity of the group dynamics that link causes with comrades.” - Clark R. McCauley.

The passion with which even socially advantaged group of young people who identify with oppressed groups and the willingness of some fighters to commit suicidal acts in pursuit of a distant goal is mysterious.

Group dynamics explains the reason-result relations within a group and the formation and the functioning of them. Terrorism involves attempts by relatively small groups with claims of mass representation to vindicate those claims by resorting to exemplary violent action.

Terrorist's Pressures to Commit Acts of Violence

Post (1990:35) argues that "individuals become terrorists in order to join terrorist groups and commit acts of terrorism." Joining a terrorist group gives them a sense of "revolutionary heroism" and self-importance that they previously lacked as individuals.

In Zawodny's analysis, a terrorist group needs to commit acts of terrorism in order to justify its existence. Terrorists may feel that their personal honor depends on the degree of violence that they carry out against the enemy.

Pearlstein points out that other examples of the political terrorist's self-justification of his or her terrorist actions include the terrorist's taking credit for a given terrorist act and forewarning of terrorist acts to come. By threatening future terrorism, the terrorist or terrorist group in effect absolves itself of responsibility for any casualties that may result.

Terrorism or Revolutionary Violence?

Abu Iyad tries to present terrorism and political violence as two different and unconnected phenomena. The implication of this statement is that a political motive makes the activity respectable, and the end justifies the means.

Individual Terrorism, Indiscriminate Terrorism, Rural and Urban Guerrilla Warfare

Rural guerrilla warfare, is “the use of violence against military personnel and security forces in their area of deployment, activity and transport, in order to attain political aims.”

Urban guerrilla warfare involves “targeting a specific urban military facility or attacking a member of the military/security forces, or a political leader at the decision-making level, in order to achieve political aims.”

Indiscriminate terrorism entails “using violence against a civilian target, without regard to the specific identity of the victims, in order to spread fear in a population larger than that actually affected, with the purpose of attaining political aims.”

Individual terrorism entails “using violence against a specific civilian target, or attacking a civilian who embodies a symbol to the public or to the attackers, but who does not function as a political leader at the decision-making level.”

Aims of Terrorism and Guerrilla Warfare

The terrorist and the guerrilla fighter may have the exact same aims, but they choose different means to accomplish them. Political aims that terrorist organizations and guerrilla movements seek are: national liberation, revolution, anarchism and changing the socio-economic system. An organization is defined as “terrorist” because of its mode of operation and its target of attack, whereas calling something a “struggle for liberation” has to do with the aim that the organization seeks to attain.

Sociology of Terrorism Abstracts

PURIFICATION AND POWER: THE PSYCHO-POLITICAL ROOTS OF RELIGIOUS TERRORISM - Richard E. Rubenstein. Abstract: In the wake of terrorist attacks, the victims of terrorist violence may portray the attackers as acting instrumentally, but within the framework of a political or religious ideology that is utterly alien and divorced from reality.

Terrorism and Freedom: An Outside View
Luis Rubio. Nothing is more telling about the recent terrorist attacks in the United States than the nature of their targets. Terrorism is characterized as an incomprehensible destructive activity that implicates the victim only as victim.

State Terrorism and Counterterrorism (PDF)
Paper Number 2002/3Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) Melbourne, Canberra Department of Philosophy - GPO Box A260.

Sociology of Terrorism - Leiden University.
Sociology of terrorism students will explore theories of social conflict, functionalism and symbolic interactionism in the study of terrorism. Students will also explore questions relating to migration, ethnicity and identity; inter-generational change; and integration/assimilation. Labelling theory, moral panics and media discourses and symbolism are also be explored.