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The Faces of Terrorism

The Faces of Terrorism: Social and Psychological Dimensions

Neil J. Smelser
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    The Faces of Terrorism
    Book Description:

    Terrorism is the most clear and present danger we confront today, yet no phenomenon is more poorly understood by policymakers, the media, and the general public.The Faces of Terrorismis the first serious interdisciplinary examination of terrorism in all its facets. What gives rise to it, who are its proponents and how do they think, and how--and why--does it work?

    Neil Smelser begins by tackling the fundamental problem of defining what exactly terrorism is. He shows why a precise definition has eluded us until now, and he proposes one that takes into account the full complexities of this unconventional and politically charged brand of violence. He explores the root causes and conditions of terrorism, and examines the ideologies that inspire and fuel it throughout the world. Smelser looks closely at the terrorists themselves--their recruitment, their motivations, the groups they form, their intended audiences, and their uses of the media in pursuing their agendas. He studies the target societies as well, unraveling the complicated social and psychological impacts of having to cope with the ever-present threat of a terrorist strike--and responding when one occurs. He explains what it means to live under constant threat of terrorism, and addresses the thorny domestic and foreign policy challenges this poses. Throughout, Smelser draws from the latest findings in sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, psychology, psychiatry, and history.

    The Faces of Terrorismprovides the breadth of scope necessary to understand--and ultimately eliminate--this most pressing global threat.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2788-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)

    • CHAPTER 1 The Paradoxes of Terrorism
      (pp. 3-8)

      Terrorism as a contemporary phenomenon teems with paradoxes. For at least three decades, many who have studied it have regarded it as the “conflict for our time” (Clutterbuck, 1977, p. 13). Yet the same author who advertised it in those words also regarded it as “rooted in history” (ibid., p. 22), to be found in military, political, and religious annals since classical times. Despite this duality of vision, it is true that terrorism has irregularly emerged as the world’s most salient and worrisome form of combat during the past several decades, and to many it promises to remain so indefinitely...


    • CHAPTER 2 Conditions and Causes of Terrorism
      (pp. 11-53)

      In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, launched his campaign to establish the field as a science (Durkheim, 1958 [1893]). He was a positivist, insisting on the independent significance of social facts (institutions, rates of behavior, collective sentiments). Among the scientific tenets he propounded was the principle that an observed social fact (for example, a group suicide rate) has a single cause that produces that effect (in the case of suicide, the cause was found in the force of social cohesion) (Durkheim, 1951 [1895]). He held to this principle of single...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ideological Bases of Terrorist Behavior
      (pp. 54-89)

      Earlier I asserted that almost all behavior that has been identified as terrorist is associated with extremist social movements based on extremist ideological beliefs. Wilkinson went even further: “everyinternal terrorist movement or group requires an extremist ideology of some kind to nourish, motivate, justify, and mobilize the use of terror violence” (1988, p. 95). There are good social science reasons why such statements, strong as they are, have validity. In this chapter I sketch the anatomy of these beliefs and indicate how knowledge of them adds in our struggle to unravel the phenomenon of terrorism.

      I use the concept...

    • CHAPTER 4 Motivation, Social Origins, Recruitment, Groups, Audiences, and the Media in the Terrorism Process
      (pp. 90-120)

      The foregoing chapter on ideology focused on a key variable essential for understanding the motive forces for terrorism. A core feature emerged: ideology is simultaneously cultural and psychological in significance. It is above all a cultural construction that both invites and shapes individual motivations as it becomes accepted or appreciated by members of terrorist groups and their surrounding body of sympathizers and supporters.

      Ideology, however, must be regarded as only one factor in the motivating process. In this chapter I identify a number of others that contribute to actors’ becoming committed to ideologies and acting in the name of those...


    • CHAPTER 5 Anticipating, Experiencing, and Responding to Terrorist Attacks
      (pp. 123-159)

      At this juncture we turn the analysis around. In the first four chapters we looked at terrorism from the standpoints of its conditions, causes, and ideology, as well as the several additional forces that motivate terrorist individuals and groups. Now we shift to the targets of terrorism—groups and societies under attack. We will consider, sequentially, what it means to be vulnerable to or fearful of attacks; what it is to be attacked, and what immediate responses are to be expected; and what are the medium- and longer-term consequences of terrorist attacks (and the threat of them) from the psychological,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Discouraging Terrorism
      (pp. 160-199)

      Discouraging terrorism, the subject of this chapter, overlaps with the idea of responding to it, the topic of the previous chapter. Proper preparation and training of the population for attacks and equipping and training first responders help make terrorist attacks less damaging, thus indirectly discouraging them. It is appropriate, however, to treat the topic of discouragement in its own right, because it includes so many additional facets. I take up the subject as systematically as I can in this chapter, concentrating not so much on logistics and technology as on the human dimensions of discouragement—the psychological, social (especially the...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Long-Term International Context of Terrorism
      (pp. 200-228)

      The long-term significance of international terrorism for the United States and other countries cannot be treated in isolation from the broadest social, economic, political, and cultural situation of the world as it presents itself. Terrorism as a specific form of conflict is simultaneously an expression and a microcosm of that situation, and its likely future cannot be estimated without reference to the larger scene. Accordingly, this chapter offers several broad lines of diagnosis of the recent past, present, and likely future world situation, and extracts several conclusions from that diagnosis. Most of the analysis concerns the context for international terrorism...

  6. Appendix The Infernal Problems of Definition and Designation
    (pp. 229-250)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 251-252)
  8. References
    (pp. 253-272)
  9. Index
    (pp. 273-285)