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Who Becomes A Terrorist? Instrumental and Psychological Explanations. PO 483: The Politics of Terrorism. Who Becomes A Terrorist? Instrumental Explanations. Four Main Questions : In Which Immediate Political Contexts Should We Expect Terrorism to Be a Rational Choice for Groups?

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who becomes a terrorist instrumental and psychological explanations

Who Becomes A Terrorist? Instrumental and Psychological Explanations

PO 483: The Politics of Terrorism

who becomes a terrorist instrumental explanations
Who Becomes A Terrorist? Instrumental Explanations
  • Four Main Questions:
  • In Which Immediate Political Contexts Should We Expect Terrorism to Be a Rational Choice for Groups?
  • Which Individuals Should Be Expected to Rationally Choose to Become a Member of a Group Whose Main Political Weapon is Terrorism?
who becomes a terrorist instrumental explanations1
Who Becomes A Terrorist? Instrumental Explanations
  • Four Main Questions:
  • What is the Collective Action Problem? Are Terrorist Groups Better Able to Solve It?
  • What Purposes Does Terrorism in Certain Political Contexts Serve Other Than Intimidation of a Government and the Citizens it Governs?
what leads to the rational development of terrorist movements
What Leads to the Rational Development of Terrorist Movements?
  • Preconditions
  • Permissive:
  • Modernization – restructuring of societies (cultural), transportation and communication (mobility and publicity)
  • Urbanization – provides more opportunity for interaction and covert operations, and eliminates other options such as guerilla and full-frontal assaults (concentration of state power)
  • Social Facilitation – social habits and historical traditions (Irish example)
what leads to the rational development of terrorist movements1
What Leads to the Rational Development of Terrorist Movements?
  • Preconditions
  • Enabling:
  • Concrete grievances among a subgroup – this can lead to the development of social movements to redress the grievances
  • Lack of opportunity for political participation – this may not be directed toward any particular subgroup
what leads to the rational development of terrorist movements2
What Leads to the Rational Development of Terrorist Movements?
  • Apathetic Majority
  • Majority of individuals affected by a perceived injustice does not feel conditions to be so bad as to warrant insurrection or a violent redress of grievances
  • Extremist Elite
  • Belief in righteousness of cause is strong enough for the benefits of changing the status quo to exceed the costs (or to allow them to incur a great deal more costs than others).
extremist elite
Extremist Elite
  • Willing to suffer large personal costs to receive potential benefits
  • Basic Necessities Covered (Time, Energy, Requisite Resources)
  • Educated individuals who have an idea of what government should do, what the government is doing wrong, and an idea that activism works
problem of collective action the advantage of extremist elites
Problem of Collective Action: The Advantage of Extremist Elites
  • Extremist Elites Have Many Problems; Overcoming Immediate Collective Action Problems Not Normally One
  • Olsonian Collective Action Problem:
  • Like minded individuals want to get the same thing accomplished
  • As the group gets larger, free riding more likely
  • Excessive free riding equals the end of the endeavor (example of collective security and the UN)
  • Solutions: Selective incentives for large groups, highly motivated individuals each willing to bear a large part of the burden of getting the job done in small groups
  • For Extremist Elite – Self Selection Diminishes Free Riding
courting the majority of the affected group
Courting the Majority of the Affected Group
  • In addition to impact that the terrorist acts have on government and other citizens, they are conducted to gain material/popular strength for the cause by garnering the support of the rest of the subgroup
  • Goal: Gain Support By Affecting Cost/Benefit Calculus of Subgroup, Thereby Moving to Higher Levels of Armed Conflict
slide10

Permissive Preconditions:

Modernization

Urbanization

Social Facilitation

Enabling

Preconditions:

Concrete Grievances

No Opportunity for Political Participation

Apathetic Subgroup Majority:

* Costs of redressing grievances higher than likely benefits

Motivated Extremist Elite Minority:

Benefits of redressing grievances higher than costs

Educated

Fewer time or material constraints on participation

Small-Group Collective Action Solution

Precipitating Factor/Event

Broader involvement of subgroup majority

Terrorist Campaign

Pressure on target

Change in Status Quo

important anomalies concerning terrorism for which rational choice theory seems ill equipped
Important Anomalies Concerning Terrorism For Which Rational Choice Theory Seems Ill-Equipped
  • Why do we sometimes see extremely young individuals sacrificing their lives for a cause they may not understand, and when they may not have felt the oppression that is the root enemy of the group? (e.g., Hamas)
  • Why do we see extremely violent attacks that seem to guarantee the subsequent eradication of the group? (e.g., Al-Queda)
  • Why do we see the continuation of terrorist violence by groups even after the defeat of the groups or the attainment of objectives (e.g., PIRA)
psychological perspectives on terrorism
Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism
  • Individual Psychology:
  • The study of the individual mind, or what mental impetuses cause individuals to do what they do (contrast with RCT)
  • Generally, individuals act based on the need to equilibrate their mental states; they attempt to satisfy a perceived void in their psyche which is created or left lacking by individual experience
psychological perspectives on terrorism1
Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism
  • Group Psychology:

Two general areas of interest

  • The desire of individuals to join groups (identity, camaraderie)
  • The effects of group dynamics on individual/group thinking (groupthink)
why do individuals form or join terrorist groups
Why do Individuals Form or Join Terrorist Groups?
  • Rational Choice Explanation:
  • Relatively educated, financially secure, politically motivated
  • Join to change unjust status quo
  • Willing to incur high costs
    • Time and energy
    • Possible retaliation by status quo power
    • Banishment from society
why do individuals form or join terrorist groups1
Why do Individuals Form or Join Terrorist Groups?
  • Psychological Explanations:
  • Individuals disaffected; do not fit in with family, society
  • Individual fails to establish trust, autonomy, or individual/social identity
  • Leaders: Evince belief in the cause from outset, but start also for a sense of purpose, empowerment, and identity.
  • Followers: May not feel any connection to cause at outset. Join mainly to gain a sense of identity, belonging, or to engage in dangerous activity
  • Psychopaths may desire to join, but are avoided – VERY FEW TERRORISTS EXHIBIT PSYCHOPATHIC ABNORMALITIES
why do individuals participate in and escalate terrorist violence after joining
Why do Individuals Participate in and Escalate Terrorist Violence after Joining?
  • Rational Choice Explanation:
  • Choice commensurate with cost-benefit analysis
    • Power very limited, but circumstances dictate that the cause can be furthered by using violence
  • Status quo power too cruel, unjust to allow SQ to continue (Crenshaw – precipitant)
why do individuals participate in and escalate terrorist violence after joining1
Why do Individuals Participate in and Escalate Terrorist Violence after Joining?
  • Psychological Explanations:
  • After completing mundane tasks:
    • Gradual indoctrination, socialization, desensitization to violence
    • “Defining moment” –der sprung
    • Guilt associated with violence mitigated by group acceptance and sense of identification (may not even be justifiable)
    • Peer pressure promotes self-sacrifice
    • Solidarity via violence (greater violence = greater solidarity)
    • Can cause continuation/needless escalation of violence