2: Conceptualizing Terrorism

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Terrorism and Homeland Security by Jonathan White. Chapter 2 - Conceptualizing Terrorism

eschatology

A Greek word used to indicate the theological end of time. In Judaism and Christianity it refers to God bringing creation to an end. In some Shiite Islamic sects and among Christians who literalize biblical eschatological literature, believers contend that Jesus will return to lead a final battle against evil. Other major religions also have end-time theology. (p.28)

meaning

The subjective interpretation people give to events or physical objects. Meanings are developed by individuals and groups, and different meanings can be attributed to the same event or physical object because the definitions are always influenced by interpretation. Social scientists in this tradition believe that meanings cause actions. (p.24)

meaning framework

The social construct providing definitional boundaries for a particular social meaning. Theories about terrorism in the meaning framework focus on the interpretation individuals and groups give to the actions of others as well as their own actions. Many terrorist groups created are rooted in the ways some view reality. (Mark Juergensmeyer uses this approach (the study of meaning) to study the impact of religion on terrorism. (p.24)

netwar

One network fighting another network. According to this theory, subnational criminal, terrorist, or revolutionary groups organize themselves in a network of smaller logistical structures, groups, or command posts. Vito Latora and Massimo Marchioni believe terrorists orgs are complex systems that can be modeled mathematically and projected by computer simulations. Meaning frameworks have little to do with understanding terrorist behavior but rather they are structured in the same manner as communication and transportation systems. (p.26)

nodes

In counterterrorist or netwar discussions, a node is the points in a system where critical components are stored or transferred. The importance of a node is determined by its relationship to the network. According to Latora and Marchiori, once an organization is modeled as a network, the nodes will appear as movement is monitored. If the node is destroyed, the network is disrupted. (p.26)

social geometry

As used by Donald Black, the social space occupied by a structure and the direction it moves. Groups take actions based on their relationships with other groups. All groups, including terrorist organizations, take action because they belong to a structure that operates for a specific purpose. Terrorist groups move to strike governments, and governments have structures that strike back. Groups are not violent, says Black. The structures that contain them may be. The structure and movement of groups explain terrorism. Black's methodology is a radical approach (p.26)

structural framework

The idea that social constructs are based on systems that provide order. The systems are social structures that accomplish functions necessary to survive. Human activity occurs to accomplish the functions required to maintain the social structure of the system. (p.26)

structure

The manner in which a group is organized and its purpose. Social scientists from this tradition feel that a group's structure and purpose cause it to act. They also believe that groups are created for specific functions. (p.26)

theory of action

A social science theory that assumes human beings take action based on the subjective meanings they attribute to social settings. (p.25)

Modernization's effect on religion

According to Marxist theories, conventional wisdom of society and some schools of science, modernization should lead to the decline in religious identification. But opposite seems true. Two primary reasons account for continued influence of religion: 1. Religion is important factor in history of humanity. 2. Modernization tends to break down communities, families and social orientation. People seek a deeper meaning to their lives. (p.28)

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