What motivates those who commit violence in the name of political beliefs? Terrorism today is not solely the preserve of Islam, nor is it a new phenomenon. It emerges from social processes and conditions common to societies throughout modern history, and the story of its origins spans centuries, encompassing numerous radical and revolutionary movements.
Marc Sageman is a forensic psychiatrist and government counterterrorism consultant whose bestselling books Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad provide a detailed, damning corrective to commonplace yet simplistic notions of Islamist terrorism. In a comprehensive new book, Turning to Political Violence, Sageman examines the history and theory of political violence in the West. He excavates primary sources surrounding key instances of modern political violence, looking for patterns across a range of case studies spanning the French Revolution, through late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century revolutionaries and anarchists in Russia and the United States, to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the start of World War I. In contrast to one-dimensional portraits of terrorist "monsters" offered by governments and media throughout history, these accounts offer complex and intricate portraits of individuals engaged in struggles with identity, injustice, and revenge who may be empowered by a sense of love and self-sacrifice.
Arguing against easy assumptions that attribute terrorism to extremist ideology, and counter to mainstream academic explanations such as rational choice theory, Sageman develops a theoretical model based on the concept of social identity. His analysis focuses on the complex dynamic between the state and disaffected citizens that leads some to disillusionment and moral outrage—and a few to mass murder. Sageman's account offers a paradigm-shifting perspective on terrorism that yields counterintuitive implications for the ways liberal democracies can and should confront political violence.
Chapter 1. A Model of the Turn to Political Violence Chapter 2. The French Revolution and the Emergence of Modern Political Violence Chapter 3. Political Violence from the Restoration to the Paris Commune Chapter 4. The Professionalization of Terroristic Violence in Russia Chapter 5. Anarchism and the Expansion of Political Violence Chapter 6. The Specialized Terrorist Organization: The PSR Combat Unit 1902-1908 Chapter 7. Banditry, the End of a World, and Indiscriminate Political Violence Chapter 8. Policy Implications
Appendix. Testing the Social Identity Perspective Model of the Turn to Political Violence Notes Bibliography Index Acknowledgments
Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, is a government counterterrorism consultant. He is author of Misunderstanding Terrorism, Leaderless Jihad, and Understanding Terror Networks, all of which are available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
"This book by Marc Sageman is an excellent departure from so much of what has been written about terrorism over the last 15 years. . . . There is much that can be learnt from this book, and scholars, states and think-tanks would do well to reflect on its many wisdoms, especially if they genuinely wish to re-evaluate the last 15 years of failed policies."—Critical Studies on Terrorism
"The most sophisticated analysis of global jihadis yet published. . . . His conclusions have demolished much of the conventional wisdom about who joins jihadi groups."—William Dalrymple, New York Review of Books
"The best source of information about modern Islamic terrorists."—Freeman Dyson, New York Review of Books
"Sageman's incisive observations based on carefully examined evidence, astute insights, and scholarship make Leaderless Jihad the gold standard in Al Qaeda studies."—Washington Times
"Leaderless Jihad discredits conventional wisdom about terrorists by eschewing anecdotes and conjecture in favor of hard data and statistics."—Time
"It might be comforting to think that angry young Islamists are crazed psychopaths or sex-starved adolescents who have been brainwashed in malign madrassas. But Mr. Sageman . . . explodes each of these myths, and others besides, in an unsettling account of how Al Qaeda has evolved from the organisation headed by Osama bin Laden into an amorphous movement-a 'leaderless jihad.'"—The Economist