Tag Archives: Terrorism

Social Movement Theory and Terrorism

I have been chipping away at an article for awhile now on terrorism as an organizational activity.  Part of my argument is to understand terrorism as at times a social movement.

Part of the fun of this for me is to learn more about social movements which has always been a topic my interests bump up against, but something I never had time to formally study.

Reading Castells (who channel Alain Tourraine, apparently), Tilly, and Giddens, among others, brought the idea of social movements into my sphere of interest.  Then I started reading and reading about the work done by institutional theorists like Haogreeva Rao and others about thinking about consumers as social movements.  For example, his book, Market Rebels, makes the case that markets are at times created by consumers, not firms.

Today, in a fit of retroactive literature scanning, I decided to check what had been said about terrorism and social movement theory.  Two interesting findings.

First, the wikipedia article cites Tilly and Tarrow (separately) defining social movements as inherently a featrue of pluralist, democratic societies.  Moreover, Tilly’s repretoire does not include any violent acts.  This surprised me.  Terrorist organizations seem to operate in such societies and also, with Al Qaeda, at a global level.  Moreover, they are also embedded in or linked to social movements and sets of social movement organizations.  So, if a social movement is a an observable collective effort to resist or adopt social change, then terrorist organizations can be part of that definition, irrespective of their geographic location.

Second, I hopped over to google scholar to see what had been written about social movement theory and terrorism.  Using those search terms, I found one article in Terrorism and Political Violence.  Who knew there was sucha  specialized journal?  C. Gentry’s article is titled: ” THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY AND TERRORISM STUDIES: THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP, MEMBERSHIP, IDEOLOGY AND GENDER”.   I am not even sure from the title if it is relevant.  That was the first hit, none of the rest seemed any better. This struck me as very odd and made me wonder if I have stumbled onto a much larger claim than I realized initially:

Terrorist Organizing must be accounted for by social movement theory.

Now, I wonder about how to use my blog.  I have never had anything like an active “readership” as far as i can tell.  I would love to get some answers or responses to what I discuss here.  But how?  Should I email Brayden King or Fabio Rojas at OrgTheory.net and say, “hey, please read this?”

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Filed under activism, organization theory, sociology, Terrorism

Indian Attacks Carried Out by Armed Teams

Armed Teams Sowed Chaos With Precision – NYTimes.com
But from interviews with witnesses and survivors, it seems clear that the men on the boat were joining a larger terrorist force, which included some attackers who, unconfirmed local news reports say, had embedded themselves in Mumbai days before the attacks. Their synchronized assaults suggested a high level of training and preparation.

So I have a paper under review that argues that to understand terrorism as an organization, we have to see them as a blend of formal organization, social movement, and network.  This is an argument I want to refine.  The above passage about today’s tragic attacks captures the need to consider terrorism the result of formal organization and network.  A formal organization is necessary to deliver the training and operational sophistication of these attacks; a network allows them to move in and out of Mumbai, to recruit informants or new members.  To the extent that we discover that these terrorists are from an organization supported by the Pakistani intelligence agency, then the network lens helps us to see how nodes become activated on an as-needed basis allowing for loose elements to coalesce for momentary action.

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Filed under organization studies, organization theory, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), Social Networks, Terrorism

The Information Society and Terrorism

I am deep into editing a paper about looking at terrorism from the perspective of OT and organizational studies.  Its been fun and allowed me to go back to the more recently resurgent grand theorizing of the likes of Manuel Castells, Charles Tilly, Ulrich Beck, and Anthony Giddens.

My initial reaction is that many of the themes of the grand social theory have been discussed and applied to terrorism. These include the idea that Islamic terrorism is very much a globalization phenomenon; the leaderless, self-organizing organizational structure of terrorism;  the shifting nature of identity in the information era.  There are more for sure.

I am not sure anyone has connected all the dots between the big picture of the theory of the network society and the multi-dimensional reality of Islamic terrorism (especially Al Qaeda).    One research task, it seems to me, to confirm that Al Qaeda is not so unique is to look at how “old line” terrorist groups are adapting (or not) to the contours of th enetwork society.   It may be that this ork has already been done and i just haven’t found it yet.  Suggestions are welcome, of course.  :<)

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Filed under Network Society, organization studies, Research, Social Networks, social theory, Terrorism

Osama Bin Laden is a Great Manager

I can’t take credit for first publishing this, but you’ll have to take my word that I came to a similar conclusion as this fellow on my own.

He said it very nicely though.

An organization that maximizes return on investment, builds up the world’s most
recognizable brand name overnight, creates synergy between PR message and HR
recruiting, attracts motivated loyal employees who make the ultimate sacrifice to extend
the mission into new markets and keeps expanding despite the world’s most hostile
environment is every manager’s dream. One manager turned this dream into a reality:
Osama bin Laden.
– Hans van der Weijden

From:  1 Hans Van Der Weijden, “Al-Qaida, The Business Model.” Interface, February 2005, p. 14, 15.
<http://www.sviib.nl/interface/magazine/pdf/21_3_alquada.pdf&gt;.

The same policy paper I found this made reference to the fct that when many terrorists are in custody and asked if tehy belong to Al_Qaeda, they are not sure (!).  This seems like a good data point for how it is much more of a social movement or even Caastellsian network organization as opposed to a normal, bounded organization than common perception would suggest.

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Designer fakes ‘are funding Al-Qaeda’- evidence of network organizing

One of the hallmarks of a network organziation is its flexibility and hence ability to reconfigure its operations, deftly linking up various partners in ever-changing networks of production and exchange.

Castells and others have remarked how there are structural inducements for terrorist and organized crime to reinsert themselves into the global economy.  Or maybe its about taking advantage of the space of flows themselves.   Seems like a good thread to weave into terrorism paper.

Designer fakes ‘are funding Al-Qaeda’ – Times Online
The designers are urging customers to think about who profits from the sale of fake goods. Intelligence experts believe that terrorists and organised crime syndicates are increasingly using counterfeit goods to raise money.

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Filed under Terrorism