This study investigates terrorism against the background of criminological and socio-psychological theories in an attempt to illuminate the phenomenology and construction of terrorism. Through this study a knowledgeable expansion concerning the appearance, development, effectiveness and attractiveness of terrorism will take place, which will assist criminal policy decisions on the handling of terrorism.

Re­search sub­ject:

After es­tab­lish­ing the bound­ar­ies of the re­search field, the at­tract­ive­ness and de­vel­op­ment of ter­ror­ism will be traced us­ing so­cial iden­tity the­ory and group dy­nam­ics. This will tie-in with the cur­rent ter­ror­ism them­at­ic and will of­fer a basis for em­pir­ic­al re­search in this much neg­lected area of crim­in­o­logy.

Pro­ject goal:

The so­cial sci­ences have thus far largely avoided em­pir­ic­al re­search as a tool for in­vest­ig­at­ing ter­ror­ism. This study will seek to close this re­search gap through a the­or­et­ic­al crim­in­o­lo­gic­al ap­proach.


To this end, the first step will be to out­line the scope of ter­ror­ism. The ex­pli­cit clas­si­fic­a­tion of ter­ror­ism as a crime of vi­ol­ence is ad­voc­ated, the ef­fect of which is not, however, aimed dir­ectly at the vic­tims but rather at the gen­er­al pub­lic. The ubi­quit­ous pres­ence of the me­dia of­fers a means by which ter­ror­ist events and mes­sages can be con­veyed to a glob­al audi­ence, greatly in­creas­ing the reach of ter­ror­ism. The dif­fi­culties ex­per­i­enced in de­fin­ing ter­ror­ism at both a na­tion­al and supra­na­tion­al level will also be touched on. This prob­lem is foun­ded in a re­li­ance on defin­i­tion as well as the sub­sump­tion of the sub­ject­ive per­spect­ive and the so­cial per­cep­tion of the be­hold­er. These dif­fi­culties res­ult from the way in which ter­ror­ism func­tions, as well as in­di­vidu­al his­tor­ic­al and cul­tur­al ex­per­i­ences and con­crete polit­ic­al and fin­an­cial in­terests.

As a group phe­nomen­on, the struc­ture of ter­ror­ism will also be ad­dressed. Like all types of groups, ter­ror­ist groups are based around a hier­arch­ic­al struc­ture with net­work-like ele­ments. Al­though they are hy­brid struc­tures, the con­di­tions of the un­der­ground crim­in­al net­works in which they op­er­ate al­low for cer­tain reg­u­lar­it­ies to be ob­served. Upon closer ob­ser­va­tion it can be seen that the way in which the me­dia and politi­cians, as well as some re­searches, use the concept of the "ter­ror­ist net­work" im­parts an un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated gen­er­al­iz­a­tion that fails to cor­res­pond with the real­ity of ter­ror­ism.

The ques­tion of how ter­ror­ist groups are formed and who they at­tract will also be ad­dressed. To this end so­cial iden­tity the­ory, so­cial com­par­is­on and at­trac­tion-re­search will be con­sidered. It is evid­ent that ter­ror­ist groups form and de­vel­op in a sim­il­ar fash­ion to oth­er so­cial groups; however they dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from oth­er so­cial groups by their ex­cep­tion­al abil­ity for self-en­hance­ment and re­duc­tion of per­son­al un­cer­tainty, which makes them par­tic­u­larly at­tract­ive.

The fo­cus will then turn to the be­ha­vi­or of ter­ror­ist groups and an ana­lys­is will take place on how spe­cif­ic ter­ror­ist vi­ol­ence can be ex­plained. This ana­lys­is will in­cor­por­ate group dy­nam­ic as­pects in iden­tity the­ory. Col­lect­ive and in­di­vidu­al iden­tit­ies with­in ter­ror­ist groups cre­ate strong group dy­nam­ics; a com­bin­a­tion that ad­vances neut­ral­iz­a­tion ef­fects and col­lect­ive learn­ing.

The com­bin­a­tion of the­or­et­ic­al con­sid­er­a­tions, with an em­phas­is on the col­lect­ive nature of ter­ror­ism and its self pro­tect­ive prop­er­ties, of­fers a blue­print for the de­vel­op­ment of ter­ror­ist groups, which cov­ers their at­tract­ive­ness as a group, their dy­nam­ic with out-groups and their use of vi­ol­ence.