Social Movement Theory Analysis of Islamist Totalitarianism   [open pdf - 114KB]

"It is critical to gain an understanding of an enemy before formulating a strategy to defeat him. This is particularly crucial with regard to the diverse, non-monolithic enemy that faces the US today. Social Movement Theory (SMT) provides analytical tools for this purpose. The advantage of SMT is that its four variables -- changes to political opportunity structures (POS), the nature of social networks, social movement organization (SMO) framing, and repertoires of contention -- allow for analysis from the individual to the national and international levels. Moreover, SMT explanation of SMO strategic decisions takes into account rational choice, organizational culture, and political intercourse. These strengths make SMT analysis more complete than other theoretical models for contentious politics. SMT analysis of terror organizations shows the decisive role that government action plays in determining whether a social movement will resolve the grievances that created it peacefully or violently. Specifically, coercive, general, reactive, and extra-legal government repression will, over time, drive the creation of terror groups -- i.e., clandestine, extra-legal, violent organizations. Radical ideology, while important to the process, is not, by itself, sufficient to explain the emergence of terrorism. The critical insight is that Islamism (the mobilization of contentious politics in support of Islamic causes), in and of itself, is not necessarily a threat to the current world order."

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