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The Faces of Terrorism:
Social and Psychological Dimensions
Neil J. Smelser

Paperback | 2010 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691149356
288 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400827886 |
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Terrorism is the most clear and present danger we confront today, yet no phenomenon is more poorly understood by policymakers, the media, and the general public. The Faces of Terrorism is the first serious interdisciplinary examination of terrorism in all its facets. What gives rise to it, who are its proponents and how do they think, and how--and why--does it work?

Neil Smelser begins by tackling the fundamental problem of defining what exactly terrorism is. He shows why a precise definition has eluded us until now, and he proposes one that takes into account the full complexities of this unconventional and politically charged brand of violence. He explores the root causes and conditions of terrorism, and examines the ideologies that inspire and fuel it throughout the world. Smelser looks closely at the terrorists themselves--their recruitment, their motivations, the groups they form, their intended audiences, and their uses of the media in pursuing their agendas. He studies the target societies as well, unraveling the complicated social and psychological impacts of having to cope with the ever-present threat of a terrorist strike--and responding when one occurs. He explains what it means to live under constant threat of terrorism, and addresses the thorny domestic and foreign policy challenges this poses. Throughout, Smelser draws from the latest findings in sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, psychology, psychiatry, and history.

The Faces of Terrorism provides the breadth of scope necessary to understand--and ultimately eliminate--this most pressing global threat.


"Neil J. Smelser's The Faces of Terrorism is a well-reasoned and comprehensive discussion about terrorism and counterterrorism...Smelser also discusses the factors contributing to the decline of terrorist groups, the dependence by terrorist groups on constant publicity, measures that are effective in countering terrorism and the impact of terrorism on a targeted society."--Joshua Sinai, Washington Times

"[The Faces of Terrorism is a] comprehensive and readable look at the nature of terrorism. Smelser's book is comprehensive -- and disturbing. He demonstrates both the complexity of terrorism and the simplistic nature of our leaders' view of it. At the core of his argument is the contention that suppressing minorities gives rise to ideologies that see violence as the only means of redressing grievances. Smelser laments the simplistic, jingoistic response to the problem--one abetted, he says, by media that should know better."--Bob Braun, Newark Star-Ledger

"Smelser, a leading social scientist, turns his attention to the topic [of terrorism] with valuable results. After 9/11...he took the view that social scientists ought to offer fresh approaches that sidestep partisan politician debates. The resulting book is valuable not only because of Smelser's shrewd judgments but also because he draws on such a wide literature. A couple of nice touches are his use of personal experiences to illuminate key issues and his identification of a number of 'entrapments,' apparently intractable debates in which analysis can get snarled up--for example, the debate over the tradeoffs between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties."--Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

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Table of Contents:

CHAPTER 1: The Paradoxes of Terrorism 3

CHAPTER 2: Conditions and Causes of Terrorism 11
CHAPTER 3: Ideological Bases of Terrorist Behavior 54
CHAPTER 4: Motivation, Social Origins, Recruitment, Groups, Audiences, and the Media in the Terrorism Process 90

CHAPTER 5: Anticipating, Experiencing, and Responding to Terrorist Attacks 123
CHAPTER 6: Discouraging Terrorism 160
CHAPTER 7: The Long-Term International Context of Terrorism 200
APPENDIX: The Infernal Problems of Definition and Designation 229

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Neil J. Smelser:


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