Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Juan Cole on understanding educated terrorists: "three kinds of sociological theory need to be synthesized"

Juan shows off his theoretical chops!
[...] Why would highly educated and relatively well off professionals behave this way? I think this sort of cell suggests that three kinds of sociological theory need to be synthesized in order to understand contemporary social movements--Social constructivism, resource mobilization theory and European new social movement theory.

Here I'll just concentrate on one, social construction in the Jurgen Habermas (left) and the Peter Berger/ Thomas Luckmann (right) traditions. Groups construct life-worlds within which social action becomes plausible to them. This cell of highly networked professionals had developed a narrative about the world that required they do these horrible things. They weren't motivated by poverty, or class grievances. Their ideas came out of a logic of self and other, such that they likely included Fallujah in "self" and all British foreign policy in "other."

Gradually the shape of that narrative may emerge, though actually there are impediments to our understanding these hothouse terrorist ideologies. The perpetrators often kill themselves, taking most of the details with them. Mainstream media often are little interested in tracking down the details, and government spokesmen are positively eager to downplay or dispute the internal motivations of the criminals. All this is understandable, but it does law enforcement and the public discourse a disservice.[...]
It's tough. Just as the shape of the narrative emerges--bam!--it's blown to smithereens.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Update: A synthesis of "three kinds of sociological theory"--cluster sociology? Isn't that disproportionate?

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