A theory of categorical terrorism

Jeff Goodwin

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    When revolutionaries or insurgents, broadly defined, indiscriminately attack civilians, they generally attack "complicitous civilians," i.e., those categories of noncombatants which the revolutionaries see as benefiting from, supporting and/or having a substantial capacity to influence the states that the revolutionaries are attempting to displace or overthrow. Such "categorical" terrorism will be most extensive when revolutionaries view these states (or complicitous civilians themselves) as perpetrators of extensive, indiscriminate violence against the revolutionaries and their constituents. However, if significant numbers of complicitous civilians are seen by rebel groups as potential supporters (or as capable of being influenced by nonviolent appeals or protests), then they will not be indiscriminately attacked. Whether specific categories of civilians will be perceived as potential allies by revolutionaries depends mainly on the prior history of political interaction and cooperation between these civilians and the revolutionaries. Categorical terrorism is most likely where there has been little such interaction or cooperation, resulting in weak political alliances between the revolutionaries and complicitous civilians - for example, where the revolutionaries and complicitous civilians speak different languages, practice different religions, claim the same land, and/or are territorially segregated.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2027-2046
    Number of pages20
    JournalSocial Forces
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jun 2006

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology and Political Science


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