Sunday, 16 August 2015

Studying the relationship between politics and economics: theory and ideology

At uni, it is the end of week 3 in our examination of the way the International Political Economy has been understood in undergraduate textbooks. We have explored some of the history behind 3 general theories; Realism, Liberalism and Marxism. We've added complexity, by exploring strands of thought within (and in relation to) these theories: Realism (Structural Realism, Historical Realism, mercantilism, nationalism), Marxism (Marxist, Structuralist, Radical and Critical), etc.. We've compared British to U.S. schools of thought, and hinted at moving toward an examination of more recent, sophisticated critical theorists, including feminist and environmental academics.

We have discussed the influence of key events in the organisation of the 'modern' world and the international political economy, including the Treaty of Westaphilia, the rise of nationalism, the industrial revolution, the Corn Laws, the Great Depression and the Oil Shocks of 1973 and 1979.

We examined the way many theories have been misread and oversimplified, in the textbooks that teach them (and by the organisations/governments/policymakers/ individuals who utilise them). One of our readings examined the extent to which two of the foundational theorists of liberalism, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, have been misread and misused. According to Watson (in Ravenhill 2008), in International Political Economy textbooks, Smith is interpreted as uncritically endorsing market based liberalism. Watson goes on to argue that Smith, at the time of his writing, accused the business classes of being "almost pathologically incapable of acting according to the demands of a genuinely liberal economy" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 42).  He accused them of "fundamentally illiberal activities of conspicuous profit-taking from the economy" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 42). In examining Ricardo, Watson argues that most International Political Economy textbooks fail to contextualise adequately Ricardo's notion of comparative advantage. The author goes on to argue that Ricardo's perspectives emerged within "a deep seated contempt for the commercial policy enacted in the Britain of his day...Ricardo objected most forcefully to the influence that an unaccountable cadre of landowners had been able to exert over commercial policy. At one point in his treatise he even calls the landowning classes 'parasites' in his attempt to signal as clearly as possible that they were responsible for the immiseration of others through their illiberal and wholly self-serving activities" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 43-45).

While I would find it entertaining to prescribe the term "pathological parasites" to modern day politicians and theorist prescribing to ultra neo-liberalist practices, Watson (in Ravenhill 2008) actually reveals the extent to which theories overlap.  We can see Marxist elements in Liberal theorists, Liberal elements in foundational Marxism...all theories have problems, depending on the case study...all theories and ways of thinking have elements that can be drawn from, in understanding/minsunderstanding modern events.  I think I might be particularly interested in the way the uncritical adherence to capitalism and to the concept of nation states permeates our current understands of, and adherence to, neoliberalism.   

On a more personal level, i've begun to understand some of my own fundamentalist biases, and my tendencies misunderstand (and to generalise about the negative aspects of), in particular, liberalism. I've begun to revisit the foundations of my knowledge of social scientific theory, questioning the extent to which my own uncritical allegiances shape my ability to think critically.   I also feel like I have to revisit the basic theories on which a lot of current thinking is based, with a more enhanced capacity to read in order to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the International Political Economy.


Watson, Matthew (2008) 'Theoretical traditions in global political economy' in John Ravenhill (ed.) Global Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press):  27-62.

Thursday, 11 June 2015


Waiting for Japanese master of horror, Takashi Miike

Watch the trailer for his film, Imprint

to direct, SAW BOW-WOW.


Background:  The compelling story of our little baby girl's SUDDEN ABDUCTION by a WIND-TURBINE SYSTEM (SAWS).  Our family tell the chilling tale to investigating police...We truly and honestly believe that our little baby girl was pulled into the WINDFARM

one tragic and spine-chilling night.

There had been several supernatural occurrences since we moved to 'town'.  We write a list of all these nasty symptoms, before the police come to interrogate us.  I get my wife to type it up on our computer, so it looks nice and professional:

We know it was the wind-turbine because we did the research using Google, Wikipedia and we used statements from the Liberal-National party and other experts.  Also, we had taken the following steps to protect our baby girl:
  • We installed that video monitoring system 
  • Fed her a life-affirming paleo-diet
  • Ran any former/potential pedophiles (and any homosexuals, to be sure, to be sure) out of town, before we bought at this tranquil rural location in Queensland's west
  • We made sure our baby girl didn't get vaccinated
The twist:

Our pet American Staffordshire Terrier named, Doggie Bow-Wow, goes bonkers rapid (and maybe develops superpowers?), as a result of the mindless Southern drawl of the cheap imported wind farm.  Imported from America, the parts were assembled by exploited factory workers in Indonesia, many of whom were crushed in the machines that assembled the turbine's parts.  As the tragedy unfolds, we realise the local manufacturing industry had been closed down years before, after the implementation of regional trade agreements made subsidies on goods manufactured in Australia totes illegal.

Here is a video of when the Opposition leader tried to save the manufacturing industry in Australia, using protectionist racist rhetoric:

The End.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Politics of Pleasure

In 'Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex' and 'Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinctions Between the Sexes', Freud claims to understand the body/sexuality/pleasure beyond culture and history (Laqueur 1990).  Freud's narrative, detaching sexuality from reproduction and problematising the notion of exclusive heterosexuality, ultimately does more to serve the primacy and value of both heterosexual relations and the conventions of the patriarchal organisation of the family (Appignanesi & Forrester 1993).

Freud accounts for the transition from the pleasure of the clitoris in younger women, to the primacy of the vagina, in adult females.  Prior to the 20th Century, medical and pornographic representations of women's orgasm were only clitoral (Laqueur 1990: 233).  Freud's mythology around the development of the healthy adult female asserted vaginal pleasure and an abandonment of clitoral pleasure.  Freud, as an authority on mind, body and normality, was a powerful figure, defining acceptable ways for middle class women to use their bodies.  The medical profession, emerging out of the Middle class, further defined acceptable/rational/healthy ways to use the body.  Internalised notions of normality became powerful forces, where individuals internalise ideas and shame, and label their bodies/pleasures/identities in relation to the sexual degradation of the Other, in this case the mentally disturbed and the lesser classes (Laquer 1990: 235).

In Freud (in Appignanesi & Forrester 1993: 419), women are "made capable of an erotic life based on the masculine type object-love, which can exist alongside the feminine proper, derived from is the baby that makes the transition from narcissistic self-love to object love possible". Freud's narrative, while problematising exclusive heterosexuality (and societal ideas about what women find pleasurable), ends in an adult female, like the homosexual male, defined as narcissistic.  She is able to transcend this authentic selfishness via reproduction and sexual practices/pleasures that are defined in relation to men, and to the penetration of the penis of the vagina.  The sordid complexity of Freud reveals/suggests the extent to which powerful men and dominant institutions consciously and unconsciously prescribed myths about bodies/pleasures/identities.  While Freud may have seen himself as beyond the conventional morality and irrationality of religion, the key organiser of bodies (and identities) before scientific disciplines (gained authority), it would be interesting to explore the extent to which Freud furthers the patriarchal organisation of gender and sexuality through complex modes of self-discipline.  Indeed many feminists have examined the extent to which Freud's theory and practice involved the dismissal of sexual abuse in childhood, explaining his/her patients' complaints of abuse as mere problems of development of the individual and his or her Oedipus Complex (Appignanesi & Forrester 1993: 472). This alludes to a history of the ways in which religion and its supposed anti-thesis science reproduced an existing sexual and gender order (in the modern West) which favoured the powerful, and the ambitions of a society dominated by the Gods of sexual reproduction and the power of men over women, of the middle class over the others, of normality over insanity, of rich over poor, of object over subject, of heterosexual over homosexual.


Appignanesi, L. & Forrester, J. (1993).  Freud's Women, Virago: London.

Freud, S. 1973, New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1923), 'Infantile genital organisation', in On Sexuality ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1924), 'Disolution of the oedipus complex', in On Sexuality ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1925), 'Some psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes', in On Sexuality, ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Laqueur, T. (1990), Making Sex:  Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge:  MA.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Je Suis Ollie

The statistics are in and they tell me that stupid ape is going down.  The frenzy of likes on a facebook page I co-administer (Too Informed to Vote for Tony Abbott) provides evidence of the demise of your friend Tony Abbott.  After over a year of limited interest, the facebook page has become a veritible hotbed of populist rage.

As co-administrator of the page, perhaps I should be fullfilling my job, posting something witty and thought provoking, engaging with debates about the failure of the trickle down effect, tracing the parallels between the fundamentalism of the Coaltion and that of extremist terrorist groups, or postulising about whether ice or Tony Abbott is the true scourge of society.

Inevitably, I will be read as a green, nihilistic, homo-terrorist in an open relationship with a communist Staffodshire puppy dog.  In all my smug self-assurdness, I don't care so much about how tragic humans perceive me, however, I remain highly succeptible to anger managment issues that the Daily Telegraph would define as 'spiralling dangerously out of control'.

On Easter Sunday, a walk in the park descended into a battle between your innocent staffy loving commrad and the world of Lovejoy, and other human-centric 'people' that are so close to death that they really should know the joy of puppy-love.  Ollie (or Olive, as I like to call him) was "straying".  It's common for him to hang out behind the pack when in the woods.  The possibility of food, pats, dinner, shade, scratches, ball, love, eggs, puppies increases loitering likeliness.  I returned to the cafe where Ollie was performing.  I like to watch him entertain his peoples with his staffy antics.  He pretended to hug some some children while nudging toward their sandwiches.  They seemed to laugh at the way his ears perked up, pushed to the top of his head like a little girl with piggy tails.  They mimiced his snorting as he sniffed the ground while similtaneously peeing on the ice cream freezer.  He used his ninja moves and drew on a number of his favourite styles of walk, from the grapevine to the rocking-chair, conducting his own circus of joy.  In private this great magician is known as a "little lamb", "pie of the Ollie", "sweet Olive of Olliebama" and even "Bubby bearskin Rug", as he outstretches his body to form one line of delightfullness.

The naggy, know-it-all Anzac rattled me with a tone that exibited my lack of respect for my Christian elders.

"Your dog is being a pest".
"What's wrong with you", I asked, a statement demanding a list from the psychologist that he never realised he needed.
"There's nothing wrong with me".
"Shut up", I concluded.

"You just told MY father to shut up", another human pestering me unnecessarily in Ollie's favourite park.
"You're a stupid b***h".
I don't know what it was, maybe it was the frenzy of Erskineville Kings, the fact that it was Ollie's park, or that it was Christ's eternal birthday that made me react in such a manner.
Having made eye contact with the stupid bitch, I looked up and a couple of very stupid looking faces appeared shocked.  Murmers of disgust further fueled my outburst.
"Hey, watch your language.  There are kids around, you know", said the father whose wife was clearly flirting with Ollie, when I watched her from a distance.
"Just fuck off.  F-u-c-k off", I said.  My manner was abrupt as I placed Ollie on the lead.

My smug, narrcistitic grandiosity is only reinforced by the fact that I am bragging about this incident on my blog.  Amused by my own behaviour, most disappointed that I didn't add "Just fuck off...back to your trashy white suburbs you god fearing breeders".

The page I co-administer, why don't you click like on it?  You can be part of his downfall.  You can tell your grandchildren that you helped make the moment.  I might post something on there too, before I lose my job.  When you read it, remember that I wouldn't tell you how to fix your car, bring up your children, how to make Anzac cookies or that Jesus doesn't really love you.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Democratisation or Neo-liberalism: The role of Western powers in the Middle East

“After the events of 11 September, the US and the EU both looked at methods of promoting democracy in the region, but…only if it did not challenge their interests…The free flow of oil and gas, the movement of military/commercial traffic through the Suez Canal, commercial infrastructure construction contracts, the security of regional allies such as Israel, and cooperation on immigration, military, counter-terrorism…the expansion of free markets and free trade in a neoliberal modality…reduced democracy promotion to little more than a technology of US and EU external governance…The Obama administration initially attempted to replace “market driven modernisation” with “development driven modernisation”…in the aftermath of the 2011 revolutions, however, the Obama administration would increasingly come to see the Bush administration’s approach as the preferred policy agenda”.

(Ruth Santini and Oz Hassan 2012: 66-75)

At uni last week we looked at democratisation, specifically, the movement of individual states toward democracy from autocracy.  We touched on the role of external powers [Western democracies] in supporting/imposing democracy on developing countries. It isn’t until recently that there are more democracies than autocratic regimes. We also looked at different forms of democracy and academic debates about whether democracy is good for development. 

We also briefly discussed a range of other issues that challenge popular ideas about democracy (and led to significant insight into why autocratic regimes have persisted in many countries).  The formation of many developing states is largely born out of the borders imposed on areas, often under colonial rule, not natural formation, fails to address ethno/religious difference.  Significantly, modern Western democracies took 100s of years to be formed in their current state.  Movements toward democracy were often violent, and were often built on the exploitation of the rights of others within and between States (i.e. slavery, exploitative labour practices imposed on women).  Some authors acknowledge that the formation of the democratic modern nation-states (and their neo-liberal -philosophies, -policies,  -institutions) exemplify deep structural inequality, both within and between countries [See Nicholas (2012: 213) : “We can observe the formation of such institutionalized patterns of hierarchy not just among preexisting sovereign states but actually in the historical process of state formation.  Many contemporary European nation-states, most notably Britain and Spain, emerged out of struggles among adjacent kingdoms to impose authority over one another in conflicts uncategorizable as either domestic or international.  Outside Europe, many societies were inserted into the international system through the imposition of colonial authority and, on decolonization, inherited a set of state institutions designed to enable colonial administration.  Hierarchy amongst polities has often preceded and shaped the genesis of modern states”].

In the examination of democratisation, we briefly discussed that, throughout the twentieth century, Western liberal democracies have supported autocracies in the Middle East.  This has been for political, economic, security reasons.  Gilley (2013: 659) acknowledges the United States (U.S.) and European powers have a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.  A 2006-2008 Arab public opinion poll indicated that 65% did not believe the US was sincere about promoting democracy (Gilley 2013: 674).  In, 2010 another Arab opinion poll suggested that the majority of public (across Arab states) believed that of U.S. Foreign policy was to preserve regional and global dominance.  Only 3% of respondents believed that U.S. foreign policy was to promote democracy (Gilley 2013: 680).  Curiously, while Gilley acknowledges that other theorists, like Baroudi (in Gilley 2013: 676) believe that “democratization of the Arab world is far more likely to hinder the American agenda than to serve it”, Gilley (2013: 659) continues to conceptualise Bush’s “Freedom Agenda’ (659) as sincere in its objective of promoting in the Middle East.

While Gilley emphasises that democracy would have been more successful if it had been democracy in the hands of domestic actors (683), Santini and Hassan (2012) are more critical of the notion that Western powers support democratisation of the Middle East.  Of U.S. policy and its influence on international institutions, Santini and Hassan (2012: 75) argue that Obama initially attempted to replace market driven modernisation with development driven modernisation.  However, they argue that Obama increasingly applied Bush’s approach arguing that “the problem with the region was its “close economies” and that the region needed “trade” and “not just aid”; “investment” and “not just assistance” ; and that “protectionism must give way to openness”.  (Santini and Hassan 2012: 75). Santini and Hassan (2012) argue that European Union’s (EU) concept of democratisation is embodied in regional institutions and processes (e.g. the Barcelona Process, 2000 EU Common Strategy on the Mediterranean Region and 2004 Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East.   While, they acknowledge that the EU has been less prescriptive in tying economic liberalization with democracy, they conclude that both the U.S. and the EU need to learn to engage and support civil society more effectively, rather than defining freedom for the region in neoliberal economic terms (Santini and Hassan 2012: 79)

Strasheim and Fjelde (2012) look more closely at the role of interim governments in changes from autocratic rule to democracy.  These authors specifically look at the problems with intervention from Western powers (Strasheim and Fjelde 339-341).  With their analysis in mind, I think it would be interesting to examine the extent to which interim governments were installed in Afghanistan, examining the extent to which Western powers undermined peace and security in Afghanistan.  I think a lot of other interesting questions emerge from the readings:

By supporting movements toward democracy for late 'developing' countries, are Western democracies supporting democracy or neoliberalism?

To what extent do modern liberal democracies function as democracies?  Discuss the role of the media, treatment of minorities and informed citizenship as key elements of a democracy.

To what extent should Western states intervene (particularly unilaterally), in the Middle East? 

To what extent are interventions in the Middle East genuine interest in the rights of women or minority groups, or are human/women’s rights discourses used to justify interventions with more sinister motives?

To what extent are international institutions a product of the powerful States that formed and reform them?


Gilley, B. (2013) ‘Did Bush Democratize the Middle East?  The Effects of External-Internal Linkages’, Political Science Quarterly, 34(8): 1323-1338.

Lees, N. (2012) ‘The dimensions of the divide:  vertical differentiation, international inequality and North-South stratification in international relations theory’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 25(2): 209-230.

Santini, R. & Hassan, O. (2012) ‘Transatlantic democracy promotion and the Arab Spring’, The International Spectator:  Italian Journal of International Affairs, 47(3): 65-82.

Strasheim, J. & Fjelde, H. (2014) ‘Pre-designing democracy: institutional design of interim governments and democratization in 15 post-conflict societies’, Democratization, 21(2): 335-358.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Root Causes of Terrorism

“The policies in the USA, Britain, and other allies towards Iraq
and Israel have not only inflamed Islamic communities and
directly led to new terrorist attacks, but also undermined the
public moral critique of Islamist terrorism and, more deeply,
affirmed an image of the West as a jahidi civilization and a
threat to Islam.  We may complain that the moral and
strategic picture is far more complex than they portray it, but
this will be virtually impossible to convey given the binary
prism thorough which Western acts will be viewed.  And self-
regarding talk of the superior values of secularism,
representative democracy and free markets (especially when
they are accompanied by attacks on multiculturalism and
basic civil rights) will only make the situation worse.  Euben
perceptively points out that Qutb’s work demonstrates that
there is ‘a transcultural problematic of modernity’ which
needs careful analysis, but Fukuyama is a paradigm case of a
thinker who cannot accept that modernity might be
criticizable.  His own theory of the inexorable advance of
American modernity and its dissolution of local cultural
differences beneath a single capitalist horizon is exactly the
target of Qutb’s critique of the ‘Crusader spirit’ that ‘lives on in
the seemingly inexorable march of Western colonization and
the cultural hostility it embodies and expresses”.
      (Burke 2008, p. 46)

The root causes of terrorism have largely been misunderstood.  A short history
of the discipline will reveal that this is partly a result of the politicized forces that
have dominated terrorism studies.  More recently, the contribution of theorists
from a range of disciplines including sociology, history, anthropology, social
psychology have built on overly simplistic psychological explanations of terrorist
behaviour.  This essay will attempt to situate many different types of terrorism,
religious and ethno-nationalist, in legitimate grievances individuals and groups
have with the State.

Early social scientific explanations of the root causes of terrorism focused on
psychological explanations for terrorist behaviour, attempting to argue that
terrorists were personally predisposed to terrorism (Sageman 2014, p. 2). 
Attempts to assign psychological disorders, mental illness, pathology, deviance,
personality disorder were made using psychological theories (Erlenbusch 2014,
p. 473).  The scholarly literature has disregarded these explanations  (Sageman
2014, p. 2; Shughart II (2006, p.  11), although descriptions of terrorists as
irrational or psychologically disturbed individuals continue to dominate
mainstream media.  Moreover, terrorists continue to be conceptualized in
Western political discourses though this lens (Erienbusch 2014, p. 474).  
Similarly, explanations that attempted to determine the character traits of
terrorists have also been disregarded, finding that there are no common threads
of race, ethnicity, education, income, employment status that run through
individuals or groups involved in terrorist activities (Shugart II 2006, p. 11). 

More sophisticated psychological approaches have emerged.  For example,
rational choice perspective that treats terrorists as deliberate actors engaging in
reasoned behaviour (Crenshaw 2008, p. 7).  These actors are assumed to be
motivated primarily, but not solely, by self-interest.  Here, decisions to join a
group and participate hinge on the individual’s evaluation of the probable
benefits or costs to recruitment and/or participation.  Group based explanations
(Hoffman 2013, p. 231) use a combination of sociology and psychology, moving
away from psychopathological explanations focus on the social processes leading
to perpetuation of acts of terrorist violence (Hoffman 2013, p. 231). 

Other disciplines
More sophisticated explanations of the root causes of terrorism have emerged as
different disciplines have become interested in explaining terrorism.  This
includes; sociology, anthropology, political science, history, economics,
engineering, computer science (Sageman 2014, p. 5-7).  Social psychology and
social moment studies have provided great insight in analyzing the root causes of
terrorism.  These theories have been used to examine the social processes of
becoming a terrorist, including recruitment policies, social networks, trigger
events and peer dynamics (Hoffman 2013, p. 232).  A multi-disciplinary study of
the root causes of terrorism reveals the extent to which the causes of terrorism
have been understood through a politicized lens.  For example, security
organisations that seek to blame the enemy may spend very little time or energy
attempting to understand root causes and instead focus on counter terrorism
strategies that fail to take account of the genuine grievances a terrorist group
may have with the government.  This reveals that bias hides the root causes of
terrorism.  In the case of the United States of America and the ‘War on Terror’ an
examination of key strategic documents since 2001, reveal that the United States
response to terrorism is characterized by a lack of focus on the underlying
grievances Muslim or other populations may have with the West.

“The history of terrorism in the second half of the twentieth
century would have been quite different had Transjordan, as it
was intended to be, been made a Palestinian homeland; if
Kurdistan had not been mysteriously overlooked in the
Settlement of 1922; if a line had not been drawn around Iraq,
but that Mesopotamia had instead been divided along its tree
natural internal boundaries; and if Armenians, Tajiks, Uzbeks,
Pashtuns, Punjabis and many other ethnic populations had not
been marooned across the borders of two or more contrived
nation-states”(Shughart II 2006, p. 36).

Shughart II (2006, p.7) locates the root causes of terrorism in the artificial
creation of nation states.  Nationalism and ethnic separatism are prime motives
underlying terrorism that emerged in the wake of the Second World War
(Shughart II 2006, p. 17).  He argues that terrorism is a predictable response to
artificial nation states that we created by colonial powers without regard for
traditional ethnic homelands or customary patterns of trade (Shughart II 2006,
p. 8).  Shughart II also explains that the root causes of terrorism originated in the
genuine grievances of ethnic and religious groups, marginalized politically. 

Gershman (2002, p. 63) argues that the root causes lie in weak states, inadequate
cooperation between countries in region, social problems, including anemic
economies, unequal patterns of development and fragile democratic institutions. 
While economic inequality seems to be given by Left Wing groups and Marxist
theories that attempt to explain this type of terrorist behaviour, the inequalities
that pervade society influence all types of terrorism whether, religious, right and
left wing or ethno nationalist.

Newman (2006, p. 750) argues that poverty, demographic factors, social
inequality, exclusion, dispossession and political grievances enable conditions
for terrorism.  As an extension of this, he says that globalization, free markets
and spread of democracy resulted in economic instability and volatile social
situations (Newman 2006, p. 754).   Moreover, as Juergensmyer (2008, p. 9)
points out, the domination of Western cultural and economic control is
interpreted by many as neo-colonialism.

Hanlon (2008, p.116) argues that globalization is widening the gap between rich
and poor states.  He says that it further undermines the sovereignty, security and
legitimacy of those states on the fringes of the globalized world (Hanlon, p. 116). 
He makes the conclusion that armed states are uniquely positioned to exploit the
benefits of globalization in ways that weak states cannot (Hanlon 2008, p. 124). 
Similar to a number of other authors, Hanlon (2008, p. 122) argues that the
deeper causes of terrorism lie in fractured states were created during the
decolonization period after 1945.  Juergensmyer (2008, p. 32) explains that one
of the reasons why secular ideas and institutions are strongly rejected by some
religious leaders is that these ideas and institutions are perceived as responsible
for the moral decline within their own countries.

Gershman (2002, p. 63) builds on Hanlon (2008), to explain the broader
economic and political conditions that have facilitated the emergence of
extremist political Islam.  He uses Muslim regions in Thailand and the
Philippines as examples of areas that have the worst poverty, income inequality,
infant and maternal mortality rates and literacy levels (Gershman 2003, p. 68). 
Rather than attributing religion to the terrorist activities, the author explains
that particular groups of people have been marginalized, their marginalization
being along religious lines.  This makes it easy for disputes about inequality to be
misconceived as being purely about religion.

A number of authors use alienation as an explanation of the conditions that lead
individuals and groups to joint terrorist groups, and participate in terrorist
activities.  Many authors see alienation as connected to globalization, an
inevitable result of the deep fundamental grievances suffered by a particular
population (Tan 2013, p. 15).   Under conditions of anxiety and societal strains
(Alienation and the quest for renewal, p. 115), the alienated individual is left
susceptible to appeals to religion, ethnicity and class (Tan 2013, p. 15).

Taking a sociological response, Hall (2007, p. 74) argues that it is Muslim
alienation, not radical Islam that is the root cause of Islamic terrorism (Hall
2007, p. 74).  “Alienation and victimization – whether real of perceived – among
a considerable proportion of the worldwide Muslim community needs to be
recognized and responded to positively.  If unaddressed or dealt with in token
ways, there is a risk that the world will slide back into international policies
based on spheres of influence; in effect, the ‘War on Terror’ will become the new
Cold War” (Hall 2007, p.75).  Hall (2007, p. 74) uses an explanation reserved for
ethno-nationalist terrorism, when he argues that Islamic violence is fueled by
feelings of collective victimization and social inequality, challenging popular
conceptions about the connections between Islam and terrorist violence.

Tan (2011) provides an example of the Malay Muslims in Southern Thailand.  He
argues that the Malay Muslims have become alienated over time.  He explains
that this has occurred because Malay Muslim populations never really accepted
state legitimacy (Tan 2011, p. 69).  Combined with this, there has been a
continued failure to make progress on resolving some of the fundamental
grievances of the Malay Muslims (Tan 2011 p. 78).  These grievances include
discrimination, mismanagement, corruption and insensitive policies made by the
central government (Tan 2011, p. 86).

Current Western responses to Terrorism
If the root causes of terrorism lie in genuine grievances particular populations
have with States, it becomes obvious that the war in Iraq, waged by the United
States of America and its allies, boosted propaganda and terrorist recruitment.
For example, while the West attempts to characterize terrorists in particular
ways, the Fatwa set out by Bin Laden and five other terrorist groups, for
example, outlines three justifications for attacking Americans and America.  The
Fatwa gave the following reasons and go some way to explaining anger directed
at the West: US troops in Saudi Arabia, US foreign policy to Iraq, and the US
support of the state of Israel.

In 2006, UK Prime Minster, Tony Blair said liberty and justice, “can only be won
by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the
alternative” (Blair in Hall, 2007, p. 73).  This quote is consistent with the popular
notions coming out the USA, Britain and Australia, which characterize the West’s
value system is superior to anything an imagined opposition can offer (Hall
2007, p. 73).

At the level of international cooperation, UN resolutions that are enforced
against one party and ignored by others, weapons proliferation treated that are
only applied to some and international laws that are enforced against some, but
ignored in the case of others, contribute to alienation that many groups, such as
fundamentalist Muslims feel towards the West (Hall 2007, p. 73).

The “West lacks collective moral and political authority to preach from any high
moral ground when it comes to a value judgment.  Incidents like Abu Graib, the
rendition of Guantanamo, the use of extraordinary rendition in the case of
prisoners and the use of cluster munitions in populated areas have not worn
coverts to the Western cause” (Hall 2007, p. 74).  Incidents like these exemplify
that the West is prone to hypocrisy, duplicity and unilateralism (Hall 2007, p. 74)
and suggest the way the behaviour of States can contribute to the emergence of
terrorism (Schmid 2005, p. 130).

To provide a more effective response to terrorism, it is important that the root
causes of terrorism are adequately examined.  This requires scholars to
understand that terrorism emerges, at least partly, through the failure of States
and scholars to take responsibility for the key role the West plays in creating and
perpetuating inequality and alienation, fundamental reasons for terrorism.  By
accepting the West’s role in manifesting hate directed at it, the West may begin
to implement policies that combat inequality both within and between countries.


Burke, Anthony 2008, The end of terrorism, Critical Studies on Terrorism, vol. 1,
      no. 1, pp. 37-49.

Crenshaw, Martha 2008, Current research on terrorism: The academic
      perspective,  Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 1-11.

Erienbusch, Verena 2014, How (not) to study terrorism, Critical Review of
      International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 470-491.

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