Contemporary Debates on Terrorism (Paperback) book cover

Contemporary Debates on Terrorism

Edited by Richard Jackson, Samuel Justin Sinclair

© 2012 – Routledge

240 pages

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Paperback: 9780415591164
pub: 2012-01-09
Hardback: 9780415591157
pub: 2012-01-16
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pub: 2013-02-28
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Contemporary Debates on Terrorism is an innovative new textbook, addressing a number of key issues in contemporary terrorism studies from both 'traditional' and 'critical' perspectives.

In recent years the terrorism studies field has grown significantly, with an increasing number of scholars beginning to debate the complex dynamics underlying this category of violence. Within the broader field, there are many identifiable controversies and issues which divide scholarly opinion, a number of which are discussed in this text:

  • Theoretical issues, such as the definition of terrorism and state terrorism;
  • Substantive issues, including the threat posed by al Qaeda and the utility of different responses to terrorism;
  • Ethical issues, encompassing the torture of terrorist suspects and targeted assassination

The format of the volume involves a leading scholar taking a particular position on the controversy, followed by an opposing or alternative viewpoint written by another contributor. In addition to the pedagogic value of allowing students to read opposing arguments in one place, the volume will also be important for providing an overview of the state of the field and its key lines of debate.

Contemporary Debates on Terrorism will be essential reading for all students of terrorism and political violence, critical terrorism studies, critical security studies, security studies and IR in general.


Few topics have stimulated as much public debate as contemporary terrorism. What, if anything, does the word itself mean? Where did it come from? How serious a threat does it pose, and to whom? What are the best means for stopping it or at least mitigating its effects? Jackson and Sinclair have assembled an outstanding group of scholars who debate the answers to these and other questions in a way that provides readers with clear understandings of both the complexity of the problems involved and alternative ways of solving them.’ -- Leonard Weinberg, University of Nevada, USA

'This is a comprehensive, thought-provoking and fascinating volume. It provides the reader with conflicting views on terrorism and terrorism related phenomena. The authors are prominent scholars who offer fascinating arguments in a lucid style. This is the kind of scholarship that every individual who has an interest in terrorism should follow.'- Ami Pedahzur, University of Texas at Austin, USA

‘This is an impressive collection of essays on a number of critically important debates on terrorism and political violence by an outstanding group of scholars. Incredibly rich, sober and mature in analysis Contemporary Debates on Terrorism is an excellent addition to the currently available literature and deserves to be read not only by academic specialists but also by security analysts, policy makers and general readers concerned about international security issues.’ -- George Kassimeris, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Contemporary Debates on Terrorism presents a lively and informative selection of central debates which exemplify the modern terrorist environment. Jackson and Sinclair have assembled an exceptionally qualified panel of experts who articulately address critical issues defining the nature of present-day terrorism. Questions posed by the authors, and the robust positions taken by experts in this field, are guaranteed to stimulate critical thinking and quality discussions among readers.’ -- Gus Martin, California State University, USA

"An innovative pedagogic approach to studying terrorism and counterterrorism through a debate format, with scholars representing different perspectives debating one another over controversial issues."- Joshua Sinai, ‘Terrorism Bookshelf: Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism’, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2012)

"A terrific contribution to any library, personal or academic, and should there be a follow up work to this venture from Jackson and Sinclair, it will be sought after." - Devon Simons, Aberystwyth University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Contemporary Debates on Terrorism, Richard Jackson and Samuel Justin Sinclair PART I: DEFINITION OF TERRORISM 1. Is Terrorism Still a Useful Analytical Term or Should it be Abandoned? YES: The Utility of the Concept of Terrorism, Paul Wilkinson NO: A Landscape of Meaning: Constructing Understandings of Political Violence from the Broken Paradigm of ‘Terrorism’, Dominic Bryan PART II: CATEGORIES OF TERRORISM 2. Is There a ‘New Terrorism’ in Existence Today? YES: The ‘New Terrorism’ or the ‘Newness’ of Context and Change, Alejandro Bolanos NO: The Fallacy of the New Terrorism Thesis, Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Leena Malkki 3. Can States be Terrorists? YES: State Terror: The Theoretical and Practical Utilities and Implications of a Contested Concept, Michael Stohl NO: State Terrorism: Who Needs it?, Colin Wight PART III: THE TERRORISM THREAT 4. Is Terrorism a Serious Threat to International and National Security? YES: The Continuing Threat to State Security, James Lutz and Brenda Lutz NO: Why Terrorism Is a Much Smaller Threat Than You Think, Ian S. Lustick 5. Is WMD Terrorism a Likely Prospect in the Future? YES: WMD Terrorism: A Potential Threat to International Security, Natvidad Carpintero-Santamaria NO: WMD Terrorism: The Prospects, John Mueller 6. Does Al Qaeda Continue to Pose a Serious International Threat? YES: The Enduring al-Qa’ida Threat: A Network Perspective, Jeffrey Cozzens and Magnus Ranstorp NO: Al Qaeda: A Diminishing Threat, Lee Jarvis PART IV: THE CAUSES OF TERRORISM 7. Is Terrorism the Result of Root Causes such as Poverty and Exclusion? YES: Do Structural Factors Explain Terrorism?, Dipak Gupta NO: Poverty and Exclusion are not the Root Causes of Terrorism, L. Rowell Huesmann and Graham R. Huesmann 8. Is Religious Extremism a Major Cause of Terrorism? YES: Religious Extremism as a Major Cause of Terrorism, Amanda Munroe and Fathali M. Moghaddam NO: "Religious terrorism" as Ideology, Jeffrey Goodwin PART V: DEALING WITH TERRORISM 9. Are Counter-Terrorism Frameworks Based on Suppression and Military Force Effective in Responding to Terrorism? YES: The Use of Force to Combat Terrorism, Boaz Gano NO: Wars of Terror – Learning the Lessons of Failure, Paul Rogers10. Is the Use of Coercive Interrogation or Torture Permissible and Effective as a Counter-Terrorism Method? YES: The Truth about American State Interrogation Techniques, Torture, and the Ticking Time Bomb Terrorist, Jeffrey Addicott NO: Why Torture is Wrong, Robert Brecher11. Is the Targeted Assassination of Terrorist Suspects an Effective Response to Terrorism? YES: A Viable and Vital Policy Option, Stephanie Carvin NO: The Case Against Targeted Assassination, Andrew Silke 12. Have Global Efforts to Reduce Terrorism and Political Violence been Effective in the Past Decade? YES: ‘Looking for a Needle in a Stack of Needles’, Mark CochraneNO: ‘Using a sledgehammer to Crack a Nut’, Rachel Monaghan

About the Editors

Richard Jackson is Professor in International Politics at Aberystwyth University. He is the Founding Editor of the Routledge journal Critical Studies on Terrorism, the convenor of the British International Studies Association (BISA) Critical Studies on Terrorism Working Group (CSTWG), and Editor of the Routledge Critical Terrorism Studies book series. He is the author/editor of four books on terrorism and conflict issues.

Samuel Justin Sinclair is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital's Psychological Evaluation and Research Laboratory (PEaRL). He is also Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-refereed journal Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. He is the author/editor of two books.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism