2nd Edition

Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence The Life Cycle of Birth, Growth, Transformation, and Demise

By Dipak K. Gupta Copyright 2021
    322 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    322 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book provides a multidisciplinary approach to understanding human behavior and uses it to analyze the forces shaping the life cycle of violent political movements. This new edition has been revised and updated, with three new chapters added.

    The second edition takes us deeper inside human motivations, which cause otherwise rational people to join dissident groups, willing to kill and be killed. In doing so, the book draws upon research on brain science, evolutionary biology, and social psychology to help explain pathological collective behavior. From the motivations of individual participants, the book turns to the evolution of terrorist groups by venturing into theories of organizational development. Together, these theories explain the life cycle – the birth, growth, transformation from an ideological group to a criminal syndicate, and demise – of a dissident organization. These hypotheses are supported with detailed case studies of three disparate terrorist movements: the nationalists of the IRA, the communist Naxalites of India, and the religious fundamentalists of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

    The book’s theory leads to an explanation of the current global trend of rising tribalism and authoritarianism. The author warns that this latest wave of xenophobia and authoritarianism is likely to be exacerbated by climate change and the consequent rise in sea levels, which could displace millions from the areas least able to  mitigate the effects of global warming to the countries that can.

    This book will be essential reading for students of terrorism studies, and of great interest to students of social psychology, political science, and sociology.

    1. Introduction

    2. Into the Mind of An Un-rational Being

    3. Path Toward Pathology: An Individual’s Perspective

    4. Terrorism and Political Violence: An Organizational Perspective

    5. The Dynamics of Dissent

    6. Faith, Nationalism, and Class Warfare: Birth of A Movement

    7. Growth and Longevity

    8. A Marriage Made in Hell? Terrorism and Organized Crime

    9. Demise of dissent

    10. Lands of the Fearful: Tribalism and Authoritarianism, The Fifth Wave

    11. Terrorism’s Trap


    Dipak K. Gupta is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Political Science, San Diego State University, USA, and a Visiting Professor at the University of San Diego, USA.

    'This invaluable second edition of Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence builds on the seminal 2008 first edition of the text by rewriting chapters and updating material to reflect changes in the field over the last decade. In these pages readers will find vital background data and current case studies that illustrate the range of political, social, psychological and organizational aspects of contemporary terrorism. The book is ideal for classroom use at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as being a valuable resource for scholars.'--Jeffrey Kaplan, Habib University, Karachi, Pakistan

    'Armed with the perspective of not one but multiple academic disciplines, Dipak Gupta takes us on an extraordinary journey. This second edition of his groundbreaking book, Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence, is completely updated and proves even more essential for grappling with the complex chaos that is terrorism today.'--John Horgan, Georgia State University, USA

    'This is an excellent account by a leading expert on terrorism that applies a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the role of human behavior and individual motivations in shaping the life cycle of violent
    political movements... insights about the wider context that is accompanying the evolution of contemporary terrorism make this book an important contribution to the literature on the multiplicity of systematic crises that are shaping the current global order'
    --Joshua Sinai, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol. 14, Issue 5 

    Praise for the first edition:

    'Dipak Gupta’s excellent study of terrorism offers a unique combination of rigorous interdisciplinary analysis, personal experience, and both historical and theoretical scope.  It is a most welcome addition to the field.  The argument benefits from a unifying framework and consistency of approach not always found in the literature on terrorism, large though it is.  ...  Both specialists and non-specialists will profit from reading it.'--Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University, USA

    A fascinating, comprehensive, well-written, lucid and critical discussion of the terrorism studies field. It will intrigue academics and students, and is laced with the author's telling personal experiences. Policy makers and citizens will find that the analysis of the life cycles of terrorist organizations, and the common mistakes governments make over and over again, persuasive and useful.’--David C. Rapoport, UCLA

    'The book goes well beyond just reporting the history and prevalence of terrorism.  Its primary contribution is the explanatory analysis that it offers, Its theoretical analysis provides critical insights into the forces that underly political violence and offers us understanding of more promising routes toward its containment. Without such analytic approaches, the battle against terror will be condemned to rely on counterviolent measures whose effectiveness has repeatedly proven to be disappointing.'--William J. Baumol, New York University,USA

    'Highly recommended'
    R. G. Mainuddin, Choice

    'Reading this book, it is clear that it is a labor of love. A combination of personal detail (a terrific opening section that will surprise many familiar with his previous work), literary observations, cross-disciplinary references that never feel clumsily juxtaposed, and examples drawn from across conceptual boundaries provide the reader with a richly potent stew of material to contemplate. What Gupta ultimately provides in his dynamic conceptual framework is a research agenda, rich for potential hypothesis testing. Gupta rises to the challenge laid down by Walter Reich and others in terrorism studies by moving beyond the confines of individual disciplinary perspectives, and for that alone should be praised. That he does so by providing a thoughtful, learned volume is even more reason to read this important and essential book.'--John Horgan, Georgia State University, USA

    'This is probably one of the most comprehensive books that have been written on political violence and terrorism in recent years in the sense that the author is able to combine rich theory, empirical data about insurgent groups, and even first-hand experience of the phenomenon of terrorism.'--Ignacio Sanchez-Cuenca, Juan March Institute, Madrid, Spain, Perspectives on Terrorism