Skip to main content

The Causes of Terrorism

Causes of radicalisation

Comparative PoliticsReview

As the title suggests, this article was written about terrorism, not radicalisation per se. However, in seeking to explain how individuals might come to join a terrorist group and how these groups might come to support violent action, the article clearly covers ground common with that covered by many of those seeking to understand violent radicalisation. Crenshaw breaks down potential causes into three categories. Firstly, situational, which includes both permissive and motivational pre-conditional factors – which enable the possibility of radicalisation, such as the internet, and motivate feelings against (the State, for example), such as poverty or racial inequality. As well as these pre-conditional situational factors Crenshaw also argues that there are precipitant situational factors – events that may be seen as triggers for actions, UK foreign policy in Iraq being a commonly cited contemporary example.

Secondly there are the strategic aims of the group, such as to cause fear (short-term) or to change a political status-quo (long-term). The last set of issues Crenshaw identifies are to do with individual factors relating to motivation and participation in groups, such as psychological issues.

Crenshaw’s article is a tightly written examination of these causes. Whilst it is a dated example of literature in this field, it is both relevant in its general theoretical analysis of causes and helpful in providing a structure for thinking about them.

You might also like: