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Leaderless Resistance and the Truly Leaderless: A Case Study Test of the Literature-Based Findings


Studies in Conflict and TerrorismJournal abstract

The literature on leaderless resistance is conceptually cloudy. Nevertheless, such literature has bounded the theoretical framework of leaderless resistance around four criteria. These criteria are leaderless resistors cannot be members of organizations they represent; leaderless resistance is a tactical manifestation of an organization; the goal of leaderless resistance is to insulate members and leaders from prosecution; and leaderless resistance arises from organizational failure. Using a case study of the Phineas Priesthood, this work tests these boundaries via a directed content analysis of the Priesthood's ideological manifesto. This research finds that leaderless resistance is theoretically problematic and too often lone wolves and leader resistors are viewed equivalent when they are theoretically different. Scholars must theoretically differentiate between individuals who ascribe to leaderless concepts, organizations, or groups versus those who develop an ideological framework and exist outside a concept, organization, or group.

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