International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

OLEG ZINAM

Terrorism and Violence in the Light of a Theory of Discontent and Frustration

Violence and terror have existed since time immemorial. Yet those who believe in the perfectibility of human nature are puzzled by the observation that violence, organized crime, and terrorism are on the rise despite a remarkable improvement in human conditions. This experience seems to contradict the conventionally accepted notion that crime and violence are caused primarily by poverty and other kinds of human deprivations. Moreover, the increase in violence is proportionately greater in the most prosperous and technologically advanced countries.

The causes of this phenomenon are multifarious and extremely complex. But there is no doubt that it represents a serious and dangerous symptom of social disruption and malfunctioning. As Coser aptly stated, “human beings…will resort to violent action only under extremely frustrating, ego-damaging, and anxiety-producing conditions. It follows that if the incidence of violence increases rapidly, …this can be taken as a signal of severe maladjustment.” 1

Since the violence syndrome becomes more encompassing and menacing, it is necessary to analyze the historical conditions which have contributed to this problem. There are two major methods of studying social phenomena. One is to obtain the overall data on their incidence and relate them to values of other variables by using statistical methods in order to find some meaningful and useful generalizations. The other concentrates on a legitimate traditional question, “Why does individual A engage in deviating behavior, when individual B does not?” 2 The causes of this type of behavior have their deep roots in the overall social and cultural circumstances. Speaking of the relationship between the individual and international violence, McNeil comments that “Without an increased understanding of the forces that shape the individual, we will forever fail to comprehend the direction that international violence may take.” 3

In the late sixties a commission appointed to investigate the causes of violence found that one of the major obstacles in the way of understanding this social phenomenon was “the lack of a general theoretical framework with which to order our perceptions of the motives and attitudes that impel groups toward violence and the social conditions conducive to it.” 4

The central purpose of this discussion is to analyze the impact of certain

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