Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Structures of religious violence

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Michael Bond reviews Radical, Religious and Violent by Eli Berman in the New Scientist:

Not only did the 9/11 attacks undermine global security and transform the world view of millions, they also spawned an entire publishing genre dedicated to understanding the minds of terrorists. Almost all these books are built on false premises and conjecture, but here is one based on solid evidence.

In Radical, Religious and Violent, economist Eli Berman uses extensive sociological and economic data to examine the operations and internal dynamics of the few effective and resilient groups that mount attacks on civilians, and what they have in common. Whereas other authors have focused on the obvious but peripheral issue of how religion inspires individual attackers – it is rarely the primary motivation, as many studies have shown – Berman tackles the pertinent question of what makes radical religious organisations so much more deadly than other groups.

His empirical approach leads to some surprising findings. For example, one key measure of the potential effectiveness or lethality of a group – Berman’s examples include Hamas and Hezbollah – is the extent to which it provides social services within its community. It’s worth reading the book just to find out why that is. The only downside is that his focus on organisational structure causes him to skate over some difficult questions about personal motivation, such as how some suicide bombers have become radicalised almost entirely online.

Those whose job is to protect citizens from such attacks should note his conclusion: that the groups behind them are rational operators whose tactics are best countered socially, economically and politically, not with violence.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Religion

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