Many contemporary conceptualizations of terrorism inadvertently reify political conceptions of terrorism. Mainly because they in the end rely on the intentions of terrorists in defining terrorism, the process of terrorism, which involves an unfolding dialectic of actions and reactions, is omitted from researchers focus. Thus, terrorism becomes simplified to intentional actions by terrorists, and this short-cutting of the causal chain of the process of terrorism facilitates both a political negation of history and a rhetoric of response. In this paper, I put forward a conceptualization of terrorism that transcends existing definitions and conceptualizations by first of all discerning between terrorism and terror, and by subsequently conceptualizing terrorism as a paradox: what terrorism is, is inextricably bound to the reaction to terrorism. It is, in fact, the reaction of some states to terrorism that, in a sense ex post facto, constitutes an act as terrorism by refolding actions that unfolded subsequent to an event into that event as the root cause of the entire chain of events.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Conceptualization, Process, Terror, Terrorism
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2008.37, hdl.handle.net/1765/65455
Journal Contemporary Political Theory
Citation
Schinkel, W. (2009). On the concept of terrorism. Contemporary Political Theory, 8(2), 176–198. doi:10.1057/cpt.2008.37