What is the Organizational Definition of Terrorism?
According to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, international terrorist groups are progressively evolving and continue to present a threat to the United States. But can looking at terrorism through the lens of organizational scholarship help us understand the nature of terrorism? Authors Jordi Comas, Paul Shrivastava and Eric C. Martin discuss this topic in their article “Terrorism as Formal Organization, Network, and Social Movement” from Journal of Management Inquiry.
Terrorism can be difficult to conceptualize as an organizational phenomenon. We argue that an organizational understanding of terrorism is enhanced if we understand that the collectivities that conduct terrorism can adopt any or all of the three forms of organizing: formal organization, network, and social movement. In short, organizational studies can contribute to the study of terrorism by articulating this polymorphic framework of forms. Using four illustrative cases drawn from a variety of geographic and ideological contexts (the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam [LTTE], Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda), we demonstrate the value of the polymorphic framework to avoid problems with traditional definitions of terrorism. In addition, the polymorphic framework can inspire further research about why and how terrorist groups shift from more or less fragmented networks, more or less formal organizations, and more or less embedded in social movements.
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