Is Terrorism Learned? A Subcultural Learning Theory Perspective of Terrorism

Adam L. Silverman, University of Florida

The literature on terrorism makes many references to the states of mind of the terrorist, his ability to adaptively choose from among a limited range of tactics, and her willingness to make strategic choices that form the basis of political violence as a wholly instrumental act. The purpose of this paper is to explore the subcultural basis and learning dynamics of terrorism. I define terrorism and then examine the social learning basis of crime and deviance. I then discuss subcultural characteristics and subculturally based theories of conflict. After integrating subcultural approaches with Akers' conceptualization of learning: differential association definitions, imitation, and reinforcement I derive four hypotheses and subject them to empirical analysis. The data suggest some limited support for the thesis that terrorism is learned from the subcultural milieu.

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Updated 05/20/2006