Category Archives: Civil Wars and Contentious Politics

Civil Wars and Contentious Politics II

In a 2007 review piece for Perspective in Politics, Sid Tarrow identified the need for studies of civil wars to consider the broader context of political contention, and indeed social movements. We have asked our contributors to consider this intersection of topics. While civil wars may be a special case of political conflict, players often have a multitude of relations or connections to non-violent movements and groups. One primary example of this is the civil war in Syria, and the emergence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Mobilizing Ideas has asked contributors to consider the gap between studies on civil wars and terrorism, and that of contentious politics and social movements. Focal topics include terrorism, the onset and cessation of violence, political and ethnic violence, repression, and rebellion.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Ziad Munson, Lehigh University (essay)
Susan Olzak, Stanford University (essay)
Cem Emrence, University of Massachusetts – Amherst (essay)
Eva Herschinger, University of Aberdeen (essay)
Mehmet Gurses, Florida Atlantic University (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Changing Civil War

By Mehmet Gurses

The violent and often destructive nature of civil wars is well documented. Its transformative nature, its ability to spur a cultural transformation that can pave the way for a democratic culture, however, has not yet received much scholarly attention. Civil wars as a special case of contentious politics do not occur in a vacuum. Violence, as arguably the most defining characteristic of civil wars that differentiates this phenomenon from other forms of social movements, is often a result of sociopolitical environments characterized by resentment, discontent, and repression. In other words, in such a context violence is not irrational or beastly but rather occurs when our sense of justice is offended. In line with studies that have pointed to cultural outcomes of social movements and the difficulty of drawing neat boundaries between the complex concepts of civil wars, revolution, terrorism, and social movements, my research on the armed conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey points to the transformative nature of civil wars that has resulted in transforming the insurgent group and also engendering important social and political outcomes. Continue reading

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Terrorism and the Cessation of Violence: What we gain when we define terrorism as a tactic

By Eva Herschinger

Terrorism has many facets and many names. ISIS, Al Qaeda or Boko Haram; and, if you are not a child of the 1990s, names such as IRA, ETA and Red Army Faction will most likely tell you something as well. Irrespective of whether terrorism is considered part of a broader conflict (a view you are more likely to find among observers of social movements) or as a self-contained phenomenon (more likely to find among scholars of terrorism studies), it is easy to get very confused in light of the great variety of answers about what terrorism actually is. From terrorism as abhorrent, indiscriminate violence by non-state actors to terrorism as oppressive acts of states, definitions abound. And in light of decades of searching for a global definition of terrorism and countless academic treatments of the matter, a certain fatigue with the issue can be observed today. Continue reading

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The Fetish of Ideology in Studies of Terrorism

By Ziad Munson

When studying terrorist organizations, scholars focus primarily on organizational ideology. Ideology remains the central way in which scholars organize their understanding of many different questions about such groups. We use ideology to explain why people join terrorist organizations; how such groups form and develop; and how to classify terrorist groups in the spectrum of organizations. It is no surprise that social scientists use ideas as the basis for study. However, other variables – discussed below – are of equal, and often neglected, importance. Continue reading

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Political Violence as a Movement Dynamic

By Cem Emrence

In this essay, I examine the effects of political violence on movements. My discussion provides a general sketch of several processes at work and deals with movements that challenge political hierarchies in developing country settings. I will argue that integrating violence into social movement theory offers a truly dynamic account. Violence fulfills this mission in two ways. First, as an extreme form of interaction, it links movement to its opponents in consequential ways. Second, violence allows us to think about movement as a family of organizations. Movements develop complex relations with insurgencies and political parties to alter power deficits in a society. Continue reading

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Disciplinary Divides in the Study of Wars, Terrorism, and Social Movements

By Susan Olzak

If a gap exists between studies on civil war/terrorism and contentious politics/social movements, it may be at least partially due to the segregation of discipline boundaries. Sociologists are less likely than other disciplines to analyze civil war or terrorism, but when they do, they seldom engage debates from other disciplines studying these topics. Moreover, even though many political scientists routinely study civil war and insurgencies, they rarely adopt social movement perspectives to study these topics (see essays by Goldstone and Beck posted earlier). Continue reading

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Civil Wars and Contentious Politics

In a 2007 review piece for Perspective in Politics, Sid Tarrow identified the need for studies of civil wars to consider the broader context of political contention, and indeed social movements. We have asked our contributors to consider this intersection of topics. While civil wars may be a special case of political conflict, players often have a multitude of relations or connections to non-violent movements and groups. One primary example of this is the civil war in Syria, and the emergence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Mobilizing Ideas has asked contributors to consider the gap between studies on civil wars and terrorism, and that of contentious politics and social movements. Focal topics include terrorism, the onset and cessation of violence, political and ethnic violence, repression, and rebellion.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Robert Braun, Northwestern University (essay)
Jack A. Goldstone, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (essay)
Colin J. Beck, Pomona College (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Filed under Civil Wars and Contentious Politics, Essay Dialogues, Uncategorized