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Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us Hardcover – Mar 16 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 16 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199747431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199747436
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #448,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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By Phillip Taylor on June 20 2011
Format: Hardcover
Length: 2:10 Mins

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

What sets ordinary people, mild mannered students, for example, on the path to radicalization and ultimately to terrorism? How does one find an answer? Or is there an answer? As the authors Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko have rather challengingly put it:

'Focusing on them (the terrorists and their motivations) is not enough. Focusing on us is not enough'. focusing on the dynamics of conflict over time is essential' -- which is exactly what this book and the authors set out to do with this intellectually sparkling statement of modern radicalism.

Both psychologists and consultants to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the authors are acknowledged experts in this field. Extrapolating from their extensive research, they identify 12 mechanisms of radicalisation through which, they assert, unexceptional people are moved to perpetrate exceptional violence. Ideology, they claim, is not necessarily a prime factor in this process. It emerges as more of an excuse for violence, rather than its root cause.

The wealth of specific case material provided in the book touches on a number of terrorist outrages and some obscure ones as well, from the 9/11 atrocities in New York to the Bali bombings, to the July 7 bombings in London. The authors' wide ranging analysis of terrorism goes back to imperial Russia in the late 1800s illustrated by some rather fascinating case histories of individual terrorists.

An interesting aspect of the book is that personal experiences of individuals are examined alongside the dynamics of groups, from which most terrorism seems to emanate.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Highly Enlightening and Engaging Contribution to the Topic of Terrorism. Oct. 10 2011
By Frederick J. Woods - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly informative work that very uniquely combines a largely academic approach but in a very engaging and easily readable format. For those that approach the study of terrorism from an academic perspective this will come as a very pleasant surprise!

Written primarily from a social psychology standpoint but borrowing sometimes from Social Movement Theory (in particular Donatella Della Porta and her work on Italian and German leftist terrorism) FRICTION presents 12 different pathways to radicalization into terrorist activity. The authors present these 12 pathways (grouped into three layers much like Della Porta's Micro, Meso, and Macro levels) in a series of explanatory vignettes using the 19th century Russian leftist terrorist group People's Will juxtaposed with a modern example primarily but not exclusively drawn from Islamic terrorist figures.

In harmony with other recent academic findings, the authors underline the varied nature and goals of terrorism and terrorists by demonstrating the various pathways that can lead individuals to commit violent political acts. Particularly noteworthy are the number of pathways to violent radicalization that could be said to be non-rational in that they are responses neither to ideology nor to political exigencies, but rather to combinations of sometimes subtle social factors such as group dynamics, boundary hardening, and even love. Also in keeping with most modern scholarship on the topic, the authors reject psychopathology as a factor in political radicalization.

This is not a social science work -- the presentation of the 12 pathways appears to be exploratory based on a broad literature review primarily from the social psychology realm. As such, topics such as Political Opportunity Structure are not addressed. Perhaps most unfortunately, a topic I would think social psychology would be well equipped to handle, de-radicalization, is also not addressed.

Overall, a fantastic work.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Incredible analysis, but terrorism is still left relatively "foreign" March 4 2013
By FR - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us, McCauley seeks to explain how terrorists are led to action through mechanisms that are based on emotions and experiences that are common to all humans: love, fear, personal grievance, etc. He claims that Americans could be led through the very same psychological processes to radicalize and indeed, at the end of the work, one is shocked at his or her ability to understand terrorists. If the work is so easy to read and its explanations broach common sense, why does it take 248 pages to explain?

Terrorism is not actually something most of us are familiar with. For most Americans, their understanding of it is predicated on one event, one figurehead, and one non-state acting group.

Domestic terrorism, however, is something we are even less familiar with. Examples date back to abolitionists like John Brown, but these historic figures are not typically referred to as "terrorists" in AP US History textbooks or classes. The last recorded instance of domestic terrorism in America would be the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma State. Personally, I would have been 3 years old.

Mass murder, on the other hand, is something Americans are quite familiar with, especially given the rise and recency of school shootings: Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and Sandy Hook in 2012. I was 18 when Senator Gabby Giffords and several of her constituents were shot in Tucson, AZ. I was 19 when viewers of the Dark Knight Rises were shot in Denver, CO. I was 20 when Sandy Hook Elementary school children and staffers were shot in Newton, CT. These instances are much more firm in my memory. All of them evade my understanding.

Watching the news at night, we are shown the faces of those behind these events: Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza. We hear about the lack of humanity, the lack of remorse, and the lack of rage while they committed these acts or when they stand to trial. More important than the fact that they acted without apparent or disclosed reason, they acted with a lack of emotion: they must have been insane.

So, McCauley's alternative explanation for terrorists' acts beyond political motivations isn't instinctive. Our reluctance to identify with terrorists is because we - albeit fortunately - are not familiar with it. We are not used to hearing about American radicals committing violence with some sort of psychological explanation for their acts or rational end in mind. If we liken terrorists to ourselves at all, we liken them to mass murderers, radicals who are most often understood as insane. If an oppressive political structure or coercive regime in power is not the reason for acts of violence, then the actors behind them, to our best guesses, must also be insane.

McCauley's work explains well how this is not the case. If there is one criticism to be had, the book is wanting of examples of domestic terrorists that are seen as heroes today - not just humanitarians in Haiti - or examples of radicals who actually act violently in America for those reasons McCauley claims. In their absence, terrorism is still a "foreign" phenomenon. If modern examples are few, perhaps the reader is due a more cross-cultural explanation or historical analysis on why radicals in America express opinions and would incite violence, but frequently don't. These addendums may be unimportant to the very original point McCauley makes: radicalization is understandable. But it is important to what I think the book is meant to do. Once we better understand why we have a tough time likening terrorists to ourselves, we actually will change how we respond to them and appropriately capitalize on the mistakes of terrorists who anticipate the former enraged responses we will no longer grant. I hope to see McCauley step up to the task.
Great look at radicalization Nov. 18 2013
By Trash Winters - Published on
Verified Purchase
This book was assigned to me for a university course on terrorism. This was a great book for understanding the mindset not only of terrorists and other groups with "extreme" views, such as religious cults, but also understanding group psychology in general. This book was a wonderful look at the political and psychological factors of radicalization - not only how they affect foreign entities such as al Qaeda, but the insidious ways in which radicalization can penetrate (and often has penetrated) our very own society at the personal and governmental levels. Highly recommended even as a casual read. Always remember, terrorism, as a product of radicalization, does not come from some essentialized "evil" or "crazy" mindset, nor is it psychologically foreign - radicalization is something that any group or individual can experience.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Terrorists.... June 20 2011
By Phillip Taylor - Published on
Format: Hardcover
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Right lecture for Christmas Aug. 23 2013
By Mihai-Robert Soran - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Got it, read it, reviewed it. Grat for the lay readers, helpful to "homeland security" professionals who need a basic refresh, and nice shelf decoration at home for people who already understood whar makes radicals and terrorists.
A good Christmas read.

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