Terrorism as a slap in the face of the civilized world

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Abstract


The article summarizes the key scientific approaches to the study of terror in the contemporary world focusing on the concepts of (de)modernization, (de)civilization, and the revival of religious movements with rational economic aims under the slogans of “just war” or “cosmic war” with the forces of evil. The author starts from Norbert Elias’ work on the civilization process and the formation of the modern state as a pacified society to underline that the problem of violence lies outside Elias’ scope, and demonstrate the existing approaches to supplementing his theory with (a) the definition of decivilization trends and the criteria for the identification of decivilization processes; (b) the description of the role and place of brutal violence in modern society; (c) a comprehensive but also heterogeneous picture of terrorism, especially suicide terrorism, i.e. its causes, manifestations and consequences. The author agrees with S.P. Huntington, that we live in a world with an increased risk of conflicts between civilizations and cultural strains rooting in the religious tradition (the re-politicization of religion and religious nationalism are considered attempts to fuse traditional religion with modern politics). Thus, the author concludes that the contemporary terrorism and especially its suicidal form is not only a specific form of (political) struggle, but also - metaphorically speaking - a “slap in the face” of the civilized Western world, an effort to challenge, shake and undermine the stability and the patterns of life in modern society. However, terrorism wants to influence not only the power system of society, but also the collective psyche of large groups and parts of the population to create a sort of theatre of horror with the rationally designed, staged and performed means of violence.


About the authors

I Šubrt

Charles University in Prague

Author for correspondence.
Email: jiri.subrt@ff.cuni.cz

Chair of Historical Sociology

K Černý

Charles University in Prague

Email: karlos.cernoch@post.cz

Chair of Historical Sociology

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