Social Control and the Policing of Terrorism: Foundations for a Sociology of Counter-Terrorism




The American Sociologist



Sociologists have by and large neglected the study of terrorism and counterterrorism. The continued relevance that terrorism may be expected to have in our era should stimulate the development of new sociological ideas. I propose a sociological perspective of the policing of terrorism that is conceptually informed by a neo-Weberian bureaucratization theory of police. The theory holds that antiterrorist efforts at the level of police rest on a formal-rational conception of the means and objectives of counterterrorism, although ideological and political sentiments on terrorism are very intense and divisive within and across national states. Social control and counterterrorism are complex realities, comprised of a multitude of dimensions which are not necessarily in tune with one another. High-profile terrorist incidents, such as the events of 9/11, lead to attempts by national governments and international governing bodies to re-direct police efforts against terrorism in function of political objectives. Yet, because the bureaucratization of modern police institutions is at an unprecedented high level, the theory predicts, police agencies will resist these (re-)politicization attempts to continue counterterrorism activities that rest on an efficiency-driven treatment and depoliticized understanding of terrorism.

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