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NCJ Number: 169462 Find in a Library
Title: Moral Disengagement and the Role of Ideology in the Displacement and Diffusion of Responsibility Among Terrorists
Journal: EuroCriminology  Volume:11  Dated:(1997)  Pages:3-24
Author(s): R J Kelly
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 22
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Poland
Annotation: This essay explores intellectual artifacts and mechanisms that enable terrorists to kill indiscriminately in the name of political, social, or cultural causes.
Abstract: Efforts to explain the character and mental makeup of terrorists present many problems. While it is widely recognized terrorism cannot be defined precisely, research continues to discover underlying causes in the makeup of the terrorist personality. Over the past decade, many social scientists have explored economic theories of rational choice in an attempt to explain criminal and deviant activity. Psychologists and sociologists have looked at differences in orientation, intelligence, and temperament, as well as differences in social circumstances, among persons who do or do not frequently break the law. Socioeconomic perspectives contribute to the understanding of terrorist behavior and supplement many approaches that rely almost entirely on references to socioenvironmental factors. Psychosocial dynamics of terrorism indicate an individual must "morally disengage" in order to participate in indiscriminate violence. Terrorist organizations and their ideological machinery may be seen as self-exonerations needed to erase prohibitions against violent behavior and hate. Regulatory psychological mechanisms can be neutralized in several ways by blotting out personal agency in harmful activities, by acquiring attitudes that disregard or misrepresent detrimental consequences of one's actions, by blaming or dehumanizing victims, and by re-construing one's behavior as serving morally desirable purposes. Violent conduct may thus be justified by the rhetorical discourse of terrorist groups and through the diffusion of responsibility. The role of ideology in driving terrorist groups is discussed, and accountability and the problem of punishment are also examined. 38 references, 4 footnotes, and 1 figure
Main Term(s): World criminology
Index Term(s): Cultural influences; Economic influences; Environmental influences; Hostility-crime relationships; Political influences; Psychological influences on crime; Revolutionary or terrorist groups; Society-crime relationships; Sociological analyses; Terrorism causes; Terrorist ideologies; Violence causes
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