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The Social Construction of Terrorism

Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today

ISBN: 978-1-78560-191-0, eISBN: 978-1-78560-190-3

Publication date: 11 September 2015



This chapter explores the expansion of reality regarding the issue of terrorism. “There are those who argue that there is an empirically verifiable truth as to what constitutes the political” (Easton, D. (1968). International encyclopaedia of the social sciences (Vol. 12, pp. 46, 282–298), while others maintain any definition is a contingent social construction, with the disciple of politics dependent upon the nature of the political arena, itself dependent upon socially constructed and historically variable forces. Definitions of “political” are not discoverable in nature, but are rather a legacy or convention (Wolin, S. (1961). Politics and vision (p. 5). London: Allan & Unwin).


Regarding terrorism as an objective reality and subjective interpretation, this chapter reviews the definition, history, and perceptions of terrorism as it relates to the theoretical interpretations of constructivism (the meaning-making activity of the individual mind and unique experiences) and social constructionism (social interpretations of understanding).


The need to comprehend the notion of ontological relativity – that each person has a unique history from which to make sense of and create an individual reality that is valid to the self, while at the same time knowing that culture has an enormous influence on an individual’s worldview.


Thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and interpretations are important for all nations and especially in the United States because voters in history’s most influential, wide- ranging, hegemonic power are helping to shape American policy. Perceptions and interpretations (subjective reality) influence whether or not – and for whom – a person votes, which has long-lasting and far-reaching political implications. Once a vote is cast, that vote becomes an objective reality.



Karaffa, C.A. (2015), "The Social Construction of Terrorism", Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 67-87.



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