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Book Review: Theories of Terrorism

Theories of Terrorism: An Introduction. By Daniela Pisoiu and Sandra Hain. Routledge;​; 200 pages; $44.95.

Daniela Pisoiu and Sandra Hain from the Austrian Institute for International Affairs have written a book that provides readers with a theoretical framework, based on a spectrum of academic fields, for launching an informed discourse on terrorism studies. Theories of Terrorism: An Introduction views the subject through the lens of social science theories while anchoring the discussion to two paradigmatic approaches: traditional versus critical terrorism studies (CTS). 

The widely debated question “What causes terrorism?” is tackled through a review of supporting literature based on deterministic, intentional, and relational approaches to the question. These approaches are used throughout the book as analytical paths to understanding past and present discourse on terrorism. The final chapter on counterterrorism explores how and why terrorism campaigns end. 

The book does well to provide essential tools for exploring the current discourse on terrorism and offers further recommended reading lists. It is laden with supporting citations from the literature and historical examples drawn from the French Revolution of 1789 through the Algerian War of 1954–1962 and on to post-9/11 scenarios. The supporting academic evidence reminds the reader and enlightens new learners about the depth and richness of the discourse. Furthermore, it allows readers to venture into additional research. 

Various methodologies and approaches to the subject are explored, and the authors refrain from presenting unsupported opinions. Instead they present a plethora of published opinions to support the reader’s own thinking process.

This book is aimed at students of terrorism, political, and counterterrorism studies, but it will also interest security practitioners and policy makers who are charged with preparing counterterrorism strategies. It is an essential read for anyone who is serious about understanding the threat and mitigating the risk of terrorism.

Reviewer: Andre Mohammed, CPP, ​ is a member of the ASIS Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime Council. He is currently based in Pakistan as a security operations officer with the World Health Organization.