Terrorism as a Global Wave Phenomenon: An Overview (2017)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Global terror began in the 1880s, but it took a century before a few scholars began to understand its peculiar dynamic. One reason for the difficulty was that many scholars and government officials had "historical amnesia." When they saw it disappear, they assumed it had become part of history and no longer had contemporary relevance. But global terror disappears and then reappears. Another reason they failed to understand the pattern is that the concept of generation was rarely used to describe politics, a concept that requires one to recognize the importance of life cycles. Modern global terror comes in the form of waves precipitated by major political events that have important global significance. A wave consists of a variety of groups with similar tactics and purposes that alter the domestic and international scenes. Four very different waves have materialized: the Anarchist, the Anti-Colonial, the New Left, and the Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years; the fourth is now in its third decade, and if it follows the rhythm of its predecessors, it should be over in the mid-2020s, but a fifth wave may emerge thereafter.