A Critical Analysis of Terrorism from the Constructivism Viewpoint | MyPaperHub

Contemporary global terrorism is a predominantly significant sector of inquiry with policy implications given that citizens are at risk of potential attacks. Prior to formulating efficient and apt policies to counter terrorist activities, there is a prime requirement to have a profound understanding of the subject. Constructivism provides a perfect framework for attaining an understanding of the modern terrorist activity. This entry endeavors at analyzing the issue of international terrorism from the perspective of constructivism to determine how ideas influence terrorist actions.

Constructivism, which offers a remarkable approach to global politics, bases on social reality. The theory revolves around state interests with respect to social discourse and ideas. The identity and ideas of actors shape states’ interests, which consecutively transform the institutions, rules, and norms of the international organization. Alexander Wendt, a constructivist scholar, asserts that international relations are constructed (Jarvis, 2009). According to Alexander, shared ideas, as opposed to material forces, establish the composition of human relationship. Furthermore, the mutual ideas make the wellbeing and characteristics of purposive players. Therefore, terrorism is less likely to be a physical aspect but it is more of a collective construction. From the constructivist viewpoint, international terrorism is a social construction. Terrorist actors are products of discourse. Therefore as Hulsse and Spencer (2008) highlight, discourse forms the focal point of studying terrorism. Predominantly, the discourses of terrorists’ antagonists form the terrorist strategies, goals, organizational structures, and motivations. In this perspective, humans make terrorism what they say it is. Although there are people who carry out real acts, what their actions mean remains an issue of interpretation. Hence, the interpretation is responsible for constituting particular persons as terrorists (Hulsse & Spencer, 2008).

Constructivism theory emphasizes that individual states collectively construct anarchy based on the way they create their security dilemmas (Jarvis, 2009). Therefore, terrorism stems from how nations see themselves and others through their collective cultural understandings that arise from interactions. Indeed, Jarvis (2009) accentuates that terrorism is an interpretation of happenings and their supposed causes. For instance, while one state may perceive an individual as a terrorist, another may perceive the same individual as a freedom fighter. Therefore, constructivism establishes that the actual meaning of terrorism depends on how individuals and states construct it. Further, constructivism emphasizes that terrorism does not reside outside the human subjective understanding. However, terrorism is a communal fact that has its foundations on human institutions.

There is no one universally pertinent conceptualization of transnational terrorism. However, different theories distinguish distinct paradigms and perspectives on terrorism. The constructivism theory remains dominant among policy makers, academicians, and intelligence analysts. Since terrorism is too disputed and contentious to acquire a universal consent, the constructivist theory proves to be most effectual in emphasizing the significant role that national interests and parochial states assume in conceptualization of the subject of terrorism.


Hulsse, R. & Spencer, A. (2008). The metaphor of terror: Terrorism studies and the constructivist turn. Security Dialogue, 39(6): 571-592.

Jarvis, L. (2009). The spaces and faces of critical terrorism studies. Security Dialogue, 40(1): 5-27.

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