Title page for ETD etd-04282010-194127

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Whalen, Travis F
Author's Email Address tfw115@vt.edu
URN etd-04282010-194127
Title Global Social Disorganization: Applying Social Disorganization Theory to the Study of Terrorist Organizations
Degree Master of Science
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hawdon, James E. Committee Chair
Ryan, John W. Committee Member
Wimberley, Dale W. Committee Member
  • Terrorist
  • Terrorism
  • Terror
  • Social Disorganization Theory
  • Typology
  • Terrorist Organization
Date of Defense 2010-04-15
Availability restricted
The lack of a consistent theoretical framework for understanding the social context in which terrorist organizations emerge and operate stifles the systematic study of terrorism and inhibits the ability of the social sciences to influence international policy. To address this limitation, the present study begins by defining terrorism, and the related phenomena of terror, terrorist, and terrorist organization. As classification is necessary for any scientific investigation, typologies of terrorism currently found in the academic literature are reviewed next. Finally, a criminological framework is applied to the study of terrorist organizations and the environments in which they operate. The primary purpose of the present investigation is to determine whether a classic criminological theory, social disorganization theory, can be applied to the study of terrorist organizations. Drawing from several cross-national data sources, this study operationalizes Shaw and McKay’s (1942; 1969) original measures of social disorganization, residential stability, ethnic heterogeneity, and socioeconomic status, at the macro-level of the nation-state. A curvilinear relationship between measures of social disorganization and the hosting of terrorist organizations in each nation-state is predicted. That is, terrorist organizations are expected to require some degree of social organization to operate but, beyond a certain point, social organization is predicted to have an inhibitive effect on the functioning of these organizations, as strong institutions emerge to control this and other forms of collective violence.
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