© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 DOI: 10.1163/156853110X499945 Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (2010) 394–415 brill.nl/ajss Calculated, Passionate, Pious Extremism: Beyond a Rational Choice Theory of Suicide Terrorism Domenico Tosini University of Trento Abstract This article proposes a theoretical framework to identify the main ideal types of motivations underlying voluntary suicide missions in terrorist campaigns, with special reference to Sunni extremists, such as Al-Qaeda and its allies. Based on empirical evidence from several suicide missions, the paper argues for conceptualising a speciﬁc kind of rationality qualitatively diﬀer- ent from a calculation of costs and beneﬁts and in addition to the complex constellation of aﬀectual orientations driving militants. On one hand, martyrdom videos and biographical information on suicide attackers, as well as interviews with would-be suicide bombers, make it plausible to hypothesise not only a type of instrumental rationality in which suicide missions are viewed as adequate means for both egoistic and altruistic goals, but also aﬀects and feeling states, such as outrage and humiliation, that create a desire for revenge. On the other hand, militants’ frequent references to a series of absolute values support the theory of an axiological rationality of suicide terrorism, meant as a disposition
Asian Journal of Social Science – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2010
Keywords: terrorism; Sunni extremism; insurgency; jihad, martyrdom; instrumental rationality; pan-Islamic nationalism; axiological rationality; political violence; suicide attack; rational choice theory; Al-Qaeda; affectual behaviour
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