Applying Social Movement Theory in
Terrorism Research:
Cycles of Contention and Revolutionary
Violence in Greece
Workshop in Political Violence, Terrorism and Extremism in
Greece and Europe
Greek Politics Specialist Group
London
20th June
Sotirios Karampampas
University of Sheffield
Outline
• Social Movement Theory (SMT)
• Terrorism Research
• Critique of Terrorism Research
• SMT Contribution
• Cycles of Contention
• Revolutionary Violence in Greece
• Application of Cycles of Contention in the Greek
Case
Social Movement Theory
• Social movements:
 Collection of informal networks
 Shared beliefs and solidarity
 Mobilization over conflictual issues
 Frequent use of various forms of protest
• Different SMT models
• Synthesis of SMT models – Models overlap
Terrorism Research
• Terrorism and SMT overlap
• Continuum of political violence
• Clandestine violence
• Definition of terrorism
Critique of Terrorism Research
• Despite the fact that after the 9/11 terrorism
emerged in the centre of the research agenda:
 A-historicity of terrorism research
 Treating terrorism as been in a social vacuum
 Lack of multi-level analysis
 Preference for secondary over primary data
 Episodic and event-driven
 Policy oriented – Terrorism experts’ effect
 State-centric viewpoint
 Subjugation of knowledge
 Considered as an “a-theoretical undertaking”
SMT Contribution
• SMT as an appropriate tool to overcome some of
the limitations of terrorism studies
• In fact, adopting an SMT perspective can serve to:
 Broaden and deepen its intellectual body
 Challenge many of the underlying assumptions of
traditional terrorism research
 Accelerate a critical turn of terrorism studies
Specifically, SMT:
 Relocates terrorism within its social context and temporal
context
 De-exceptionalizes terrorism
 Underlines its temporal fluidity
 Counters the a-historicity and lack of context of terrorism
research
 Integrates macro,
explanations
meso,
and
micro
level
 Brings the state into focus
 Brings internal movement dynamics into focus
Cycles of Contention
• Cycles of contention
• Revolutionary violence is understood
• in the context of a country’s cycle of mass protest
• as a function of the competition between components of
the social movement sector, and
• occurs as a sign of the protest’s decline
• Violence as a differentiated strategic adaptation
within the social movement sector
Revolutionary terrorism in Greece
• Definition of revolutionary terrorism
• Important characteristics of Greek case
 it hosted one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations
in Europe – 17N.
 has given birth to two different generations of
revolutionary groups
 escalation of terrorist acts in the recent years
• Challenges the mainstream knowledge over
revolutionary terrorism:


Defies the idea of the ephemeral character of the terrorist
groups
Defies the wave theory of international terrorism

Number of attacks in Greece claimed by left wing terrorist groups
has been continuously escalating

Defies the idea of left wing terrorism as a minor security
issue

Approximately the 82 per cent of the total attacks claimed by left
wing terrorist organizations in Western Europe in the 2000s is
attributed to Greek groups
Application of Cycle of Contention in
the Greek Case
• Greek revolutionary terrorism as a direct effect of
cycles of contention
• First generation of Greek terrorism
 17N, Revolutionary People’s Struggle (ELA)
 1960s cycles of contention
 Underground resistance against the Junta
 Emerged after the Polytechnic uprising and Metapolitefsi
• Second generation of Greek terrorism
 Revolutionary Struggle, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire,
Sect of Revolutionaries
 December 2008
 Modern cycle of contention (2008-2013)
 Attacks intensified – New groups emerged
Conclusion
• Terrorism discipline as a poorly conceptualized
field
• SMT as a valuable tool to understand terrorist
violence
• Cycles of contention important in the
understanding of Greek revolutionary violence
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Applying Social Movement Theory in Terrorism Research: The Case