What is the usefulness of the Structure-Agency Debate in the understanding and policing of global terrorist threat? Use concrete examples to develop your discussion.The main purpose of this essay is to discuss the usefulness of the Structure-Agency debate in the understanding and policing of the global terrorist threat.
Concrete examples would also be used to develop the discussion. The essay will start by defining the key terms as used in the question. Secondly it will discuss the usefulness of the Structure-Agency debate in the understanding and policing of global terrorist threat using concrete examples. A conclusion would then be drawn from the aforementioned points.DEFINITION OF KEY TERMSAccording to Huystteen (2003) structure is a multifaceted framework which makes up society including all institutions, groups, etc where human beings interrelate and engage with each other. Agency on the other hand is defined as the ability of individuals to make autonomous decisions as well as their ability to put these actions and plans into motion (Huystteen, 2003). Some sociological theorists believe that social structure and agency complement each other in such a way that social structure influences actions of individuals and individuals can similarly influence social structure with their activities (Stones, 2009).
Structure-Agency debate as such is defined as the debate between social factors and individuals and how these social factors influence individual’s decision making and to the extent it does (Giddens, 1984). The Structure-Agency debate asks the question whether individuals are free to act as they please or if their actions and plans are shaped and governed by the social structures in place. Some structuralists as such argue that individuals determine their attitudes and actions while others argue that structure and agency are jointly dependent rather than opposed (McLennan, 1984). This is where the debate arises.Terrorism is defined in the Global Terrorism Database as the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by non state actors, in order to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation (LaFree, 2012). Global terrorist threat as such means the threatened or actual use of violence or force by individuals or groups directed towards the government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, intended to instil fear as well as coercing other to change views (Lafree, 2012).THE USEFULNESS OF STRUCTURE-AGENCY DEBATE IN UNDERSTANDING AND POLICING GLOBAL TERRORIST THREATThe agency approach of structure-Agency debate expresses that individuals’ actions or deeds can be clasped not classes and as such structural forces are not seen as real.
This then entails that the different classes that exist in the society cannot be looked at to explain the behaviour of individuals. Giddens (1984) proposes that an actor is an embodied unit that carries causal powers and as such may choose to interfere or not interfere in ongoing sequence of events in the world thus tying the agency approach to power. This then suggests that individuals make rational and independent decisions whether to take part in terrorism activities or not. These individuals have the ability to resist or agree to intervene in the terrorist threats across the globe (Bryant, 1992).This point from the agency approach is useful in the understanding of global terrorist threat because it addresses why some people engage in terrorism and why others do not. A person or an individual according to this agency approach can choose to act otherwise as opposed to engaging in terrorism. This essentially means we are able to understand why certain individual may choose not to join or assist the terrorist groups and why others will choose to assist and or join terrorist groups to perform acts of terror across the world (Thiel, 2009).
This is because the agency approach proposes that individual makes rational decisions to execute their actions and plans.The idea that people choose to engage in terrorism and not to can also be useful in policing terrorism because it may depict the kind of punishments to be afforded to those individuals who intentionally indulge in global terrorist threat and those who are coerced into participation (Smith, 2011). For example, those individuals who choose out of their own free will to commit acts of terror such as lone wolfs terrorists can be given harsher and strict punishments as opposed to those who are forced to partake in the terrorism. This is vital because other individuals choose to commit terrorism at their own expense while others are coerced into it. They do not voluntarily agree to engage in such activities hence there is a need to ensure stricter sanctions to those who force others to participate in order to do away with the root cause of terrorism (Smith, 2011). Additionally this point may also be useful in policing terrorism as policing agencies can also look at the root causes i.e.
unemployment issues, frustration issues, religious issues, etc that make individuals susceptible to the influence of terrorist groups and find ways that can best address those problems to avoid those individuals from being influenced into terrorism (LaFree, 2012). By addressing these root problems of individuals, the terrorist groups will not have many recruiters to enlist into their groups hence this will help reduce terrorist threat magnitude.Additionally the agency approach entails that an individual should be seen as a voluntarist to human action. Thus, by looking at an individual, what they reflect and what they tell us we can be able to analyze them (Emirbayer, 1998). Individuals as such are able to account for their actions and be aware of the reasons for their actions and the implications that their actions create. This notion of the structure agency debate is useful in understanding lone-wolf terrorists. Lone-wolf terrorists are those individual terrorists who commit acts of terror on their own.
According to Thiel (2009) lone-wolf terrorists tend to feel isolated from the rest of the society and are the most deadly group of terrorist. They usually carry terrorist activities against governments and as such government structures are usually targeted since they enacted policies or initiatives that caused the lone wolf terrorists to feel marginalised and not feel as belonging to the society (Burleigh, 2008). These terrorists are aware of their violent activities and the implications of these actions but because they feel inferior they feel they must do something about their marginalization to effect change.Moreover, terrorists tend to account for their actions by stating that the violence employed during terrorism or terrorist threat activities is essential for the achievement of social change. Terrorists as such like to use moral claims to legitimise their violent activities and attract support for their foundation from various members and institutions (Burleigh, 2008). For example, terrorists like to use the idea that the violence they use for their terror activities is vital to effect change to that which they are attesting to.This information can be used in policing global terrorist threat as the law enforcement agencies will know why these terrorist groups use force and the extent of the force used that is necessary to effect change.
This information about individuals accounting for their actions will help to come with the policing strategies that can best address those moral claims more especially by state-counter terrorism and the policing agencies employed to police terrorist groups (Richardson, 2006). For example, the United Kingdom have implemented the use of targeting hardening activities such as stop and searches and screening practices to individuals suspected to be terrorists or in possession of materials that may be used in terrorist activities such as ammunition, etc. Additionally, Sageman (2004) the surveillance and intelligence mining operations have also been utilized to monitor, capture and subvert potential terrorists hence fighting against global terrorist threats.The structuralist approach of the structure agency debate tends to focus on social structures in place that influences individuals’ behavior. This approach recognizes that there are explicit conditions that are prevalent in the society which produces and encourages human actions and behavior (Radcliffe-Brown, 1940). This approach shifts the ultimate reality from the human actor and instead focuses on the situated human actor. Thus, individuals in this approach are not believed to be acting on their own free will but instead as a result of the inequalities that restrict their agency and the constraints and structures in which they exist (Lopez, 2000).
Structure present the social world as a world with norms, rules and beliefs pertaining to age ,gender, class and one’s cultural identity and as such the inequalities that exist in this social structure restrict individuals’ action in terms of nationality, geographical location and class. Thus, according to Barnes (2001) individual behaviour in this approach is explained as a product of structural factors.This is useful in the understanding of global terrorist threat since in such a way that through this approach we explain the action of terrorism through the structure or the context in which it takes place. Thus terrorism should be understood as violent activities that are carried out to demand an action or a response from the government regarding a certain issue that the terrorist groups are aiming to achieve (Rosenfeld, 2004). Consequently terrorism in this essence takes place in this context to demand an effect or a change from the governments and as such governments after terrorist attacks should be seen doing something to address the motive for the terrorist threat or attack. Terrorist attacks and terrorist threats should as such provoke fear among those subjected to it and provoke action as a result (Sageman, 2004).Terrorist groups are unique organizations with unique motives advocating for different change.
Terrorists as such are divided into different typologies based on their motivation. Some terrorists group are rationally motivated in that they consider their goals and possible consequences of their actions (Rosenfeld, 2004). Some are psychologically motivated and as such they feel inadequate hence seek revenge. Some are culturally motivated in such a way that they fear damage to their way of life. They are mostly often associated with religion. Thus terrorism takes place in this case because individuals or the terrorists feel restricted by the structures in place. The terrorist threats according to Richardson (2006) as such are directed to governments and or structures or segments that came up with the objectives that go against the terrorist population and or the population at large (that which they effecting change for).
The actions of terror therefore respond to the structures of dissatisfaction in which individuals have been situated.This is useful in policing global terrorist threats as it explains why individuals first and foremost engage in terrorist. By understanding why terrorism occurs, what causes it, what perpetuates it, law enforcement agencies are able to come up with better strategies and purposeful strategies that can help address the problem at hand (LaFree, 2012). For example, the United Kingdom instead of using counter-terrorist policing techniques such as target hardening, surveillance, and intelligence-mining operations to police terrorist threats should also look at the structuralist approach of structure agency debate and what it says. They should not focus too much on policing terrorist groups and their behaviours but should also look at how the structures in place in the social structure influences individual actions so as to better control global terrorist threat (Hay, 1995).Countries should understand that people engage in terrorist attacks to respond to the structures in place that are constricting their goals; making them feel like they are not part of the society and those that threaten their way of life and as such the policing strategies in place should not only be directed to the individual terrorist groups’ behavior and actions but also be focused on the structures that exists in the society that produce and perpetuates terrorism and terror related activities. This however does not essentially mean individuals do not act without reasons but the reasons are taken in response to structures individuals have been situated in (Aston, 2012).
As a result the structure agency debate proposes that the policing initiatives directed at policing global terrorist threat should be focused on tackling the social structures in place that create dissatisfaction among individuals leading to terrorism. Policy frameworks and government initiatives that are implemented in various social structures in the society should not negatively impact anyone or go against other people’s goals, way of life and make others feel like they are not part of the society so as to help reduce the use of force by “aggrieved” individuals in the society to instil and effect change towards those ideologies.Wrapping up, structure agency debate is useful in the understanding and policing of global terrorist threat as it allows us to acknowledge the influence of structures and agents in the global terrorist world. It is an important way of considering and analysing issues as they relate to global terrorism. The governments, civilians or any segment of the society that proposes ideas that impacts other groups negatively in the society are actors who make key decisions that lead to the violent activities that terrorists carry out. The structure agency debate is in so far useful in understanding and policing terrorism as it provides a framework within which to explain social change, thus in the case the existence of terrorism, why it occurs and how to address it. It suggests that individuals through agency can act as they please and also that social structures in place can shape and govern individuals’ behaviours hence influencing them to act in a certain way.
And as such, the structure agency debate is useful in understanding and policing global terrorist threat as it explains why individuals act the way they do i.e. engage in terrorist activities and how the structures influence them. Furthermore, this helps in policing terrorism as governments know who they should hold responsible in various situations and who to police; whether terrorists or institutions/social structures influence individuals’ behaviours and actions to carry out terrorist threats depending on the causal factors of terrorism.