Adopting a White-Collar Crime Theoretical Framework for the Analysis of Terrorism: An Explorational Undertaking

Date01 August 2017
Published date01 August 2017
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2017, Vol. 33(3) 254 –272
© The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986217699314
Adopting a White-Collar
Crime Theoretical
Framework for the Analysis
of Terrorism: An
Explorational Undertaking
David Shichor1
This article is an exploratory attempt to apply a certain theoretical framework to the
criminological analysis of terrorism. It follows an approach that was applied before
to the study of white-collar crime in the wake of the recent economic meltdown.
In a special issue of Criminology & Public Policy, five causal variables emerged from
essays that were dealing with the subprime mortgage crisis. These causal variables
were used to analyze certain aspects of radical Islamist terrorism and to explore
some possible ways to reduce involvement in the current wave of terrorist activities.
The analysis indicates that policies targeting two out the three causal variables for
reducing white-collar crime—the supply of lure and the increase in the credibility of
external oversight—were seen as having potentials for reducing terrorism as well.
However, the potential for promising terrorism reduction policies aiming at the third
causal variable—increasing the effectiveness of internal oversight and self-restraint—
seems problematic.
radical terrorism, lure, credibility of oversight
In the last few decades, a growing volume of books and articles were published on the
various aspects of terrorism and counterterrorism. Most academic publications on this
1California State University, San Bernardino, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
David Shichor, California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, CA, USA.
699314CCJXXX10.1177/1043986217699314Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeShichor
Shichor 255
subject were authored by political scientists, psychologists, and economists, while
criminologists were hardly involved in the study of this subject (Freilich & LaFree,
2015). However, in the 2002 November/December issue of the Criminologist, Richard
Rosenfeld made a strong case for the criminological study of terrorism. He stated that
terrorism is basically a form of “predatory violence” and as such it is in the domain of
criminology. Rosenfeld (2002) maintained that “from a scientific standpoint, the dif-
ference between terrorism and common violence is the difference between holy water
and water” (p. 4). Since the early 2000s, criminological research on various aspects of
terrorism has greatly increased. This increase was buttressed by the availability of
several funding sources, including the Science and Technology Directorate of
Homeland Security, and the establishment of the National Consortium for the Study of
Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) in 2005 (Rausch & LaFree, 2007).
In an attempt to widen the scope of the criminological study of terrorism, this arti-
cle explores the feasibility of using a theoretical framework that was applied in the
analysis of white-collar crime to the study of radical Islamist terrorism.
There are numerous definitions of terrorism (see, for example, Forst, Green, & Lynch,
2011; Hoffman, 2006). One was offered recently by the editors of a volume dedicated
to criminological essays addressing what they call “the most serious problem con-
fronting America today and the years to come—terrorism” (Forst et al., 2011, p. xix).
The authors defined terrorism as “ the use of force against innocent people, usually
with a political or religious motive, and typically aimed at producing widespread
fear—is fundamentally an extreme form of aggression” (p. 2).
Several studies claimed that there is a change in the patterns of terrorism from “old
terrorism” to “new terrorism” (see Laqueur, 1999; Lesser, Arquilla, Hoffman, Ronfeldt,
& Zanini, 1999; Neumann, 2009). On the contrary, there are some who challenge this
perspective by not recognizing major changes between the traditional and the recent
patterns of terrorism (see Crenshaw, 2007; Duyvesteyn, 2004; Mockaitis, 2008).
Neumann (2009), who does see fundamental differences between the “new” and “old”
terrorism, maintains that changes took place in three main areas: in structure, in aim,
and in method. According to his analysis, the old form’s structure was “hierarchical,
geared toward one centre of gravity,” while the new form is “networked, transnational
reach and orientation.” The aims of the old form were “nationalist and/or Marxist,”
while the aims of the new form are “religiously inspired.” Finally, the old form’s
method was directed at “legitimate targets” and kept certain “rules of engagement,” on
the contrary, the new form’s method is “mass causality attacks against civilians; exces-
sive violence” (Neumann, 2009, p. 29).
According to Neumann, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) represented the “old
form of terrorism.” In its structure, the Army Council was the decision-making body,
the aim was the liberation of Northern Ireland, and its attacks were mainly against
local British military targets although there were some attacks in England and a few
were in western Europe against British targets. Through the years, the aims and

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