WAVES OF MODERN TERRORISM: EXAMINING THE PAST AND PREDICTING THE FUTURE
David C. Rapoport’s “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism,” is one of the most influential and widely debated theories in the field of terrorism studies. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Rapoport created his theoretical framework for modern terrorism by grouping previously indistinguishable patterns of political violence into four distinct waves, each lasting a generation and inspired by ideologies derived from anarchism, anti-colonialism, socialism, and religious fundamentalism. Since 1979 the world has existed within the fourth “Religious” wave that will dissipate by 2025 if the generational life cycle remains constant.Rapoport’s model will serve as the foundational source for this thesis. It will discuss the importance of the wave model and how it can be useful in counterterrorism efforts. Rapoport argues that academics and governments unduly focus on specific organizations and contemporary events, which make us less sensitive to generational patterns. Individual terrorist organizations will have specific defining features but understanding overarching global and generational patterns in real time can help shape thinking on the most effective ways to combat terrorism. This thesis will address ethical challenges stemming from the efforts made by governments trying to find an appropriate balance between preventing terrorism and protecting privacy and free speech.Some terrorism studies experts and political theorists suggest the unusual strength of the Religious wave will allow it to survive longer than its predecessors. This thesis will analyze Rapoport’s four waves, examine whether the current Religious wave will extend beyond 2025, and address current tensions in society including technological, political, economic, and ideological factors that will either extend the life of the Religious wave or encourage a new fifth wave to emerge. It will also analyze three existing fifth wave theories and propose an alternative suggestion. In conclusion, this thesis will answer the question of whether the Religious wave will continue indefinitely or if a new fifth wave will emerge.
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