We may better understand both the current debate about terrorism and recent acts of terrorism themselves if we consider them from a normative point of view. As March and Stoker explain (pp. 22-24), a normative model helps us to understand behavior and attitudes by understanding that people learn to categorize the world around them as a part of the normal process of socialization. We learn that some behaviors are acceptable and others not by the ways in which people around us react to them, and we learn to classify actions as good or bad in references to the “norms” or standards of society.
Using this model of terrorism as either normative behavior (for the terrorists) or non-normative behavior (for most people, regardless of nationality) allows us to understand it as both an action and a reaction – the initial act of an individual or a handful of individuals and the reaction of whole nations and their governments. In each case, individuals both act and respond according to the norms of the society in which they live – whether this is the larger society of a civilized world in which violence against those who are innocent is unacceptable or the norms of a terrorist clique in which violence perpetrated against the innocent has, in fact, become the acceptable norm.
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