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Inside Terrorism Revised & enlarged Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231126991
ISBN-10: 0231126999
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The word "terrorism" first became popular during the French Revolution, when the régime de la terreur was initially viewed as a positive political system that used fear to remind citizens of the necessity of virtue. The use of violence to "educate" people about ideological issues has continued, but it has taken on decidedly negative connotations--and has become predominantly, though not exclusively, a tactic deployed by those who do not have the powers of state at their disposal.

Bruce Hoffman, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, has written a clear summary of some of the major historical trends in international terrorism. He makes careful distinctions between the motivations that drive political (or ethno-nationalist) terrorism and religious terrorism, and he also shows why the rise of religious terrorism, coupled with the increased availability of weapons of mass destruction, may foretell an era of even greater violence. In the past, Hoffman argues, the main goal of the terrorist was not to kill, but to attract media attention to his cause in the hope of initiating reform. "For the religious terrorist," however, "violence is first and foremost a sacramental act or divine duty executed in direct response to some theological demand or imperative ... religious terrorists see themselves not as components of a system worth preserving but as 'outsiders,' seeking fundamental changes in the existing order." Hoffman does not "choose sides" in this framework, pointing to the bombings of the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City and to the sarin nerve gas attacks in Tokyo in order to demonstrate that fundamentalists of any religious denomination are capable of extreme acts of terrorism. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


For its historical and political examination of terrorism, Inside Terrorism is a valuable work.... It falls into the category of 'must read' at least for anyone who wants to understand how we can respond to international acts of terror.

(Raymond Bonner New York Times Book Review)

A revised and expanded edition of the RAND scholar's classic work.

(Atlantic Monthly)

Hoffman's more rigorous appraisal, ought to be required reading as the rhetoric mounts this campaign season.

(Aziz Huq American Prospect)

A must read to all academics or practitioners who are dealing with the issue of terrorism.


Brilliant... The best one-volume introduction to the phenomenon.

(The Washington Post)

Any collection strong in terrorist literature and military history will find Hoffman's analysis of ongoing importance.


One of the best primers on the subject.


The most widely read book on terrorism… [Its] comprehensiveness will greatly benefit its readers.

(Joshua Sinai The Washington Times)

One of the Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International's 25 Top Books for Today's Bookshelf on Terrorism.

(Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International)

A classic introduction to the subject.

(Speakeasy, The Wall Street Journal)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Revised & enlarged edition (June 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231126999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231126991
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Bruce Hoffman, long one of RAND's key terrorism-wallahs and an affiliate of St Andrews University has written an excellent book on a controversial topic.
There was a fair amount of literature on terrorism prior to September 11th and, my, but there's even more now. A lot of it was a load of old rubbish prior to September 11th and even more of it is now. Hoffman's book is a work of substance which in itself puts it ahead of much of the pack.
"Inside Terrorism" covers a variety of areas. It opens with a discussion about the lengthy (and continuing) debate that surrounds the issue of defining terrorism - an issue which has stumped everyone from academics to the UN. What and who exactly IS a terrorist? Hoffman doesn't provide a clear cut, definitive answer but he does provide clear coverage of what is framing the argument, along with some of the possible answers which are being put forward. Whether you consider this level of debate to be self-indulgent and ivory tower or not (as I increasingly do, interesting thought it is) it is important to know that the debate does exist and what it's all about as it goes to the heart of some real-life anti-terrorism policy making, especially with regard to multilateral attempts to curb terror groups.
Hoffman moves on to cover Post-colonial ethnic or nationalist terror groups, international terrorism, Religion and terrorism, Terrorism, Media and public opinion, Terrorist methods and mindsets and the potential future of terrorism. All in all, it adds up to a fairly comprehensive introduction to the subject. Some of Hoffman's conclusions aren't to everybody's tastes, but terrorism is an inherently controversial and hotly debated issue, it's the nature of the beast.
Overall, this is an excellent overview and introduction to the subject of terrorism.
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Format: Hardcover
I found Inside Terrorism extremely readable, yet with the obvious authority of high quality research. Hoffman draws in the reader with skill I rarely see in nonfiction writing. This extremely complex issue so often in the forefront of today's world is dealt with in a unique yet straightforward manner. This is a 'must read' for anyone that travel, reads the newspaper or watches the evening news.
The initial chapter on 'defining terrorism' helped me start to extract from the media over-usage of this term, the relevant issues that differentiate 'terrorism' from other forms of violence. The evolutionary nature of the term is profiled showing the historic development of what is now seen exclusively in a pejorative sense. Understanding the background, historic development and indeed, the elements that makeup the essentials of terrorism, will allow the reader to evaluate the news from an informed, rather than agenda driven position.
Having provided an understanding of what the real issues are, the author moves the reader through the various types of terrorism, explaining them in adequate but not suffocating detail. Like an NFl highlight film, the reader is taken through a historical framework that keeps the readers interest while exploring the salient points. The examples read like the Sunday paper as the vivid reality jumps out at you. There is a feeling of 'insider information' without the talk show hype. This provides at last, a basis for real understanding of the frequent news stories that become such a blur of tedious detail.
This book went much futher than a historic recount of terrorism. While dates and incidents are included, they serve as interesting and helpful examples of the issue and don't become a tedious history text.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the wake of the 9/11 disaster a plethora of books has been published on the nature and structure of the terrorist threat. Some are quite good, but others are absolute nonsense. Interestingly, some of the best books on both terrorism and counter-terrorism predate 9/11 and were written before counter-terrorism became the cottage industry it is today.

This book by Bruce Hoffman in cooperation with the Rand Corporation was published in 1998 and remains one of the best books available on the nature of terrorism. Hoffman provides a useful and on the whole an accurate explanation of the differences between secular, religious, transnational, and state sponsored terrorism providing useful examples of each. He also provides a good deal of probably accurate information on terrorist motivations and operational procedures. Finally he was prescient enough to recognize that the phenomenon represented by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent an ideological movement rather than a structured organization. After four years of the so-called, `Global War on Terrorism' this fact is slowly sinking into U.S. Government circles. Hoffman only lightly touches on the related issue of the al Qaeda financial structures, but notes the relatively small amounts of money actually required for most terrorist operations.

As indicated Hoffman does not limit this book to Islamic religious terrorism but also delves into motivations and operations techniques of secular terrorism as well. Perhaps most importantly given the July 2006 Near-East crisis, he uses Hezbollah as an example of the dangerous nature of state sponsored terrorism. All in all a sound book that contains markedly better information on terrorism than many more recent books and reflects the fruits of sound scholarship.
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