Sunday, April 3, 2016

Diego Gambetta & Steffen Hertog's "Engineers of Jihad"

Diego Gambetta is professor of social theory at the European University Institute, Florence, and official fellow of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. His books include The Sicilian Mafia and Codes of the Underworld. Steffen Hertog is associate professor of comparative politics at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The cultural context and philosophies that inspire the ideological tenets of radical Islamism and right-wing extremism differ. Although it is remarkable that they should generate so many similarities of sentiment and belief, it is hardly surprising that they also produce differences. These would include, of course, religiosity, as not all right-wing movements are religious, and some are in fact antireligious. This carries further differences downstream; for instance, among right-wingers the quest for purity does not necessarily imply a puritan sexual morality. Recall the propaganda pictures of naked Nazi frolicking in the woods to promote health and parade Aryan beauty. On the other hand, right-wingers conceive of purity in racial terms, while Islamists do not. Moreover, Islamists may accept social inequality, but they do so passively rather than promoting it in the name of some “Darwinian” philosophy. In a related area, order for Islamists is the result of social conformity to a religious law, while for right-wingers order is due either to a strong central power organizing the national community or to the spontaneous working of some “law of the jungle,” in some cases through unbridled market forces. Finally, while some right-wingers reject cultural modernity and invoke traditional values, others embody a muscular version of Western cultural imperialism. Islamists, by contrast, are more like the former and focus exclusively on defending their culture.

Yet, the overlap of weltanschauung between radical Islamism and right-wing extremism and the near complete lack of overlap with left-wing extreme ideology are striking. It suggests that if “engineers” are attracted to extremism other than that of the Islamist kind, it would be to right-wing extremism and not left-wing.
The point of this specific chapter is that right wing and Islamist ideological categories overlap and that much of radical Islamism really is right-wing ideology in religious garb. This is significant because, building on more than 4000 biographies, other chapters in the book show that members of radical right-wing groups have a similar educational profile as Islamist radicals, notably an over-representation of engineers. Members of the radical left, by contrast, include almost no engineers and instead numerous humanities and social science graduates.

These biases apply across very different country contexts. This means that something fundamental must be going on at the individual level to drive different graduates into different types of groups.

Existing political psychology research links three personality traits to right-wing attitudes: proneness to disgust, a desire to draw rigid insider-outsider boundaries, and need for cognitive closure. Using international survey data, we show that these traits are on average stronger among engineers, and weaker among humanities and social sciences graduates. They are also weaker among women, who have a strong presence on the radical left and are largely absent from radical right and Islamism. We explain how both right-wing ideologies and Islamism cater to the three traits, and how these ideologies closely resemble each other. They both aim to purify society, restore a lost social order and hierarchy, and defend a rigidly defined “in-group” against outside challengers.

The book in its first half also tells a story of how economic frustration has led educated elites in the Muslim world into Islamist violence. Such frustration explains some of the over-representation of both engineers and doctors among Islamist extremists there, as they come from the two most elite faculties in the Islamic world. The broader distribution of degrees across the rest of the world’s radical groups however has more to do with the psychological and ideological factors we outline in the book’s second half.
Learn more about Engineers of Jihad at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue