Article on Ideological Hybridization

Posted: 18th November 2009 by Thomas Hegghammer in Ideological trends, Motivations, Strategy

I feel bad posting so many secondary sources and even worse plugging my own stuff, but I hope you will agree that this article is quite relevant to the issues Jihadica was set up to cover.

  1. Amm Sam says:

    Excellent article Thomas. Two things:

    Would you say the seeds had already been planted for this sort of confusion and hybridization in the jihadist movement, with people like Zawahiri and UBL adopting a ‘far enemy’ perspective, while al-Maqdisi has always been of the ‘near-enemy’ persuasion? In other words, was it inevitable?

    Also, I think ‘rationale for Islamist violence’ is a poor substitution for ‘ideology’, as there are many non-ideological rationales. Conversely ‘a set of principles that guides political behavior’ is perhaps too narrow of a definition.

    Aside from this admittedly minor point, I very much enjoyed it. It is an important paper that raises a major issue and sets the stage for further research. Plus, it is an interesting compliment to your contribution to Roel Meijer’s new book, Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, which I will be reviewing over at ICSR’s FREEradicals.

    Also, nothing wrong with using your blog to plug your own stuff.

  2. Thanks very much for your comments. I don’t think hybridization was inevitable. One could well imagine groups with different ideal type ideologies continuing to exist side by side, as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s. One might even have expected the ideological differences to become more pronounced over time as groups competed for recruits.

    Your points about the definition of ideology are well taken. I struggled to find the right operational term. I didn’t want to take ideology for granted, because it can mean so many different things. I also wanted to convey that I am talking about something much more specific than general “orientations” such as marxism, islamism, salafism etc. Perhaps “ideational rationale for violence” is more precise.

    I look forward to the book review.

  3. Brian Fishman says:

    Thomas-

    Definitely a good piece. In my mind, the primary issue here is the presence of foreign troops in the Islamic world, especially in Iraq. The ’03-’05 period was critical for this hybridization evolution, and its no surprise that the period was dominated by propaganda from Iraq, where distinguishing between U.S. troops and Iraqi government troops made little operational sense for Tawhid w’al Jihad and then AQI.

    Now you see a similar dynamic in Pakistan, where AQ propaganda portrays the Pak Army as an arm of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, rather than just the functionaries of an ‘apostate’ government allied with the West. The argument used to be that the far enemy was propping up the near enemy, but now the near enemy is facilitating the direct action of the far enemy in the Islamic world. In such an environment, why distinguish between the two? At least, that’s how I see the logic evolving.

    The bottom line for me is lack of doctrinal discipline on the part of these jihadis/jihadi-salafis/AQ’ers. In an environment with a very quick operational pace, commanders must make decisions relevant to their specific environment, and from that perspective near and far enemy mean much less.

    All that said, this definitely represents weakness on the part of the AQ organization, which can’t rely on its own ability to generate violence any more, so it works with groups with very different doctrinal outlooks. But it may represent strength for the movement as a whole because it lowers the barriers to entry.

    Great stuff, Thomas. Keep it up.

  4. Amm Sam says:

    Thanks for your answer. An article I have found useful:

    John Gerring, “Ideology: A Definitional Analysis” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 957-994

  5. David Hughes says:

    I found this article very useful, not only for its “global” relevance, but for my own “revolutionary” struggles with research. I think AQIM and AQY are definitive examples of the hybridization that you outline. Enemy hierarchies is a useful, and quite tangible, way of framing these groups. I’m particularly interested in how certain elements of ideology or doctrine become enmeshed, tailored, and re-voiced within these groups, such that the ideas and fundamental doctrinal elements somehow become hybridized as well. Great work.

  6. Thanks to you all. I agree with everything you said, Brian. Uncle, I checked out the Gerring article and it is very useful indeed.

  7. Voldedork says:

    I second the Gerring article. There’s also a useful explanation of how he derived the definition in his _Social Science Methodology_.

    Terrific article.