Considering their conceptualizations of the society and its structure and functioning, three of the chief sociological perspectives would have different views on the terrorism war. Symbolic interactionism holds that people’s actions and behaviors towards objects derive influence from personal meanings for them, which they develop out of experiences and interactions in the society and their emotional and psychological interpretations (Cragun & Cragun, 2006). Symbolic interactionism would view the war on terror as the result of perceptions of radical Islam as a grave threat to the society. Based on nationalist and patriotic feelings, Western societies have marshaled public opinion in support for the war to defeat a perceived enemy, aiming to preserve democracy and freedom.
Social Conflict theory considers conflict among social groups as the basis of interactions in the society with emphasis on attaining material and non-material resources. In such contexts, powerful social groups, especially the wealthy, utilize their capacities to preserve their power and exploit less powerful social groups, particularly the poor. The theory considers conflict as a driver of change because it spurs contradictions that lead to resolutions, which in turn form new conflicts in a continuous change cycle (Cragun & Cragun, 2006). This perspective would view the war on terror as a ploy to advance the interests of military and industrial classes and societies, exploiting the resources of “terrorist” Islamist societies and avoiding the underlying issues that cause terrorism.
On the other hand, Structural functionalism considers the society as a complex system whose elements or parts collaborate to foster stability and oneness. This sociological perspective conceptualizes society from a macro viewpoint and in the context of the functions of constituent elements, including norms, institutions, and customs, as contributors to the proper functioning of a stable and cohesive system (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). Functionalists would view the war on terror as a contributor to the society’s cohesiveness and stability by defining radicals as the threats and influencing the common identity of societies as victims. They would view the war as a means to safety and cohesiveness in the society.
Appelrouth, S., & Edles, L. (2008). Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory: Text and Readings. Newbury Park, US: Pine Forge Press
Cragun, R., & Cragun, D. (2006). Introduction to Sociology. New York: Blacksleet River