Review of Violence and Militants by Kirkus Reviews

Debut author Cayli (Law/LUMSA Univ.) shines the light of rational investigation on the “complicated dynamics and bitter realities” that lead to violent acts by ideological zealots. He identifies two different kinds of violence at issue: “cultural violence,” which occurs when a group tries to desperately protect a cultural identity that it believes is “subject to injustice,” and “structural violence,” which occurs when a group feels marginalized and disenfranchised by institutional forces. The former involves “politico-religious” factors, Cayli says, meaning that the violence is inspired by a religious mission in a political environment, and the latter involves “socio-structural” factors—the perceived victimization by a legal and economic order.

The author draws deeply upon the past to clarify the present, exploring the militant uprisings against the Ottoman Empire between 1839 and 1876. Cayli compares these to the violence employed by four contemporary jihadist organizations: Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, and the Islamic State group. The author ultimately concludes that although the various groups rationalize violence in notably similar ways, the actual methods of violence vary, depending on context. Over the course of this book, Cayli’s analysis is careful and rigorous, and his command of secondary literature is impressive, resulting in a broadly multidisciplinary study. Also, his intellectual ambitions go beyond academic analysis and reach for something philosophically grander—namely, to “shed light on the universal codes underlying human behavior” that can lead, in desperation, to bloodshed. However, despite the historical subtlety of the work, the author’s excursions in to philosophy can be vague and banal at times: “Value-creation commences within our thoughts, and the existence of thoughts depends on how we value these thoughts.”