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LEADERLESS RESISTANCE, RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM, AND ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE

  • Author / Creator
    Joosse, James Paul
  • This dissertation interrogates the concept of ‘leaderless resistance.’ Traditionally defined as a strategy that allows for and encourages individuals or small cells to carry out acts of violence or sabotage entirely independent of any hierarchy of leadership or network of support, leaderless resistance is most often implemented by weaker actors who are engaged in asymmetrical struggle. The central task here is to problematize the contention found in the counterterrorism literature that leaderless resistance functions primarily to provide clandestine groups immunity to detection, infiltration, and prosecution by state agencies. I argue over the course of a series of papers that leaderless resistance is both more than this and sometimes not this. Two groups inform this research: a) the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which is responsible for a series of arson attacks against ski resorts, genetic research labs, SUV dealerships, and forestry headquarters, and b) the EnCana Bomber(s), who are responsible for a series of six bombings and three threat letters aimed at EnCana corporation, the largest producer of natural gas in North America. I articulate my arguments over the course of four chapters (chapters 2-5). In chapter two I argue that there are benefits additional to clandestinity that the ELF enjoys. By using leaderless resistance, the ELF eliminates all ideology extraneous to the specific cause of halting the degradation of nature. This elimination enables the ELF to mobilize a greater number of ‘direct actions.’ Chapter three tests a link in the communicative cycle through which leaderless resistance purports to operate, namely the interaction between above-ground spokespersons and the potential saboteurs that they hope to inspire. I find that these spokespersons’ peculiar role in contexts of leaderless resistance hampers their ability to spread their ideological message, and exacerbates the more general problems that counter-hegemonic groups experience in their interactions with mainstream media. Chapter four finds that leaderless resistance is itself at least partly a rhetorical construct, a meaning-conferring ‘ideology of effervescence’ that lifts the spirits of both movement progenitors who advocate the strategy as well as incipient lone wolves who consider responding to their exhortations. This chapter also articulates leaderless resistance as a forum for the expression of charismatic leadership. Chapter five incorporates leaderless resistance as one element in a larger discussion of ethical considerations as they come to bear on both the antiglobalization and radical environmental movement. Overall, these chapters combine to produce a more robust and multi-faceted vision of leaderless resistance than is currently on offer by terrorism scholarship.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2014-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3M03Z43D
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Kent, Stephen (Sociology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Krahn, Harvey (Sociology)
    • Bayatrizi, Zohreh (Sociology)
    • Baerveldt, Cor (Psychology)
    • Sandberg, Sveinung (Criminology and Sociology of Law)