Research on political violence occurs in waves, generally corresponding to the successive swells of violence that in many ways define modern society. Critically, this violence is characterized as much by diversity as by uniformity. As each new spate in research on political violence has shown us, rarely can we generalize about either the aims or the repertoires of action of the purveyors of violence. Some similar mechanisms are in play, however, as violence develops from political conflicts between states and their opponents.
This suggestion comes from social movement studies, whose influence is increasing in the analysis of political violence. These studies developed especially from a critique of ‘terrorism studies,’ which emerged within security studies as a branch of international relations and have traditionally been more oriented toward developing antiterrorist policies than toward a social scientific understanding of political violence.