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The Solution of the Fist 
Dostoevsky and the Roots of Modern Terrorism
by John P. Moran, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw Georgia

The first novel ever written about terrorism, Dostoevsky's The Demons, is also the most instructive, for in it he addresses better than any writer before or since the two persistent riddles of terrorism: why are terrorists so new to our civilization, and how is it that they can kill others so easily in the name of a political idea?

As a first-generation observer of terrorism, Dostoevsky came to the conclusion that this new political movement was the product of modern culture, politics, and psychology. He felt that modernity created a unique shame and humiliation that fueled terrorism.

The "demons" that he brings to life in this novel are not fire-breathing monsters, but gracious, subtle, cosmopolitan, rational, and scientific. They are also murderers, rapists, arsonists, and terrorists. For Dostoevsky, these "demons" were ultimately the product of cosmopolitan Paris, for it was there that individuals first deified reason and thus abandoned the ancient sources of morality the ancient Gods.

By replacing the ancient with the modern gods of atheism, science, and liberalism, modern societies have abandoned any sort of moral constraint that helped to keep violence and tyranny in check. This created the new, modern, nihilistic world of terrorism.

If modern shame and humiliation are truly at the heart of modern terrorism, twenty-first century readers can gain a clearer insight into terrorist motivations through understanding Dostoevsky's work.

The Solution of the Fist: Dostoevsky and the Roots of Modern Terrorism aims to aid in this process through an in-depth analysis of his work and a careful explanation of the context in which nineteenth-century readers would understand it.
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6 comments
 
Thanks so much for this - this is one of my favorite Dostoevsky novels!
 
It's astonishing how insightful and prescient Dostoevsky was.  Rene Girard's model of competition, conflict and violence comes right out of Dostoevsky's novels.

http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/2013/04/contagion.html

And this book also points out that Dostoevsky also had foreseen James Gilligan's model pegging shaming, blaming, and economical marginalization as salient causes of violence.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=James+Gilligan+Violence

Gilligan also has something to say about another of Dostoyevsky's themes: Crime and Punishment

Punishment and Violence: Is the Criminal Law Based on One Huge Mistake? by James Gilligan, Harvard University; published in the Journal of Social Research, Fall 2000.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40971409?uid=3739696&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101594367703
 
As does much of Bakhtin's wonderful approach to language and communication.
 
Excellent. Lately I've taken to inventing new religions. They're all satirical. Dostoyevsky's described "gods" are right in line with it.
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