Rescuing Rationality from the Rationalists

For a Neo-Weberian Understanding of Rationality in Critical Terrorism Studies

  • Bernardino Leon-Reyes University College London
Keywords: Critical Terrorism Studies, Ideal-type, International Relations Theory, International Sociology, ISIS, Max Weber, Methodology, Rationality, Social Action


A decade after its emergence, Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS) has remained unable to engage with one of the most prominent discourses that, on the one hand, justifies the dehumanisation of those accused of terrorism and, on the other, disciplines critical scholarship: the presentation of the terrorist as an irrational subject. Recognising the tensions that emerge from CTS’s critical understanding of “the world” and its simultaneous aim of making knowledge claims, this paper draws on the work of Max Weber in order to create a reflexive methodology able to analyse the rationality of terrorism. After showing the incompatibility between recent understandings of rationality in ‘mainstream’ terrorism studies with CTS, and the limits of ‘postmodern’ stances, this article proposes a neo-Weberian ‘via media’ capable of offering an analysis of the rationalities of terrorism, while remaining sensitive to the limitations of social theory.

Author Biography

Bernardino Leon-Reyes, University College London

Bernardino Leon-Reyes, 22, from Málaga (Spain), is currently a ‘La Caixa Scholar’ and a Master’s student in Anthropology of ‘Politics, Violence and Crime’, at University College London’s Department of Anthropology. Prior to this, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Philosophy at the Université Paris Sorbonne (Paris-IV), and his Master’s degree in ‘International Relations Theory’ at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he wrote his dissertation on the power-knowledge nexus of (neo)liberal Conflict Studies. He has worked as a member of Millennium – Journal of International Studies’ Editorial Board (Vol. 47 No. 1), and he currently serves as Commissioning Editor at E-IR. His interests include International Political Sociology, Critical Terrorism Studies, the anthropology of revolutions, and post-structural IR Theory.

How to Cite
Leon-Reyes, B. (2019). Rescuing Rationality from the Rationalists: For a Neo-Weberian Understanding of Rationality in Critical Terrorism Studies. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 41, 43-57.