A Most Brutal and Implacable Superego: Understanding the Pseudo-political Violence of the Islamic State

  • Barry Richards
Part of the Studies in the Psychosocial book series (STIP)


This chapter examines an example of violent Islamist ideology, that propagated by Daesh. Text from Dabiq, the magazine published online by Daesh for two years, is analysed to identify the states of mind embedded in its ideology. The state of mind presented in the texts is seen to be one of terror in the face of a tyrannical superego. At some points the intensity of the demand for violence is such as to almost destroy any pretence of a moral agenda. Another text of violent takfiri Islamism, the monograph The Management of Savagery, illustrates an effort to re-moralise the project even at the extreme of cruelty and torture. The political benefits of this kind of psychological analysis of an extremist ideology are outlined.


  1. Ahram, A. (2015). Sexual violence and the making of ISIS. Survival, 57(3), 57–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alford, C. F. (1997). What evil means to us. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bartoszewicz, M. (2013). Controversies of conversions: the potential terrorist threat of European converts to Islam. Perspectives on Terrorism, 7(3), 17–29.Google Scholar
  4. Berger, J. (2015). The metronome of apocalyptic time: social media as carrier wave for millenarian contagion. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9(4), 61–71.Google Scholar
  5. Eatwell, R. (2006). Community cohesion and cumulative extremism in contemporary Britain. The Political Quarterly, 77(2), 204–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Farwell, J. (2014, October 2). How ISIS uses social media. Politics and Strategy: The Survival Editors’ Blog. Accessed September 1, 2017.
  7. Ferenczi, S. (1949). Confusion of the tongues between the adults and the child. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 30(40), 225–230.Google Scholar
  8. Ingram, H. (2016). An analysis of Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine. Australian Journal of Political Science, 51(3), 458–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lifton, R. (2000). Destroying the world to save it: Aum Shinrikyo, apocalyptic violence, and the new global terrorism. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  10. Mullins, S. (2015). Re-examining the involvement of converts in Islamist terrorism: a comparison of the U.S. and U.K. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9(6), 72–84.Google Scholar
  11. Naji, A. B. (n.d.). The Management of Savagery (W. McCants, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.Google Scholar
  12. Richards, B. (2016). The voices of extremist violence: what can we hear? In H. Savigny, E. Thorsen, D. Jackson, & J. Alexander (Eds.), Media, margins and civic agency (pp. 62–74). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Richards, B. (in press-a). Terror in the mind of the terrorist. In J. Adlam, T. Kluttig, & B. Lee (Eds.), Structural violence and creative structures. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  14. Richards, B. (in press-b). Collective identities, Breivik and the national container. In R. D. Hinshelwood & N. Mintchev (Eds.), The feeling of certainty. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  15. Sharabi, H. (1988). Neopatriarchy: A theory of distorted change in Arab society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Stern, J., & Berger, J. (2015). ISIS: The state of terror. London: William Collins.Google Scholar
  17. Theweleit, K. (1987). Male fantasies. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  18. van San, M. (2015). Lost souls searching for answers? Belgian and Dutch converts joining the Islamic State. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9(5), 47–72.Google Scholar
  19. Wieland, C. (2015). The fascist state of mind and the manufacturing of masculinity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Wignell, P., Tan, S., O’Halloran, K. L., & Lange, R. (2017). A mixed methods empirical examination of changes in emphasis and style in the extremist magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah. Perspectives on Terrorism, 11(2), 2–20.Google Scholar
  21. Yayla, A., & Speckhard, A. (2017). Telegram: The mighty application that ISIS loves. Fairfax, VA: International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bournemouth UniversityPooleUK

Personalised recommendations