Marc Sageman's Scholarship Malfunction

Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy Portal Page


Critical praise for Sageman’s Leaderless Jihad as groundbreaking and innovative seems to be inversely proportional to the reviewer’s knowledge of social movement theories developed over the past thirty years.

In two cases, perceptive text in Sageman's book Leaderless Jihad originates in the published work of other scholars, yet is not cited. This is a form of academic plagiarism.

Sageman disputes this claim. The Public Eye magazine asked the University of Pennsylvania Press and Marc Sageman to respond to the issue of text lifted from Richard Hofstadter and Simson L. Garfinkel. This is the response from Sageman we received by press time:

===I did read Garfinkel's online article. It was good, but had some flaws. One of them was the quote he referred to. Garfinkle refers to an idea. Ideas do not have any power by themselves. Ideas did not fly into the twin towers, people did. I refer to behavior, and use the Skinnerian idea that reinforced behavior is likely to flourish, while lack of reward will extinguish it. To continue a behavior forever, one needs a random reinforcement schedule. If this is plagiarism, so is Garfinkle's claim. This is one of the basic ideas of behaviorism, and people are free to use them at will. Each time we see the sun move in the sky, we do not refer to either Ptolemy or Copernicus.

--Marc Sageman

According to Inside Higher Education:

===Eric Halpern, director of the Penn Press, said that “we take allegations of this sort seriously” and that officials at the press had consulted with Sageman. Halpern characterized Barlet’s article as “hyperbolic,” but he acknowledged that the attribution would have been appropriate. What these passages really reflect, Halpern said, is “the case of an author, working at deadline, failing to cite two works from which he paraphrased two sentence fragments.”

===Sageman did not respond to e-mail requests for a comment.

===Halpern said that future editions of the book would have “citations to the original works from which the paraphrased material was drawn.”

--Scott Jaschik, "Missing Attribution in Controversial Book,"
Inside Higher Education, July 28, 2008,


See also: NYPD Confidential, Leanard Levitt, column, July 28, 2008.

Comparison of text:

Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009):

“A global conspiracy theory is different. It is comprehensive in nature and points to the existence of a vast, insidious, and effective international network designed to perpetrate acts of the most evil sort.” (p. 81 - no cite).


Richard Hofstadter, ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’, in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965):

“the central preconception [of the paranoid style is a belief in the] existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character. (p. 14). {See cite online}

Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009):

The leaderless social movement has other limitations. To survive, it requires a constant stream of new violent actions to hold the interest of potential newcomers to the movement, create the impression of visible progress toward a goal, and give potential recruits a vicarious experience before they take the initiative to engage in their own terrorist activities." (p. 145 - no cite).


Simson L. Garfinkel, "Leaderless Resistance Today", First Monday, online journal, 2003:

"Causes that employ Leaderless Resistance do not have these links because they are not organizations: They are ideologies. To survive, these ideologies require a constant stream of new violent actions to hold the interest of the adherents, create the impression of visible progress towards a goal, and allow individuals to take part in actions vicariously before they have the initiative to engage in their own direct actions."


Marc Sageman Background Information

Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy:
The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

The Public Eye Magazine. Coming in the next issue.


" material fortune is associated with the properties of the body, so honour belongs to those of the soul" [Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy), Tetrabiblo, Book IV, sec. 1, "Introduction," second century C.E.]

"For I am not so enamored of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them." [Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, {De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium}, Preface, 1543 C.E., fascimile]

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