Review of International Studies

Research Article

The Protestant ethic and the spirit of jihadism – transnational religious insurgencies and the transformation of international orders



In the absence of comparisons with prior episodes of transformative change in the history of the state system, contemporary debates on the long-term significance of the 9/11 terror attacks and the ensuing war on terror are in danger of polarising around opposing caricatures of epochal change and obstinate durability. The tendency to organise transnationally, mobilise along religious lines, and employ terroristic violence for the purposes of achieving far-reaching religious and political transformation of target societies is not unique to Al-Qaeda, but can be seen also in the activities of the militant confessional networks that flourished in Reformation Europe. By comparing the global struggle against jihadist terrorism with early modern European rulers' struggles against transnational confessional militants, I demonstrate that existing accounts of jihadist terrorism's transformative potential have been seriously mis-specified and require substantial revision.

Andrew Phillips is a Fellow in the Department of International Relations at the Australian National University. He received his PhD from Cornell University, and was previously a lecturer in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. He is the author of War, Religion and Empire: The Transformation of International Orders (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). He can be contacted at { }.