The Political Economy of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism

What do we know about the roots and motivations of ISIS, the KKK, al-Qaeda, or the Lord’s Resistance Army beyond speculation, snippets of incomplete information, and stereotypical assessments? This course considers modern-day terrorism from a theoretical and especially from an empirical perspective. First, we study whether, when, and why terrorism has been successful to varying degrees. Second, we turn to the intimate relationship between terrorism and the media; exploring whether and how news coverage is likely so crucial for terror groups; and what this means for a free press. Third, we consider the role of religion in terror movements and radicalization (e.g., for Islamist extremism). Fourth and final, we evaluate counterterrorism strategies, exploring a few successful and unsuccessful cases for which empirical evidence is available.

Course syllabus:

  1. What sets terrorism apart from more traditional types of warfare

  2. How the public, commentators, and researchers assess and interpret terrorism

  3. What constitutes ‘success’ for a particular group, understanding the consequences of terrorism

  4. The extraordinary role of media attention for terror groups

  5. The role of religious and cultural perspectives in terrorism

  6. The theoretical background and empirical success of counter-terrorism strategies