Anti-terrorism politics and the risk of provoking

Journal of Theoretical Politics 3 (26):405-41 (2014)
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Tough anti-terrorism policies are often defended by focusing on a fixed minority of the population who prefer violent outcomes, and arguing that toughness reduces the risk of terrorism from this group. This reasoning implicitly assumes that tough policies do not increase the group of 'potential terrorists', i.e., of people with violent preferences. Preferences and their level of violence are treated as stable, exogenously fixed features. To avoid this unrealis- tic assumption, I formulate a model in which policies can 'brutalise' or 'appease' someone's personality, i.e., his preferences. This follows the endogenous prefer- ences approach, popular elsewhere in political science and economics. I formally decompose the effect of toughness into a (desirable) deterrence effect and an (un- desirable) provocation effect. Whether toughness is overall effi cient depends on which effect overweighs. I show that neglecting provocation typically leads to toughness exaggeration. This suggests that some tough anti-terrorism policies observable in the present and past can be explained by a neglect of provocation.

Author's Profile

Franz Dietrich
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


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