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Revolutionary Dreams and Terrorist Violence in the Developed World: Explaining Cross-Country Variation

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DOI:  10.1177/0022343309336707
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


This article presents a cross-country comparison of the intensity of revolutionary terrorism in the developed world after the wave of mobilization in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some countries were hit much more severely than others by this type of violence. The article tries to account for this variation with a new dataset of fatalities in 23 countries, for the period 1970-2000, based on local sources in six different languages. This dataset corrects in part the problems of underreporting that Jan Oskar Engene's TWEED dataset suffers from. The dependent variable is a novel index of the intensity of terrorism that combines the number of fatalities and the number of years in which the terrorist organization has killed people. The unit of analysis is the country in the whole period. Six broad hypotheses about the influence of economic development, social change, mobilization, welfare provision, population and political factors are tested in the article. The statistical results show that three variables are almost sufficient to explain variance: Past dictatorship, high population and strong communist parties. Given that past dictatorship is the most important variable, three different mechanisms by which to understand its effect are suggested: The role of repression in countries with past political instability; dictatorship as a proxy for polarization; and past breakdowns as an indicator of the chances of overthrowing the system. © The Author(s), 2009

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