Turning to and from Terror: Deciphering the Conditions under which Political Groups Choose Violent and Nonviolent Tactics

Susanne Martin, Arie Perliger


Political parties and terrorist groups are seldom viewed as comparable organizations. While both have political ambitions and an interest in mobilizing popular support, the former are associated with the use of legitimate formal-legal tactics to obtain political goals and the latter, in contrast, are typically associated with the use of violence. However, these characteristics are not always compatible with the empirical evidence. In fact, some political parties have employed violence in order to promote their goals, while many terrorist groups have adopted nonviolent tactics in order to achieve theirs. In order to account for similarities and differences between these organizations, we conceptualize political parties and terrorist organizations as political groups that use different tactics under different conditions. We examine the relative attractiveness of choices between violent and nonviolent tactics in an effort to uncover the factors shaping the strategic decisions of diverse political groups. Subsequently, we present and test a theoretical framework, which serves as a foundation for the analysis of the shifts in tactics undertaken by different political groups.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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