This article approaches the question of whether terrorism “works” and argues that an examination of some of terrorism’s more “modest” effects can contribute to the way we analyse its overall effectiveness and strategic impact. The article looks at whether terrorist violence has brought “disorientation” to European societies and led states to launch repressive counterterrorist operations. Its main empirical focus is a comparison of Britain’s and France’s responses to contemporary jihadist terrorism. It examines the extent to which we can understand these cases from a rational choice perspective, before going on to argue that a state’s responses to terrorism are filtered through certain domestic societal norms in each country that determine whether or not terrorist violence leads to a repressive response from governments. This has implications for the way we analyse the interaction between terrorists and the state, as well as the effectiveness of terrorism itself.
Key words: terrorism, counter-terrorism, state repression, strategy, norms, learning
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