POL S 332 A: Topics In Comparative Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
SMI 102

Syllabus Description:



Political Science 332 “Terror and terrorism”   Fall 2016   Goldberg


Office: 30 Smith

Email: goldberg@uw.edu

Office Hours: Tuesday, Thursday 10-11 am or by appointment


This class focuses on terror and terrorism as a tactical use of violence by state officials and non-state actors. We will examine the historical roots of terror as a set of state policies as well as its use by insurgent political movements in the 20th century. Terror has been a tool deployed by regimes in Germany, the Soviet Union and China. It has been used as one tool by insurgent movements against existing states in Ireland, Israel, Western Europe and the United States. In addition, it has been deployed in conditions of post-war anarchy in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria in the attempt to create new state structures. We will consider the ways in which terror—as an instrument of state policy and of social movements—requires and reinforces the exclusion and moral degradation of those against whom it is aimed.


In this course we will examine definitions of terror and terrorism and arguments about causes of terror and terrorism. Mere assertions of causal inference are not sufficient to establish the existence of causal relationships. We will learn to be wary of such assertions because the range of social and political situations in which terror and terrorism have assumed prominence is nearly universal. We will also examine the utility of the claim that “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” as well as the claim that terror is an effective method of insurgent political struggle and the far less frequently made claim that it is an effective tool for states to re-structure society. Please be aware that I will be criticizing much of what we read; some readings have been chosen because they reflect widespread beliefs not because I think they are either correct or useful.


            By the conclusion of the course students will have a clearer understanding of terror as a form of political violence, of the ways state and non-state actors deploy it, of distinctions between war and terror, and of the connection between terror and attempts to radically re-shape society.


Required books for this course are:

            Abdel Bari Atwan, Islamic State: the Digital Caliphate; Martha Crenshaw, Explaining Terrorism; John Organ and Kurt Braddock, Terrorism Studies: A Reader; Richard Augustus Norton, Hezbollah; Charles Townsend, Terrorism


            These books are all available at the University Bookstore. In addition there are readings online on the course website:




            Your grade for the course will be determined by a mid-term examination (25% of the grade), a term paper (35% of the grade), and a final examination (40% of the grade). Unless you seek prior approval from the instructor the term paper must be written on one of a set of six (6) approved topics distributed in the third week of the course. It is due at the first course meeting after Thanksgiving (November 29). Late papers will be marked down by 5% for each day late. In other words, a paper that is one week late will be averaged into your final grade as a 0.           



Class One September 29


Terror and terrorism



What do we mean when we speak about terror? Is it simply more intense violence or does it have other meanings? Is terror criminal?



Charles Townsend, Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011) 1-20

Martha Crenshaw Explaining Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2011) 1-33

John Horgan and Kurt Braddock (eds.), Terrorism Studies: A Reader (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 61-96, 331-344



Class Two October 4


Explaining terror: do only some groups use terror? If so which ones? If not, how can we explain which ones do and which ones do not?


Crenshaw, 67-134

Horgan, 115-144

Monica Duffy Toft “Getting Religion?” International Security 31,4 (97-131) Spring 2007. http://live.belfercenter.org/files/is3104_pp097-131_toft.pdf


Paul Berman, The Philosopher of Islamic Terror” New York Times March 23, 2003.




Class Three October 6


Terror as fear in the pre-modern world but as a deliberate strategy of 20th century revolutionary state-building.


Crenshaw, 34-66

Horgan and Braddock, pp 3-40

Townshend, 27-53

Hannah Arendt, “The Totalitarian Movement” in The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland: Meridian Books 1959) pp. 341-388.

William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) pp. 247-271



Class Four October 11


Terror in the United States as a tactic by insurgent movements and as a tool for the maintenance of political order.


Overturning Reconstruction, the first attempt by the US government to democratize a defeated enemy, required terror. Maintaining the post-war political environment of discrimination required constitutional change and continued extra-legal violence. The links between political elites and those who deploy terror in society can be unofficial.


WEB DuBois, Black Reconstruction (New York: Russell and Russell 1935) pp 670-710 on the website

James W. Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1964) pp. 28-52 on the website

Ellis Goldberg http://nisralnasr.blogspot.com/2016/05/democratizations-first-failure-american.html



Class Five October 13


Terror can be a tactic by insurgent social movements. The use of terror also frequently involves more than simple violence: rituals are created and employed.


Townshend, 54-74

Peter Lowenberg, “The Kristallnacht as a Public Degradation Ritual” in Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 32, 1 (1988): 309-323 on the website

Orlando Patterson, Rituals of Blood (Washington, DC: Civitas 1988) “Feast of Blood’ on the website.

Ellis Goldberg http://nisralnasr.blogspot.com/2015/02/sacrificing-humans.html





Terror in the service of the nation: Ireland


Horgan, 174-186; 454-468



Class Seven October 20


Terror and decolonization


In class movie: The Battle of Algiers


Note: Attendance at the movie is not optional.



Class Eight October 25


Terror against the State: Europe and Latin America


Townshend, 75-96

Horgan, 206-221



Class Nine October 27 IN CLASS MID-TERM Bring Blue Books


Jihad in classical and early 20th century thought


Rud Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1995) pp 103-148. On the course website


Classe Ten November 1


Guerrilla war of liberation or terrorist campaign: Palestine


Yezid Sayigh Armed Struggle and the Search for State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) “Introduction”, “Guerrilla War in Theory and Practice”, and “Conclusion” on the website



Class Eleven November 3


Movie: Sergei Eisenstein, Ivan the Terrible Part 1. Eisenstein presents a positive view of terror as state policy in this film made with Stalin’s approval in 1944-5. What and how are the “oprichniki”?



Class Twelve November 8


Out of war-making, terror. The origins of Hezbollah


Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2009) 1-68

Horgan, 147-173


Class Thirteen November 10


Terror and terrorism in a very small country that threw a very big shadow


Norton, 69-159


Class Fourteen November 15


Republics of Fear and Fractured Societies: the post-colonial Arab East and the effects of war


Kanan Makiya [Samir al-Khalil, pseudonym] The Republic of Fear (Berkeley: University of California Press 1989) 1-72 (on the website)


Class Fifteen November 17


The Origins of Al-Qaeda


Crenshaw, 51-66


Class Sixteen November 22         PAPERS ARE DUE THIS DAY IN CLASS


The Islamic State: More of the same or something very different?


Abdel Bari Atwan Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015) 9-109


Class Seventeen November 29


The Islamic State Arrives


Atwan, 110-189


Class Eighteen December 1


The management of the management of savagery or its elimination?


Atwan, 190-231

Norton, 163-205

Horgan, 345-357, 420-453


Class Nineteen December 6


How Terrorism Ends: With a Bang or a Whimper?


Crenshaw, 135-222

Townshend, 117-144

Horgan, 313-330


Class Twenty December 8








Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:28pm