POL S 332 A: Topics In Comparative Politics

Meeting Time: 
MWF 12:30pm - 1:20pm
MEB 248
Topic: The Politics of Terror and Terrorism

Syllabus Description:


Political Science 332 “Terror and terrorism”   Fall 2017   Goldberg


Office: 30 Smith

Email: goldberg@uw.edu

Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday 1:30-2:30 pm 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.


NOTE CAREFULLY: 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. Also be aware that we are discussing terrorism by US citizens against other US citizens and against US government officials.


            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:

            Ronald D. Law, Terrorism: A History; Igor Primatz, Terrorism: The Philosophical Issues; Richard Augustus Norton, Hezbollah; Simon Mabon and Stephen Royle, The Origins of ISIS


            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 two mid-term examinations (30% of the grade), a short review paper of 5 pages (20% of the grade), and a final examination (40% of the grade). The review paper will be based on prompts to be given out 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.  The final 10% of your grade will be based on participation in section meetings.



Class One September 27-29


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?


Alex Schmid “Terrorism—The Definitional Problem” in Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 36,2 (2004): 375-419 9 (on website)



Class Two October 2


Terror and terrorism continued


“Introduction” and “Part 1: Definitions” in Igor Primatz (ed) Terrorism: The Philosophical Issues pp. x-27

“introduction” in Randall Law Terrorism pp 1-13



Class Three October 4


Contemporary concerns linking religion and terror are common but this may be just a historical accident. What are the claims about religion and specifically Islam in relation to terror and terrorism?


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 Four October 6


Terror as a political tool was not originally connected to religion; it was more common connected to its absence. Terror as fear in the pre-modern world but as a deliberate strategy of 20th century revolutionary state-building.


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

C.A.J. Coady “Terrorism, Morality and Supreme Emergency” in Terrorism 80-96




Class Five October 9


Terror as an acknowledged tool of the first revolutionary state. Until well into the 20th century this was the dominant implication of the word “terror.”


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

Leon Trotsky “A Defense of the ‘Red Terror’” in Terroism (31-43)



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.





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



Class Seven October 13


How do acts of terror work to produce cohesion among those deploying it and fear among those against whom it is deployed? What are the symbolic and physical aspects of terror?

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

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




Class Eight October 16


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


Terror: A History 121-137

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



Class Nine October 18


IN CLASS MID-TERM Bring Blue Books



Class Ten October 20


“Classical” state terror and violence against society.   Thinking about mass violence in comparative perspective


Terrorism: A History 121-171

Terrorism 161-174

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


Class Eleven October 23


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


Class Twelve October 25


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

Terrorism 175-191




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


Norton, 69-159



Class Thirteen October 27


Terrorism: A History 138-154, 172-209


Class Fourteen October 30


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


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



Class Fifteen November 1


Is tyrannicide terror?

Terror: A History 14-46


Class Sixteen November 3


The management of the management of savagery or its elimination?


Norton, 163-205


Class Seventeen November 6


Terror as a political tool: Is it like others?


Terrorism, 44-79, 97-112




Class Eighteen November 8


Terror and violence as an instrument of the left in Europe and the Middle East after World War II


Terrorism: A History 209-245



November 10—No Class; Veterans Day observed


Class Nineteen November 13


Terror, social movements, and the problem of criminality

Terrorism: A History 246-271



Class Twenty November 15


Terror under the rubric of jihad: is it religious or is it something else?


Terrorism: A History 272-320



Class Twenty-One November 17


History of Iraq and the origins of the Islamic State

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


Simon Mabon and Stephen Boyle, The Origins of Isis 1-52


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



Class Twenty-Two November 20


Mid-Term Examination in Class—Bring exam books and pen




Class Twenty-Three November 22; All-Class discussion



November 24 No Class;                Thanksgiving Holiday



Class Twenty-Four November 27


Non-state social structures: religion and tribe in Iraq

The Origins of Isis 53-98


Class Twenty-Five November 29


ISIS in full bloom


The Origins of Isis 99-162


Class Twenty-Six December 1


Some varieties of state terror we may not think of but including the US response to the September 11, 2001 bombings


Terrorism 128-160, 192-208


Class Twenty-Seven December 4


Contemporary Terror


Terrorism: A History 305-344


Class Twenty-Eight December 6


Conclusion Part One


Class Twenty-Nine December 8 Final Class


Conclusion Part Two

Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:45pm