The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression

The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression

The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression

The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression


This volume examines the causes, consequences, and dynamics of that style of governance by force that has come to be known as state terror. The collection deals with theoretical issues and examines case applications as well. The editors distinguish among the study of oppression, repression, and state terror systems. State terrorism in the form of enforcement terrorism, economic repression, military control, and the legal oppression of apartheid in Latin America, Argentina, the Philippines, and South Africa is discussed. One chapter explores American containment policy. Theoretical chapters on state terrorism include editor George Lopez's scheme for the analysis of government terror, editor Michael Stohl's discussion of the international dimensions of this problem, and an agenda for continued investigation.


Michael Stohl and George A. Lopez

Political terrorism, it has been argued, has grown dramatically in the past decade and one-half. Accompanying that growth, the systematic study of that phenomenon of political violence that has been labeled "terrorism" has also greatly increased. This increased scholarly concern has concentrated primarily on the problem of insurgent and anti-state terrorism. Relatively little recent work has focused concern on the problem of terrorism as it relates to the activities of nation-states in forms other than what has been labeled counterterrorism.

This introductory chapter and the chapters that follow examine the use of violence, repression, and terrorism by the state in the pursuit of domestic and international interests. That political scientists should consider it worthwhile to study the role of violence by the state and in particular the systematic use of violence should come as no surprise. In fact, as we survey the literature, the truly astonishing fact is that it has taken scholars so long to "reinterest" themselves in state terrorism as a problem for study. It is a problem that requires investment in theory building and analysis and not simply description and condemnation.


Sources for an investigation of state terrorism abound, but it is important to note at the outset that there are those who would seek to denounce a focus on state terrorism as "skewed," "biased," "ideological," "not in the mainstream of the literature," and "out of touch with real political events." These sources, or rationales, as they might more appropriately be cast, include the evidence of political history that irrefutably demonstrates state terror, the tensions existing in international legal discussions over the definition of terrorism, the scholarly literature on state terror that emerged before definitional debates came into vogue, and selected patterns of analysis of scholars of group-based terrorism.

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