Vicious Cycles: Endogenous Political Extremism and Political Violence

36 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2008

See all articles by Rui J.P. de Figueiredo

Rui J.P. de Figueiredo

University of California, Berkeley - Business & Public Policy Group

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 2000

Abstract

Why do terrorists terrorize? Many explanations have been posited to answer this question. A common view, particularly in the popular press, is that terrorism and terrorists are irrational. A recent New York Times editorial attributed the violence experienced in Northern Ireland to 'hard-bitten loyalties and single minded devotion' which 'attracts psychopathic people' (New York Times, August 18, 1998: A23). Livingston (1978: 224-239) concurs that terrorists suffer from irrationalities and potentially even psychiatric illnesses. While such a view would make a rational account of terrorist activity seemingly impossible, in this paper, we argue that such an account is both possible and useful. Even in the event that terrorists suffer from such 'irrationalities,' a number of scholars have commented on the goal-directedness of those undertaking such terrorist campaigns. And insofar as the pursuit of such goals is relevant, the kernel of a rational choice understanding of terrorism is possible.

Suggested Citation

de Figueiredo, Rui José P. and Weingast, Barry R., Vicious Cycles: Endogenous Political Extremism and Political Violence (October 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1153519 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1153519

Rui José P. De Figueiredo

University of California, Berkeley - Business & Public Policy Group ( email )

545 Student Services Building
Berkeley, CA 94720
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Barry R. Weingast (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

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