Volume 47, No. 3 | Terror and counter-terrorism - new trends and perspectives

Carsten Bagge Laustsen and Rasmus Ugilt | Contesting terror

What is terror? The question has been surprisingly difficult to answer in the definitive. We approach the problem using William Connolly’s theory of essentially contested concepts. Here three characteristics are important: a concept’s normativity, complexity and application. The aim is not to present an ultimate solution for defining terror, but instead to offer a new frame for studying the problems involved in the struggle over the meaning of the concept. In doing so, we position ourselves in opposition to both realist and conventionalist approaches to defining terror and to other more commonly used approaches to the study of the discursive struggle over the concept of terror. More specifically we distinguish our approach from analyses of hegemony and discursive formations and from conceptual history. We argue that Connolly’s approach can provide a new and productive frame for addressing these issues; it offers a refined understanding of the contestation of the concept of terror, because it gives us an understanding of what it means for a concept to be essentially contested and because it allows us to better distinguish between layers of agreement and disagreement. 

Andrea Kiel Nielsen | The man behind the evil. How Breivik killed without shame

How was Breivik able to carry out the terror attacks without any signs of guilt? An analysis of his motivation and his justification of the attacks explains that he prior to, during and after the attacks disengaged the moral self-regulatory mechanisms from his acts. A strong anti-Islamic ideology was a major source of justification for his acts. This enabled him to erase feelings of guilt and regret; it gave him a sense of pride and a grandiose self-image as a war hero, which matched his narcissistic tendencies. 

Jeppe Teglskov Jacobsen | Terrorism in cyberspace: challenges in planning and executing political violence online

The Internet is often presented as a devastating tool in the hands terrorists. This is a truth in need of modification. Drawing on insights from studies of Sunni extremists, Breivik and Anonymous, the article assesses claims about terrorists’ use of the Internet in planning and executing political violence. It finds, first, that the anarchical, anonymous Internet spurs mistrust and fragmentation, rendering it more, not less difficult for terrorists to maintain a coherent strategy. Second, the article notes how most violent individuals seek real life interactions, guns and explosions rather than organize terrorism online or hacking in solitude behind a computer screen. It is primarily the socially marginalized who find the Internet appealing in organizing and executing terrorism. 

Lasse Lindekilde | Danish prevention of extremism and radicalization 2009-2014: trends and future challenges

In 2009, the Danish government led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen launched a wide-ranging action plan to prevent extremism and radicalization in Denmark. Critics have argued that the action plan in its attempt to approach the problem of radicalization in a holistic manner caused a counter-productive mixing of security and integration concerns. In September 2014, the government led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt introduced a new counter-radicalization plan, which, based on positive evaluations, continues central elements from the old plan, but also includes paradigmatic policy shifts. This article maps Danish efforts to prevent extremism and radicalization in light of the new action plan and traces developments in policy and implementation practices from 2009 to 2014. The article discusses reasons for the observed policy changes and identifies old and new challenges to the implementation of the 2014-action plan. In addition to a systematic comparison of the two policy documents, the article draws on official evaluations of Danish counter-radicalization efforts as well as practical handbooks published during the period under investigation. 

Bruno Oliveira Martins | Countering terrorism in Europe: the role of the EU

Since September 2001, the European Union (EU) has developed a cross-institutional, multilevel and multifaceted approach to the fight against terrorism in parallel with efforts to build a strategic concept regarding its security identity. EU counter-terrorism encompasses instruments of different natures and the participation of several institutions and agencies, gathering a wide range of different policy areas. Over the last decade, the EU has emerged as a relevant counter-terrorism actor in Europe encompassing both internal and external instruments. EU action in countering terrorism is developed together with a legal dimension whose importance has been reinforced by the action of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Parliament. The article combines sociological institutionalist theory with constitutionalism to present elements for an innovative assessment of the EU as a counter-terrorism actor in Europe. It draws on policy and judicial developments from the last 14 years, and it argues that the constitutional foundations of the EU contribute decisively to the definition and mode of action of its counter-terrorism policy. This process distinguishes EU action on counter-terrorism particularly from other international counter-terrorism actors and adds new elements to assessing EU’s actorness in the broader field of security.

Sune Welling Hansen and Ulf Hjelmar | When municipalities become larger: the short-term and more long-term consequences for local democracy

We examine the relationship between the size of a local political system and the state of the local democracy in the system, using the 2007 Danish municipal mergers as a quasi-experiment. Our study is informed by a number of recent studies that use the same approach. We make two contributions to this literature: We examine a broad set of dimensions in the state of the local democracy, and we examine both the short-term consequences (two years after their implementation) and the more long-term consequences (six years after) of the increases in municipal size created by the mergers, although the latter results should be interpreted cautiously. Our analyses show that citizens’ assessments of their local democracy are very robust to changes in municipal size and only on a few dimensions do we find supporting evidence for systematic changes in the short term and the longer term. 

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