This article reviews the literature on the onset and dynamics of domestic terrorism, with special emphasis on the interactions between terrorist organizations, the state, and society. Because this literature has often been based on case studies, we seek to impose some structure to its findings. We challenge the distinction between domestic and international terrorism, which truncates the sample of violence, and we show that the actor-sense of terrorism (violence carried out by underground organizations) is the most appropriate model for causal analysis. Terrorist organizations tend to emerge in developed countries in which the state is able to prevent the loss of control over any part of its territory. Terrorists take advantage of the state's mistakes (when, for example, it is over-repressive or makes ineffective concessions) in order to boost their support. Terrorists cannot survive without some degree of support. Consequently, levels of violence and targets are determined by social constraints.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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