Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Political Economy of Terrorism and Counterterrorism

online course
when 19 July 2021 - 31 July 2021
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 EC
fee EUR 650

What do we know about the roots and motivations of ISIS, the KKK, al-Qaeda, or the Lord’s Resistance Army beyond speculation, snippets of incomplete information, and stereotypical assessments? This course considers modern-day terrorism from a theoretical and especially from an empirical perspective. First, we study whether, when, and why terrorism has been successful to varying degrees. Second, we turn to the intimate relationship between terrorism and the media; exploring whether and how news coverage is likely so crucial for terror groups; and what this means for a free press. Third, we consider the role of religion in terror movements and radicalization (e.g., for Islamist extremism). Fourth and final, we evaluate counterterrorism strategies, exploring a few successful and unsuccessful cases for which empirical evidence is available.

Although the phenomenon of terrorism has been studied extensively, many of its underlying motivations and dynamics remain difficult to pin down. The US alone has spent trillions of dollars on the ‘War on Terror,’ only to harvest widespread hostility across many Middle Eastern countries.

During this course, we will encounter examples for empirical strategies to isolate causal relationships from correlations, such as natural experiments, instrumental variables, and identification through regression discontinuity design (RDD). The aim is to have a better understanding and knowledge about the operations of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as the IRA, ETA, the KKK, and white supremacists.

Active participation, intellectual openness, critical thinking, and dialogue constitute key elements in this course.

Course leader

Associate Professor Michael Jetter

Target group

All Advanced Bachelor's, Master’s and PhD students - A basic background in Econometrics (an understanding of regression analysis) is welcome but not crucial. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please contact us at

Course aim

What you’ll learn (learning objectives):

• What sets terrorism apart from more traditional types of warfare.

• How the public, commentators, and researchers assess and interpret terrorism.

• What constitutes ‘success’ for a particular group, understanding the consequences of terrorism.

• The extraordinary role of media attention for terror groups.

• The role of religious and cultural perspectives in terrorism.

• The theoretical background and empirical success of counter-terrorism strategies.

Credits info

3 EC
Contact Hours: 45

Do you want to make the most out of your summer? You can combine this course with a course in session 1 to create a 4-week Summer School in Amsterdam.

Fee info

EUR 650: The tuition fee of a two-week course depends on your situation and ranges from €850-1150. This tuition fee includes:
- Two week course;
- Exclusive content for a limited number of students;
- Transcript of records with a maximum of 3 ECTS (European study


VU Amsterdam Summer School offers three kinds of scholarships: the Academic Scholarship, the Photographer Scholarship and the Vlogger/Videographer Scholarship. More information can be found on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.

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