International Advances in Economic Research

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 369–385 | Cite as

The Life Cycle of Terrorist Organizations

  • Peter J. PhillipsEmail author


It is a fact that terrorist organizations come and go. This empirical fact tends to draw attention to the demise of the terrorist organization and distracts from the dynamics of the terrorist organization’s life cycle. In this respect, the extant literature suffers from a serious weakness that is symptomatic of the absence from the literature of a rigorous theoretical explanation for the life cycle of terrorist organizations. This paper aims to address this by developing a theoretical explanation for the life cycle of terrorist organizations that is centered on competition for grassroots or popular support between the terrorist organization and the government. The decline and demise of a particular terrorist organization is not certain ex ante and a terrorist organization may be expected to be most dangerous not in its death throes, but during its early years as it competes with the government for grassroots support. These appear to be different conclusions to those that characterise some parts of the literature on this subject. The theoretical explanation developed herein also predicts a cyclical oscillation of conflict.


Terrorist organization Life cycle Grassroots support Conflict Demise Cyclical Defence 


H56 D74 D81 


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Copyright information

© International Atlantic Economic Society 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Accounting, Economics and FinanceUniversity of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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