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Contesting counter-terrorism: discourse networks and the politicisation of counter-terrorism in Austria

Abstract

Why do political actors prefer one counter-terrorism policy over another? We apply discourse network analysis and the advocacy coalition framework to the recent debate on counter-terrorism measures in Austria and argue that actors’ positions are based not so much on objective security factors and international or structural causes but on domestic politics and three interdependent variables. Political actors choose specific counter-terrorism policies because of: (1) a sense of ownership; (2) ideology; and (3) anticipated political gains. We show how different actors in Austria exploit the counter-terrorism debate to shield themselves from being blamed for being passive, to promote their ideological views, and/or to gain politically.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Strøm and Müller (1999) argue that political decision-makers have three different and often conflicting preferences, that is, office-seeking, policy-seeking and vote-seeking. Policy-seeking resembles our ideology-variable. We pooled office-seeking and vote-seeking into the variable ‘anticipated political gains’. The variable ownership reflects the strand of research according to which terrorist attacks can harm incumbents. In contrast to Strøm and Müller, Wagner et al. (2018) identify the cleavages of the ideological left vs. right, post-materialist/cosmopolitan vs. traditionalist/nationalist, and government vs. opposition as the decisive variables for explaining the positioning of parties in matters of foreign and security policy.

  2. 2.

    By doing so, we use a micro-interaction approach, focusing on the communicative and deliberative exchange of meanings between agents in the struggle for the better argument (Holzscheiter 2014).

  3. 3.

    In contrast to Sabatier, Hajer (2005: 68‒72) builds his theoretical framework on a relational ontology instead of an individualist ontology. Furthermore, also in contrast to Sabatier, Hajer does not take beliefs as a priori, but conceives them as socially constructed via language and hence in permanent flux and not stable.

  4. 4.

    To pass a new law, parliament (basically controlled by parties of government) either has to consider the objections of the Constitutional Court or pass the law with a two-third majority and thereby raise it to the rank of a constitutional law that the Constitutional Court cannot repeal.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Tyrolean Research Fund under Grant UNI-0404/1784. We thank the reviewers, the editors, Martin Senn, David M. Rowe and Alan Draper for their professional, kind and encouraging feedback.

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Eder, F., Libiseller, C. & Schneider, B. Contesting counter-terrorism: discourse networks and the politicisation of counter-terrorism in Austria. J Int Relat Dev 24, 171–195 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-020-00187-8

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Keywords

  • Austria
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Data retention
  • Political networks
  • Politicisation
  • Security policy