The Democratic State and the Challenge of Terrorism: The Anti-Terrorism Policies of the 1970s and 1980s in Western Europe

The phenomenon of “new terrorism” after September 11, 2001 has not only had an impact on politics and society but has also confronted researchers with questions concerning the historical and current conditions surrounding terrorism and the fight against it. Public interest in this topic surrounds the necessities and limits of state reactions. The legal transgressions in the American “War on Terror”, as symbolized by Guantanamo Bay and the willingness of German politicians to limit certain basic rights for the sake of a more efficient “fight against terror”, have kindled a debate over how far the free democratic state can go in its legislative, executive, and judicial response to this challenge. The main problem here lies in the contradictions between means and ends: Is the effective defense of liberal democracy against terrorism even possible within the framework of the constitution? And if not, does the protection of the state and constitution not threaten the very thing one seeks to protect? Since this dilemma is not a new one, the discussion on state measures against terrorism has frequently turned its gaze back to the fight against the “old terrorism” of the 1970s and 1980s. It would in fact emerge that historians had generally neglected the topic in the past.

This comparative project, headed by Johannes Hürter, is the first of its kind to deal comprehensively with anti-terror policies in different Western democracies from a historical perspective. It investigates a central area of state action between the protest movement of 1968 and the sweeping changes of 1989/90, while focusing in particular on the 1970s and early 1980s and the fight against national left-wing terrorism. The analysis of state reactions to the challenge of terror is placed here within the underlying context of the political, economic, and sociocultural processes of change during the period.


The State and Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1969-1982
The State and Terrorism in France, 1981-1988
Codename TREVI: The Fight against Terrorism and the Beginnings of a European Domestic Policy in the 1970s
The State and Terrorism in Italy (in German)
Democratic State and transnational Terrorism (in German)



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