Terrorism and Democratic Recession

Aziz Z. Huq


This short essay examples the potential causal mechanisms that might link terrorism to democratic decline. That causal pathway is often asserted in political rhetoric about terrorism—but such assertions do not rest on a robust body of theory or empirical knowledge. I hypothesize three ways in which acts of terrorism might lead to a decline in democratic practices. These three pathways work through the use of emergency powers, the creation of a repressive state apparatus, and the conjuring of a populist style of politics adverse to democratic contestation. I tentatively conclude that terrorism is most likely to undermine democracy through its accelerating effect on state-development and its corrosive effect on democratic politics. Recognition of this possibility, I conclude, has implications for the doctrinal treatment of individual rights in the teeth of security threats.