Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Has Globalization Reduced Worldwide Terrorist Attacks?

Lecture by Gary LaFree, University of Maryland

Globalization  worldwide economic, political and social interdependence  began to increase rapidly in the mid-1960s.  Given that these increases broadly coincided with increases in worldwide terrorist attacks, it was natural for researchers and policy makers to see a positive connection between the two. Indeed, critics argue that globalization encourages political violence by intensifying inequality and poverty, increasing intercultural tension and threatening traditional cultures. However, supporters of globalization counter that increased cross-national economic efficiency, stronger governmental authority, and greater cross-cultural awareness should reduce levels of political violence. The few existing studies are largely descriptive or limited to specific countries or regions.

We undertook a broad empirical test by examining the effects of three types of globalization (economic, political, social) for three terrorist outcomes (transnational, domestic, total) on 126 countries across 10 regions from 1970 to 2019. Controlling for a set of common rival explanations, our analysis shows that all three globalization measures are consistently associated with declining transnational, domestic and total terrorist attacks. Contrary to common criticisms, our results strongly suggest that globalization has been associated with fewer terrorist attacks over the past half century. We consider the implications for theory, future research and policy.

Gary LaFree is Distinguished University Professor of the Criminology and Criminal Justice department, and formerly the Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. His research interests are causes and consequences of illegal violence. LaFree has written numerous books and articles on crime and terrorism. His latest publication Toward a Criminology of Terrorism was released in June 2023.

Discussant: Daniel Meierrieks (WZB)


The event is part of the lecture series Civil Society and Political Conflict, organized by the Center for Civil Society Research.


The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please let Friederike Theilen-Kosch (friederike.theilen-kosch [at] know if you need special assistance.

The data protection notice on photo and film recordings can be found here.