Thugs or Terrorists? A Typology of Right-Wing Terrorism and Violence in Western Europe


  • Jacob Aasland Ravndal Research Fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)


Despite Western Europe’s extensive history of right-wing terrorism, a systematic categorization of key actors and events is lacking. This article aims to narrow this gap by proposing the first empirically derived typology of right-wing terrorism and violence in Western Europe. The article begins by introducing a method for reviewing and developing typologies, informed by relevant social science literature. This method is first used to review Ehud Sprinzak’s seminal typology of right-wing terrorism. While Sprinzak merits recognition for having developed the only universal typology in the field, the review shows that his typology does not satisfy established criteria for typology building. Combining quantitative and qualitative post-WWII data, a new typology is therefore proposed, based on attack frequencies and differences in perpetrators’ strategy and organization. This new typology facilitates sharper distinctions, both between different types of perpetrators and between different forms of violence.



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