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Martyrdom Contracts


  • Mario Ferrero

    (Department of Public Policy and Public Choice (POLIS), University of Eastern Piedmont, Alessandria, Italy)


This article emphasizes the similarities between such diverse instances of public-spirited suicide as the Islamic martyrs of yesterday and today, the anarchists, the Japanese kamikaze of World War II, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, and the Christian martyrs under the Roman Empire. It tries to accommodate this disparate evidence within a single two-period, expected utility model of a martyrdom contract, to which volunteers sign up in the expectation of probabilistic earthly rewards. Contract enforcement is ensured by a sufficiently strong stigma, or social sanction, placed on renegades. The main implication for counterterrorism policy is that the sanction should be softened, so as to turn prospective martyrs into apostates.

Suggested Citation

  • Mario Ferrero, 2006. "Martyrdom Contracts," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(6), pages 855-877, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:50:y:2006:i:6:p:855-877

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    Cited by:

    1. Vikas Kumar, 2014. "A model of state secularism," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 2313-2327, July.
    2. Mario Ferrero, 2013. "The Cult of Martyrs," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 57(5), pages 881-904, October.
    3. Elie Appelbaum, 2008. "Extremism: Root Causes and Strategic Use in Conflicts," Working Papers 2008_02, York University, Department of Economics.
    4. Constantine Bourlakis, 2016. "The Emperor?s New Mind: On Constantine?s I Decision to Legalize Christianity," International Journal of Social Sciences, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, vol. 5(1), pages 47-59, February.
    5. Eswaran, Mukesh, 2018. "Decentralized Terrorism and Social Identity," working papers tina_marandola-2018-4, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 06 Jun 2018.
    6. John Cadigan & Pamela Schmitt, 2010. "Strategic entry deterrence and terrorism: Theory and experimental evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 3-22, April.
    7. Azam, Jean-Paul & Ferrero, Mario, 2017. "Jihad against Palestinians?: The Herostratos syndrome and the paradox of targeting European Jews," TSE Working Papers 17-874, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    8. Jean-Paul Azam & Véronique Thelen, 2008. "The roles of foreign aid and education in the war on terror," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 375-397, June.
    9. Jean-Paul Azam, 2012. "Why suicide-terrorists get educated, and what to do about it," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(3), pages 357-373, December.
    10. Ronald Wintrobe, 2006. "Extremism, suicide terror, and authoritarianism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 169-195, July.
    11. Apolte, Thomas, 2017. "I hope I die before I get old: The supply side of the market for suicide bombers," CIW Discussion Papers 1/2017, University of Münster, Center for Interdisciplinary Economics (CIW).


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