Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2006 Volume 2 :: Article 4
2006 Volume 2, Article 4
The Market for Martyrs

Author: Laurence R. Iannaccone (George Mason University)

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Injury-oriented sacrifice is a market phenomenon that is grounded in exchanges between a relatively small supply of “martyrs” and a relatively large number of “demanders” who benefit from the martyrs’ acts. Contrary to popular perception, it is because of limited demand rather than limited supply that such markets rarely flourish. Suicidal attacks almost never profit the groups that are best equipped to recruit, train, and direct the potential killers. Once established, however, the markets are hard to shut down from the supply side because so few martyrs are required and because terrorist “firms” can readily substitute across different methods and recruits. On the other hand, relatively small changes in the political and economic environment can combine to undermine the market’s demand side.

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