September 11 Initiative
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 altered the political, social, and economic landscape of the United States and the world. On that day, thousands of lives were lost, the structure of the U.S. economy was shaken, and the bonds of community in a multi-cultural world were put to the test. To contribute in its own limited way to the nation's effort to respond to the challenges posed by the September 11 attacks, the Russell Sage Foundation devised several new initiatives designed to enlist the data and insights of social science in helping the country understand the implications of September 11 for our city and our national civic life.
The first two projects looked at the short-term consequences of the attacks on two groups intimately affected by 9/11: New Yorkers and Muslim-Americans. A working group made up of distinguished economists, political scientists, and sociologists was formed to analyze the effects of the attack and its aftermath on the economic, political, and social life of the city. The Foundation recently published the results of this work in a series of three books, Contentious City: The Politics of Recovery in New York City, Resilient City: The Economic Impact of 9/11, Wounded City: The Social Impact of 9/11. In addition the Foundation funded several field studies of Muslim and Arab groups, finding two clear, but polar trends. After 9/11, Muslim- and Arab-Americans have faced high levels of discrimination, but the attacks have also led civic groups to team up with Muslim organizations to foster greater respect and understanding among different religious and ethnic groups.
The Foundation’s early projects under this initiative gave a clearer picture of the short-term consequences of September 11. For a better understanding of the possible long-term impact of the attacks, the Foundation has now turned to the lessons of history. The United States and nearly every other state in documented history have suffered from terrorist acts. The experiences of the past can help us recognize the potential issues that may arise in the modern fight against terrorism. With this historical long view in mind, the Foundation established a standing committee in February 2003 to monitor the political and social effects of the current U.S.-led war on terrorism, and to examine issues on which social scientists can lend perspective.
The first project in this research initiative, led by Daniel Farber of the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, was a comparative historical analysis of previous threats to national security in American history and the ways in which the response to these threats has changed the structure of our political and civic institutions. The researchers examined events from the nation’s infancy until today, studying how threats were perceived, responded to, used to further political agendas, and invoked to suppress civil liberties. Furthermore, Farber and his collaborators explored whether national security threats lead to permanent retrenchment of civil liberties or to short-lived counter-measures, and whether the country has learned to strike a better balance between security concerns and individual freedoms. The Foundation published the group's findings in Security v. Liberty, a penetrating historical and legal analysis of the trade-offs between security and liberty that have shaped American history.
A second project was a cross-national examination of how other democratic states— in particular Europe, Israel, and Japan—have responded to terrorist threats. This project, organized by political scientist Martha Crenshaw of Wesleyan University, focused on the longer-term effects that counter-terrorism measures have on the political institutions and culture of the democratic states that undertake them. Crenshaw and her colleagues examined differences in anti-terrorist legislation across democracies, exploring the role of judicial institutions, and considering how the response to terrorist acts has spilled over into immigration policy. The group's results can be found in the RSF volume The Consequences of Counterterrorism.
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