Conceptualizing Radicalization in Comparative Context
- Sophia MoskalenkoSophia MoskalenkoNational Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NC-START)
Since the attacks of 9/11, research on radicalization has burgeoned. Most theories of radicalization postulate multiple pathways to radicalization, grievance as a major radicalizing force, emotion rather than ideology precipitating radicalization, and small-group dynamics contributing to radicalization. Empirical data have consistently supported the distinction between activism and radicalism and between radical opinion and radical action. Research into the special category of the radical actor, or lone attackers, uncovered two possible profiles: disconnected-disordered and caring-compelled, each motivated by a kind of disordered emotional state. Internet and social media have amplified and broadened radicalization of both opinion and action.
Extrapolating from these findings to the recent increase in right-wing radicalization, a new definition of radicalization is proposed, suggesting a shift in researchers’ and policymakers’ focus from identifying instances of radicalization to identifying its causes. In this conceptual view, radicalization is a result of perceived widespread injustice, where shared narratives highlight grievances (radicalization of opinion) and motivate a few to act against perceived perpetrators (radicalization of action). Implications for research and policy are discussed.