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date: 04 December 2022

Radicalization and Deradicalizationlocked

Radicalization and Deradicalizationlocked

  • Bethany LeapBethany LeapSchool of Public Affairs, American University
  •  and Joseph YoungJoseph YoungSchool of Public Affairs, American University


What is radicalization, and what drives individuals to become radicalized? Many individuals who hold radical beliefs will never become violent, yet others are compelled to enforce their ideology through violence. Drawing from existing literature, radicalization is defined as a transformation rooted in grievances, networks, enabling environments, and ideology that brings an individual to hold radical beliefs and support the use of violence. Conversely, deradicalization is defined as both a cognitive departure from radical ideology and a behavioral shift away from radical activities and group membership. Competing theories of radicalization and deradicalization have created a debate about whether or not these phenomena must be experienced in a linear fashion, and several scholars posit that strains caused by society can lead to both cognitive and behavioral forms of radicalization. The evidence supporting these theories is demonstrated in the counter-radicalization policies of several Western countries, which use localized policing and community members to address the social and political issues that breed radicalization.

Moreover, radicalization and deradicalization are not “one size fits all” phenomena; instead, they are experiences that can differ between ideologies as well as within ideologies. For example, sociopolitical factors specific to one’s nationality can impact the radicalization and deradicalization of individuals and organizations belonging to the same ideology. Despite all this, there are still significant gaps in the study of radicalization and deradicalization that need to be addressed. In academia, two debates must be settled: how should radicalization be defined, and should radicalization be understood as occurring in a linear or nonlinear fashion? In the policy realm, professionals must understand and address the grievances that increase the risk for radicalization to occur through social programs and education initiatives. Finally, policymakers and academics must communicate with each other regarding the research needs for enacting sound policies that will reduce the occurrence of radicalization.


  • Conflict Studies
  • Security Studies

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