The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective

The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective

The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective

The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective

Synopsis

Why is it that some social movements engaged in contentious politics experience radicalization whereas others do not? The Dynamics of Radicalization offers an innovative reply by investigating how and when social movement organizations switch from a nonviolent mode of contention to a violent one. Moving beyond existing explanations that posit aggressive motivations, grievances or violence-prone ideologies, this book demonstrates how these factors gain and lose salience in the context of relational dynamics among various parties and actors involved in episodes of contention. Drawing on a comparative historical analysis of al-Qaeda, the Red Brigades, the Cypriot EOKA, the authors develop a relational, mechanism-based theory that advances our understanding of political violence in several important ways by identifying turning points in the radicalization process, similar mechanisms at work across each case, and the factors that drive or impede radicalization. The Dynamics of Radicalization offers a counterpoint to mainstream works on political violence, which often presume that political violence and terrorism is rooted in qualities intrinsic to or developed by groups considered to be radical.

Excerpt

The word “radical” has long entered the inventory of contested terms in the social sciences, along with other terms like “violent,” “fanatic,” and “terrorist.” Like most controversial epithets, the word is value-laden and, in its career in the social sciences, has attracted a measure of notoriety. One would therefore be advised to avoid its use so as to avoid the risk of imbuing analysis with normative implications. What is more, when used as an epithet for actors, the word draws attention to a quality that is held to be central to their existence. For those scholars who wish to avoid essentializing actors, therefore, there is an added reason to avoid the word “radical.”

In this book we take these two cautions seriously. We are careful not to allow normative assessment to creep into our analysis and not to develop essentializing theories of actors and their behavior. At the same time, however, we do not heed the advice to completely avoid the use of the label “radical.” This is so because the word is a derivative of the term “radicalization,” which is the pivot of this study. Thus, while we emphasize that radicalization is a process that is not reducible to the actors who partake in it, there remain moments in our analysis where reference to radical actors is appropriate. Here, however, we ascribe a specific meaning to the term “radical,” which is in accordance with our use of the concept radicalization. We hold radicalization to be the process that leads to and includes political violence. Accordingly, we hold “radical” to be the (organizational) actor who has adopted the use of political violence. Whenever political violence remains at the level of rhetoric, possibly wrapped in violenceprone ideology, we use the terms “militancy” and “militant.”

Given that our emphasis is on radicalization as a process involving political violence, we take care to draw fine distinctions among the various related concepts. Thus our treatment of radicalization distinguishes among different forms of contention, including not only reactive, resistance-like struggle, but also more proactive forms of contention, such as institutional . . .

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