Edges of Radicalization: Ideas, Individuals and Networks in Violent Extremism
MILITARY ACADEMY WEST POINT NY COMBATING TERRORISM CENTER
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This study argues that the spread of violent extremism cannot be fully understood as an ideological or social phenomenon, but must be viewed as a process that integrates the two forces in a coevolutionary manner. The same forces that make an ideology appealing to some aggrieved group of people are not necessarily the same factors that promote its transfer through social networks of self interested human beings. As a result, radicalization inexorably intertwines social and ideological forces in systemic fashion. The coevolutionary nature of the social and ideological spheres presents a unique challenge and is one of the reasons that rigorous efforts to identify a radical or terrorist profile have not yielded significant return. Efforts to develop an archetype often focuses on individual traits, but it may be that profiles based on social and ideological behavior need to be considered simultaneously in developing a theory that is actionable for counterterrorism practitioners. Key insights from the theoretical and empirical discussions that follow provide new insights into the social patterns of violent extremists over time, which are important to understanding radicalization.
- Sociology and Law