chapter  3
30 Pages

The theory of radicalization and deradicalization

Understanding deradicalization requires a theoretical concept accounting for the different psychological mechanisms involved in driving a person towards violence (i.e., escalation or radicalization) and vice versa (i.e., de-escalation or deradicalization). Only if one connects both routes in and out of violent extremism can practical applications of deradicalization methods and programs be aligned according to goal, strategy, means, and target group of the intervention. In fact, oftentimes the reasons for ending a radical career are closely connected with the motivations to join (e.g., see Garfinkel, 2007). This not only helps to structure and plan the individual intervention through identifying potential access points for an intervention, but also ensures that deradicalization is more effective and sustainable. In addition, preventative efforts (with or without the involvement of former radicals) only make sense if they are based on a thorough understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the pathways leading to violence and extremist convictions. Experts on the topic have pointed out the surprising lack of conceptual and theoretical foundations for deradicalization work (e.g., Horgan & Altier, 2012; Horgan & Braddock, 2010); however, despite this lack, it is only very recently that some more theoretical models of deradicalization have been suggested (e.g., Barrelle, 2015). In contrast, there is no shortage of radicalization models and theories attempting to explain processes of engagement in violent extremism or terrorism. This chapter therefore introduces some of the most widely used radicalization models and schools of thought and discusses their implications for the following part on the theoretical foundations of deradicalization. In the framework presented below, violent radicalization is essentially understood as a process of de-pluralization of political concepts and values, while deradicalization consequently is a process of re-pluralization. A central role in both needs to be attributed to ‘ideology’—a much contested term with a long and complex history in different academic fields. Widely used by the public to describe what drives extremists and terrorists, many researchers, especially in the framing theory approach, have replaced the term with ‘collective action frames,’ for example. It is argued in the third part of

this chapter that another theoretical approach to the concept of ideology as a more dynamic or fluid alignment of political concepts and values allows for a much more effective understanding of how ideologies impact individual decision-making on the one hand and how practical intervention can target different elements of ideological ‘fingerprints’ on the other. In order to highlight this complex interplay between radicalization, deradicalization, and ideology, a theoretical discussion of all three terms is absolutely necessary to proceed with practical aspects of deradicalization work.