Reconsidering Radicalization: Fanaticism and the Link Between Ideas and Violence

Bart Schuurman, Max Taylor


A central issue with many interpretations of radicalization remains their tendency to overemphasize the role of extremist beliefs in motivating involvement in terrorism. After elaborating on this critique, the authors propose that ‘fanaticism’, a concept developed by Taylor in the early 1990s, offers a way of overcoming this deficiency in radicalization-based approaches through its conditional understanding of when radical beliefs can lead to violent behavior. Primary-sources driven empirical analysis supports both the critique of radicalization and the discussion of fanaticism’s benefits. Results are relevant to both academics and counterterrorism practitioners working to understand the role of extremist beliefs in motivating involvement in terrorist violence.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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