Exploring the viability of phase-based models in (de)radicalization

Authored by: Liesbeth Mann , Lars Nickolson , Allard R. Feddes , Bertjan Doosje , Fathali M. Moghaddam

Routledge Handbook of Deradicalisation and Disengagement

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138229969
eBook ISBN: 9781315387420
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315387420-5

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Abstract

Particularly since the tragedy of 9/11, there has been increased research attention on radicalization and terrorism, defined as “politically motivated violence, perpetrated by individuals, groups, or state-sponsored agents, intended to instill feelings of terror and helplessness in a population in order to influence decision making and to change behavior” (Moghaddam, 2005, p. 161). In line with Kurt Lewin’s (1951) dictum that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory” (p. 169), much of this research has involved theory development. Theoretical models of radicalization must explain how and why people radicalize in such a way that they are motivated to kill others, and sometimes themselves, apparently for their purported ideals. An important assumption of such models is that radicalization towards terrorism tends to take place through a gradual process, which is often divided into distinctive phases describing how individuals (and/or groups) become increasingly engaged with extreme ideologies and groups. An influential metaphor that is used to describe these successive phases is that of the staircase. In The Staircase to Terrorism (Moghaddam, 2005, 2009), radicalization is envisioned as a narrowing staircase connecting five floors that are each characterized by specific psychological processes. Other such “phase models” differ in regard to the emphasis they place on specific (psychological) aspects or processes, but they are similar in their view of radicalization as a process involving different successive phases leading to increased commitment to extremist ideologies and the use of violence. In each of these phases certain psychological processes play a role in shaping this commitment.

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