Radikalismus und Extremismus als konträre Rationalitäten: Eine Radikalisierung des Radikalisierungsbegriffs

Holger Marcks


This contribution problematizes the circumstance that the concept of radicalization
has been decoupled from its morphemic roots: the meaning of
being radical. In discourse on political violence it is mostly understood as
an increase in (violent) extremism, and as such it has a feedback effect on
what is understood by being radical or radicalism. Conflating these terms
increasingly with extremism, a semantic confusion has been created that
makes the analysis of processes towards political violence indifferent and
prone to fallacies. Based on an outline of problems inherent to dominant
interpretations of radicalization and following an historically informed
understanding of radicalism, it is thus argued that extremism and radicalism
should be conceptualized as contrary rationalities. From this perspective,
extremism is a rationality that features a strong reduction in
complexity and is extreme insofar as it reads social problems as epitomized
by dichotomous groups of people. Radicalism, in turn, assumes a
complexity of society and is radical insofar as it puts its problems down to
structural roots. Accordingly, there should also be a distinction between an
increase in extremism (extremization) and an increase in radicalism (radicalization),
while the process towards violence should be understood as
militantization: a process that can derive from both rationalities, but
differs in its derivation and expressions. Which benefits for research on
political violence may be derived from putting the concept of radicalization
down to its morphemic roots – a conceptual radicalization, so to say
– will be discussed conclusively.



DOI: https://doi.org/10.6094/behemoth.2019.12.2.1024