De-radicalization and Counter-radicalization: Valuable Tools Combating Violent Extremism, or Harmful Methods of Subjugation?


  • Tom Pettinger PhD Candidate, Warwick University


Deradicalization, counter-radicalization, rehabilitation, discrimination, Islamophobia


This article debates the justifications behind the practice of counter-radicalization and de-radicalization. It emphasizes the concepts as shrouded in confusion, and highlights that the practices continue to develop and expand despite claims of counter-productiveness, wholly subjective evaluation, and significant doubt around their premises. The aim of this article is to encourage a greater awareness of the potential costs to society of promoting policy with no rigorous basis of evidence. Focussing on both (rehabilitative) prison counter-radicalization schemes and (preventative) non-prison based de-radicalization, the discussion explores the evaluative methods that remain chaotic despite a growing need for ‘evidence-based’ public policy-making, examines the tenuous link between terrorism and ideology which upholds the principles behind attempts to combat radicalization, and then analyses the possible outcomes for society of relying on these schemes to minimize extremist violence. It concludes that taking the link between terrorism and ideology as causal is deeply flawed, and that by persisting with no systematic method of evaluation combating radicalization in these ways will continue to fail. Indeed, in prisons, they have been found to be distrusted, ineffective and even detrimental. Outside of prisons, where preventative counter-radicalization programmes exist, these will continue to divide societies among the lines where suspect communities are drawn. It takes the view that whilst we continue to elevate de-radicalization as a ‘useful tool’ in combating terrorism, we will also continue to associate certain people groups with terrorism and only add to grievances that exist in our societies.

Author Biography

Tom Pettinger, PhD Candidate, Warwick University

Corresponding Author Contact: Tom Pettinger, Email:, Postal Address: Department of Politics and International Studies, Social Sciences Building, Warwick University, Coventry, CV4 7AL


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