From Idea to Policy: Scandinavian Municipalities Translating Radicalization


  • Robin Andersson Malmros The Segerstedt Institute


Radicalization, Local Policymaking, Neo-institutional Theory


Radicalization has emerged as a dominant idea for understanding processes that lead to extremist beliefs and behavior. As societal efforts to counter extremism have become increasingly decentralized, local policymakers are being confronted with the task of making sense of radicalization. Departing from neo-institutional theory, this paper explores how the idea of radicalization has been materialized in 60 Scandinavian (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) municipal policies that share the explicit aim of countering extremism. Most research on how radicalization has been conceptualized in policy focuses on the international and national levels. Instead, this paper provides a first large number analysis of how radicalization has been understood at the local level. A content analysis of the policies highlights the different definitions, explanatory factors and theories, models and checklists utilized. Findings show the considerable variance between municipal translations of radicalization. In some cases, the processual properties usually attributed to radicalization are contested as radicalization is portrayed as a mere outcome. A total of 66 different explanatory factors for radicalization are noticed by the municipalities, transforming most forms of deviant social and cultural statuses, psychological conditions and ideological positions to possible explanatory factors. Although the municipalities to a certain degree utilize the same labels for popular theories, models and checklists, this paper demonstrates that the content varies as they are transferred between contexts. The paper explains how and why such local variance occurs and which institutional elements that constrains translations of radicalization.


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