Radicalization and Mass Violence from a Beckerian Perspective: Conceptual and Empirical Considerations


  • Mark Dechesne Associate Professor University of Leiden, Campus The Hague


This paper considers the conceptual and empirical merits of Ernest Becker’s analysis of radicalization and mass violence. Starting with several cases showing a clear link between exposure to traumatic events and violence, Ernest Becker’s idea that mass violence should be understood as an attempt to overcome the fear of death is examined in the light of recent experimental social psychological research, field research on the attitudinal effects of threatening situations, clinical modeling of the relation between fear and anger, and insights from neuroscience. Becker’s ideas, in conjunction with empirical research, may contribute to an understanding of how humans can behave under extreme circumstances.


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