Identity Reconfiguration and the Core Needs Framework: Exit Narratives among Former Far-Right Extremists

Amy Fisher-Smith, Charles R. Sullivan, John D. Macready, Geoffrey Manzi

Abstract


This empirical study examines intensive interview data collected from eight (N=8) former members of white supremacist organizations in order to understand the meanings of exit – that is, disengagement and deradicalization – from the extremist’s perspective.  Using a thematic analysis approach, our findings build on the distinction in the existing exit literature between push and pull factors and the process of role exit identified by Ebaugh (1988).  These push and pull factors as well as social identity, we argue, are subsumed within a complex exit process, which includes disengagement, identity deconstruction, and transgressive and transitional relationships. For some, this process culminated in an accomplished identity reconstruction and deradicalization.  Most importantly, our findings suggest that exit is linked to entry by a developmental drive that we call the participant’s core need.  The core need was the background motivator of entry, disengagement, exit, and ultimately deradicalization.  We think that this identity reconfiguration and core needs framework may help make heterogenous exit trajectories that have remained puzzling for researchers more understandable.


Keywords


far-right extremism; disengagement; deradicalization; core need; social identity

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References


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