Rethinking ‘Radicalisation’: Microradicalisations and Reciprocal Radicalisation as an Intertwined Process


  • Gavin Bailey Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Phil Edwards Manchester Metropolitan University


Radicalisation, Conflict, Concept, Mircoradicalisation


This paper proposes a rethinking of ‘radicalisation’ as a process with no definite beginning or inevitable end-point. Reflecting on empirical research which engaged with radical Islamist and far-right activists and supporters, it argues that we should not focus the concept of radicalisation on the moment in which an individual or group moves from legal to illegal activity, or from non-violent to violent, as this is only one part of a longer journey. Thus, the term radicalisation should encompass any movements towards greater conflict, both commonplace and rare, small and large, driven by a potentially infinite range of motives, encompassing all political outlooks, and made by individuals, groups, societies and states. Using this conceptualisation instead allows us to examine how small conflicts escalate through ‘reciprocal radicalisation’, and how big radicalisations arise from microradicalisations. This, we argue, provides a more equitable basis for policy and practice that aims to avoid, prevent or combat the most problematic radicalisations, or otherwise resolve political conflict. To achieve this, however, also means not hyping everyday radicalisations into a threat to the existence of the nation state.


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