The purpose of this analysis is to locate radicalization – the process of developing extremist ideologies and beliefs – in the broader context of strategic actors (e.g. states) competing for legitimacy in transnational public spheres. Radicalization is distinct from both terrorism and violent extremism, though it is often a precursor to the use of terrorist tactics and can be critical for creating broad support for extremist movements and behaviors. The primary concern here is not terrorism per se, but rather how strategic actors compete to radicalize communities against the established organs and apparatuses of a given society. Borrowing from Price’s (1994) model of the market for loyalties, the author proposes that radicalization is best understood as within the context of the nation-state system, shaped by the existence of unsanctioned, typically foreign information flows. Governments are increasingly intervening into this space, both to shore up loyalty among their domestic citizenry and to engage foreign citizens in ways that weaken their allegiances to their own governments. Emerging media technologies provide new structures for ideological transfer, enabling states and non-state actors to compete for influence in a more balanced, transnational, ideational playing field. The stakes are significant, of course, with citizens clamouring for more transparent, fair and efficacious governance and increasingly threatening the legitimacy of states around the world.
Conceptualizing radicalization in a market for loyalties
4 November 2014
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