Political Science Now

Radicalization and Violent Emotions

Radicalization and Violent Emotions

by Jacquelien van StekelenburgVU-University-Amsterdam

Inspired by Fathali Moghaddam’s (2005) metaphor of a staircase to terrorism, this paper discusses political violence as a social-psychological process. Moghaddam’s metaphor posits a sequence of deepening involvement, from perceptions and feelings of injustice, to shifts in morality, recruitment to terrorist organizations, and, finally, to terrorist acts. Although it is hard to conceive of political violence detached from emotions and ideology, Moghaddam’s staircase to terrorism does not explicitly refer to emotions nor where ideology comes in. The aim of this paper is to explicitly posit emotions and ideology in the social psychological process into extremism. I rely therefore on the emotion transformation theory from Matsumoto and colleagues, who suggest that emotions and extremism transform over time and thus that every stage in the social-psychological process to extremism is accompanied by different emotions. The first stage being outrage based on anger, the second moral superiority based on contempt, and eventually elimination based on disgust or humiliation. I argue that ‘emotion work’ has always been key to the organization of protest, especially in the context of dangerous or risky protest. Organizers of collective action use discourse and identity as resources to emotionally prime members for social movement recruitment. They use their power, resources and creativity to turn individual grievances and emotions into collective claims and to stage opportunities to act upon these claims, and they appeal to different emotions and different stages to radicalization

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PS: Political Science & Politics, Volume 50Issue 4 / October 2017, pp. 936-939