Radicalization and Recruitment: A Systems Approach to Understanding Violent Extremism

Radicalization and Recruitment: A Systems Approach to Understanding Violent Extremism

Anthony J. Masys (University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/ijss.2014070104
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Recent events such as the terrorist attack in Algeria (January 2013), the Boston Marathon Bombing (April 2013), the apprehension of two suspected al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Toronto, (April 2013), highlight the requirement for greater understanding regarding the radicalization and recruitment of terrorists. As detailed in the US Department of State Report (2011), over 10,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 2011, affecting nearly 45,000 victims in 70 countries and resulting in over 12,500 deaths. With a focus on the outcomes and results of terrorist activities, terrorism itself often becomes a ‘blackbox' concept that does not capture the essence of the radicalization process nor the mechanisms of recruitment. This conceptual paper introduces Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a systems lens to open the ‘blackbox' of terrorism. This systems lens ‘…is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots' (Senge, 1990:68). The systems view facilitated by ANT is supported and informed by methods of network analysis and conceptual modelling that highlight how dynamic networked actors shape the radicalization process through the actor network process of translation.
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The complexities associated with the definition of terrorism transcend the single-discipline approaches to understanding the motivations for terrorism. Within the context of terrorism, Bjelopera and Randol, (2011:3) define radicalization as a ‘…process of acquiring and holding extremist beliefs. … violent extremism describes violent action taken on the basis of radical or extremist beliefs’. Bjelopera and Randol, (2011:10) argue that radicalization stems from the exposure of individuals to ideological messages and the movement of those individuals from mainstream beliefs to extremist viewpoints. Rabasa, Pettyjohn, Ghez and Boucek (2010:1) define radicalization as ‘ …the process of adopting an extremist belief system, including the willingness to use, support or facilitate violence, as a method to effect societal change’, thereby purporting the connection between extremist beliefs and violence.

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