Trends of Radicalisation | September 2021


Authors: Stephen W. Sawyer, Roman Zinigrad – The American University of Paris, Center for Critical Democracy Studies

The collection of country reports traces the main trends of radicalisation in all seventeen focus countries of the D.Rad project by identifying specific historical “hotspots”. These hotspots, which speak to the specificities of political, economic and cultural development and tensions present in each analysed region, represent a culmination of general radicalisation trends and provide meaningful insights into their rise and expansion.

This work package is the second part of the project’s Work Package 3 (WP3). WP3.2 aims to map key meso-level stakeholders and identify situations of radicalisation to provide a foundation for situational analysis among all the partners of the D.Rad project, elaborating the links between individuals at the micro-level across the I-GAP (injustice-grievance-alienation-polarisation) spectrum, and meso-levels of radicalisation. It is a follow up to the previous deliverable, WP3.1 that mapped the structures of radicalisation, the main agents of violence and the main stakeholders of de-radicalisation in each country.

This synthesis report provides preliminary insights on the current trends of radicalisation in Europe and beyond. The report begins with the method devised for WP3.2 by its coordinators, Stephen W. Sawyer and Roman Zinigrad. It moves on to provide an overview of the detected trends, asserts that eminent trends of radicalisation do not always culminate in violence, and argues that the degree of exercised violence does not correlate with the type of political motives that drive it. In the next sections, the synthesis report touches upon two themes central to most contemporary trends of radicalisation: the “lone-wolf” strategy and the nature of online extremist networks. It then offers a synopsis of the main micro, meso, and macro factors that were found to instigate radicalisation, addresses the motivational factors that triggered the violence in the actors’ own perceptions, and emphasises the tension between these two categories. The report includes the coded information on the motivational factors of all hotspots analysed in WP3.2.

Finally, the conclusion offers some interpretive and conceptual analyses of the findings addressing four major points: 1) the distinction between radical ideology and radical violent action; 2) numbers of victims or attacks and the relative physical or material harm caused by attacks as opposed to their symbolic power; 3) the relationship between jihadist violence and religious violence more broadly; 4) how a “hotspots” approach reconsiders the relationship between civil society actors or stakeholders and state action or programmes.