The term radicalization has been used over the past decades with different interpretations. Coolsaet used the “catch-all concept” (2011, p. 261) to define the trend that many constructs use one idea in reference to different phenomena. Radicalization has, for many years, been synonymous with terrorism, with a particular focus on violent radicalization rather than radical meaning/thinking. Many other meanings in this sphere have been developed and used. For example, Schmid notes that even within scholarly and public debates not all forms of political violence are all-terrorist or all- extremist (Schmid, 2011).
Widespread uses and abuses of the term radicalization have appeared in the media and more broadly in the public sphere. This has created confusion regarding the various meanings of the term, and ultimately delegitimizing the role that some forms of radicalism have had, throughout history, in promoting democracy and social justice. It is therefore important to reaffirm the distinction between violent radicalization and nonviolent radicalization (Schmid, 2011).
We know that radicalization should not necessarily incorporate the idea that a subject performs a violent act, or that the radical position assumed may be connoted a priori as negative or dangerous.
Radicalization is a situated phenomenon. Developing a radical point of view is a variable that can be understood and evaluated in connection with rights, community practices, and the opportunities people have to discuss and contrast these ideas. People can adopt radical ideas, although they may be considered radical with respect to the social or collective norm, they are not necessarily extremist or contrary to democratic norms and values. Radicalization can also lead to different legitimate forms of democratic coexistence if the dialectic debate is allowed into a social context. What is considered radical in a social, cultural and specific historical time cannot be considered so in another. Some nonviolent radical people have played an extremely positive role in their communities, as well as in a wider political context. They have generated forms of political action based on participation, advocacy programs, awareness campaigns or groups of consciousness that grow through dialectics or critical reflection. Sometimes the progress in societies and civil rights has been the result of some form of radical thinking.
But radicalization might also be better understood as an evolutionary process. Many people develop radicalized thinking through a specific life experience in a spectrum that can in no way reach violence or be closed to other points of view.
People experience radicalization more or less consciously as the result of a process of sedimentation of meanings and perspectives that can become rigid and impermeable to debate, dialectics and confrontation over time. Violence can be an expression of this extreme state, where violence is interpreted as the only or right way to assert and to impose an idea.
This book has been developed around this debate of radicalization, and the authors are aware that this notion of radicalization could be difficult to comprehend as the subject is convoluted and at times contradictory. But the intent of this collective work is not to propose a dictionary definition of radicalization or stabilize a positional idea about it. We would like to propose some studies to support a deeper and more complex understanding of this phenomenon called radicalization through seeing it through different points of view. In the following chapters there is not one unique scientific area involved or different levels of analysis. We have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to show the complexity of a part of this scientific debate and we explored the phenomenon through a theoretical and empirical approach. Some of the authors describe qualitative and quantitative research connecting radicalization with other constructs developed in sociological, psychological, educational studies. Other researchers develop ways to understand radicalization from a theoretical point of view. They have attempted to find connections among theories rather than reduce it to one singular framework.
There is, however, a common frame of work that guides the chapters of this book -the concept that the first way to prevent and contrast the use of violence in the radicalization processes is through education. We well know the importance of the security approach and that collaboration is necessary, but goals can differ and likewise so can methods of prevention. In the book’s title we have used “everyday life” as a reminder that radicalization takes place in the initial stages of informal learning contexts. Peer groups, family, sport teams, workplaces and social media are spaces where people can radicalize their positions. In these spaces of everyday life, we can find companions, authorities, and beliefs ready to validate more radical ideas. This book, divided into two principal parts, aims to explore the phenomenon of radicalization with special attention to the influence of informal learning processes. The first part consists of chapters that use a theoretical framework while the second part presents empirical research. We think that this division can help the reader understand both challenges: which theories and constructs could be developed to better understand the radicalization processes? What are some examples of radicalized experiences in social life?
We hope that social workers, educators, psychologists, politicians and other professionals involved in prevention can find examples and new words for describing their work, and to plan new programs, activities and interventions.
Each one of us can potentially develop personal, political, religious, or ethical perspectives that could be considered extreme, at least from others’ points of view.
Radical views only become problematic when they legitimize, encourage, or validate violence or forms of extremist behaviors, including terrorism and acts of hatred which are intended to promote a particular cause, ideology, or worldview. Individuals going through a process of radicalization can encourage, assist, or commit violence in the name of a specific system of beliefs because they are convinced that their assumptions are absolute and exclusive, and not framed within a personal or social history that can be re-read and re-negotiated.