A Threat to Open Societies? Conceptualizing the Radicalization of Society


  • Eva Herschinger Universität der Bundeswehr München
  • Kemal Bozay IUBH International University, Düsseldorf
  • Magdalena von Drachenfels German Children and Youth Foundation, Stuttgart
  • Oliver Decker Competence Centre for Research into Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy, Leipzig University, Leipzig
  • Christian Joppke Institute of Sociology, University of Bern, Bern




radicalization of society, polarization, populism


Which are the factors that favor societal radicalization? Few studies in international and national radicalization research have been directly interested in investigating the societal level and discussing the impact of radicalized groups, milieus and strata on society and its potential radicalization. This article provides on overview of current research and discusses factors favoring the radicalization of societies. The latter arises when the legitimacy of the political system is called into question and a society witnesses a departure from prevailing social norms in political dealings, especially if the use of political violence is no longer rejected. All in all, radicalized individuals, groups, milieus or strata can hold the potential for radicalizing societies. Increasing and incremental socio-political changes can lead to decreasing social cohesion. In view of this possibility, the authors call for strengthening social resilience and civilizing the public debate.






Focus (2): What do we know about radicalization?