Extremist political views have been experiencing a boom. Even in Germany, positions at the right and left ends of the political spectrum and in the context of religious sectarianism are radicalizing. In order to avoid turning into a “society of extremes” and to strengthen our liberal values and institutions, we must first understand the mechanisms that drive individual and collective radicalization. Besides engaging in prevention work and prosecuting criminal offenses, incentives for individuals to part ways with extremist groups must also be provided. This is context addressed by the project “Extreme Society. Radicalization and Deradicalization in Germany” starting on July 1, 2017 and with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

The project uses an interdisciplinary and systematic comparative approach to investigate the current state of radicalization research and to propose recommendations for combating radicalization while also strengthening democratic values. Moreover, the project promotes the exchange of knowledge between researchers and practitioners. Under the direction of Professor Dr. Christopher Daase, Professor Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff and Dr. Julian Junk, the project is being executed by a team of researchers at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) comprised of Magdalena von Drachenfels, Dr. Eva Herschinger, Heribert Meiss, Philipp Offermann, Clara Süss and Dr. Carmen Wunderlich.

The project “Extreme Society. Radicalization and Deradicalization in Germany” will have a duration of 18 months and it will be carried out in cooperation with five research institutions relevant in this area and partners from the field. A team of experts are supporting the project in addressing the following key issues: Without suggesting that clear-cut distinctions can be applied to the complex dynamics of radicalization processes, the first three issues areas shed light on this phenomenon using different perspectives. The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) at the University of Bielefeld is studying processes of radicalization at the individual level while the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at Humboldt University Berlin is dealing with the radicalization of groups. The Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK), part of the Leibniz Association, is focusing on the extent to which entire societies are prone to radicalizing. The Violence Prevention Network is looking into the practical challenges associated with deradicalization. Online radicalization is the focus area of International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King’s College in London while the work of the National Center for Crime Prevention (NZK) in Bonn is exclusively dedicated to evaluating prevention and deradicalization measures.

All of the pertinent results arising out of these projects will be made available to the public in various online and offline formats and presented at a concluding conference in association with the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF).