The following films present the most important findings of the research network in an accessible form. Based on the six original topics of the network, the experts explain their central theses and the most important policy recommendations. With a length of six to ten minutes, this multimedia variation of our results is a good opportunity to quickly grasp and communicate the central contents.
Film audio is again mostly German, but full English subtitles are provided.
Identifying the reasons as to why an individual radicalizes and the conditions under which he/she is willing to exercise violence is a topic that concerns researchers, policy-makers and society in equal measure. A wealth of international and domestic studies has shown that an individual’s inclination towards adopting extremist attitudes and joining extremist groups of similarly aged peers in one’s juvenile years often fulfills a socio(biographical) function. They help individuals to cope with critical life events, come to terms with one's personal development and overcome a change of life status. Apart from reducing insecurities and identify conflicts, they also satisfy basic human needs such as belonging and recognition. Extremist groups, in particular, become appealing in this context due to their authoritarian leadership style as well as the hierarchy and role model structures that they offer, in addition to providing their members with an all-encompassingsocial identity. At the same time, ideologies offer individuals interpretive paradigms that the can subjectively comprehend as well as alternatives for individual action that address their personal difficulties.
Radical groups not only pose a serious challenge for state security authorities, but likewise for society in general. Considering that the social interactions that take place within groups often drive processes of radicalization and individuals – who may ultimately act alone – also begin by interacting with people, networks and groups, some of the crucial elements for studying radicalization are factors such as group dynamics, collective identities and ideologies.
The radicalization of individuals and groups remains the center of focus in the debate surrounding the matters of “how” and “why”. While society is primarily treated as a social setting and environment in many studies, the question as to the impact that radicalized individuals, groups, milieus and social layers can have on society has gained in relevance. Not only individuals and groups that radicalize: an entire society is also capable of radicalization. This may occur, for example, when the legitimacy of the political system is put into question and the predominant social norms in the political sphere are rejected, especially a reversal towards to acceptance of political violence.
Despite the fact that research on the topic of "radicalization” has been thriving, very few practical findings applicable to deradicalization work have emerged from research in this area. Not only do we a lack overview studies, the existing literature also remains incoherent. Both in Germany and abroad, different understandings and attempts at systematization are being used simultaneously. The key practitioners, researchers, (security) agencies and policy-makers do not utilize standardized definitions nor are they in agreement about what deradicalization means (in practical terms).
While radicalization may primarily play out in the “real world”, extremists have been adept internet users since the very dawn of the Internet itself. They not only keep up with technological developments, they expertly use these to achieve aims – as a medium for propaganda, recruitment, logistics and financing their teams. Today, the Internet has become one of the primary spheres of activity for radicalized groups. Accordingly, there has been a substantial and growing range of research addressing the role the Internet and social media in processes of radicalization and deradicalization.
Conducting evaluations helps us to understand the effects of prevention work aimed at countering radicalization and extremism in the social context. They aim to provide us with answers to frequently posed questions relating to the tangible outcomes of prevention work. Such evaluations, however, are often subject to overblown expectations as to the results they can offer and their feasibility. The justified interest in arriving at solid evidence of their efficacy runs into serious difficulties associated with the planning and implementation of evaluation studies in the area of deradicalization, distancing and radicalization prevention.