10 March 2015 | Draft
Radicalisation versus Demonisation?
Enabling radical initiatives under conditions of strategic stalemate
- / -
Varieties of radical -- as a perspective or worldview
Varieties of radicalism -- being radical or so perceived
Varieties of radical action
Varieties of radicalisation -- becoming a radical and adopting radical modalities
Patterning the varieties of radical experience
Radicalisation and demonisation: system dynamics of US and THEM
Demonisation reframed as daimonisation?
In a period in which radicalisation is upheld as a matter of ever increasing political concern, there is seemingly little understanding of the condition of being a radical -- other than as perceived and labelled by others according to some convention of normality. With so-called radicals moving into the zones of conflict in the Middle East, understanding of why they are doing so -- in their own terms -- is not commonly discussed. There is understandable insistence that such movement is regrettable and should be stopped by some means, notably for fear that in returning from such zones an even greater degree of radicalisation may infect local populations.
There is however little appreciation of the attraction of the conflict for such radicals, namely the meaning of the cause and how this frames their willingness to die for it -- a process framed as heroic and inspiring in other contexts. The conventional explanations are naturally in the language of those offering them, but with little acknowledgement that there may be fundamental issues in interpretation of the language of the radical experience. This suggests that any consideration of the reality of radicalisation is undermined by premature closure and oversimplification -- as tends to characterize intercultural misunderstanding.
A radical worldview is of course readily associated with insanity as conventionally defined. Of some relevance are the forms of radicalisation associated with incarceration in the company of criminals, irrespective of any religious dimension. Also meriting consideration is any hypothetical engagement with extraterrestrials, as continues to be envisaged by science and science fiction (Ian Sample, Alien search won't doom planet Earth, say scientists who want to contact ET, The Guardian, 12 February 2015; Joel Achenbach, Do we really want to know if we're not alone in the universe? The Washington Post, 28 February 2015; Eric Hand, Researchers call for interstellar messages to alien civilizations, Science Insider, 12 February 2015; Steve Connor, Plan to broadcast messages to alien worlds leaves cosmologists worrying, The Independent, 13 February 2015).
Fears over a new SETI plan to broadcast greetings to habitable planets for hundreds of years are now dismissed as paranoia -- despite the vivid imaginings of science fiction and movie dramatisations. However oversimplification allows little consideration to be given to the possibility that extraterrestrials might be "radical", or committed to the "radicalisation" of others, in ways beyond those already considered a challenge by humanity. Alternatively, might a galactic context frame humanity as "incarcerated" on Planet Earth -- with dangerous criminal elements by which they are being radicalised?
The need for further insight is argued by Kamaldeep Bhui (Our Unwillingness to Understand More About Radicalisation Risks Failing Our Youth. The Huffington Post, 31 October 2014):
These are dark times. Terrorist threat is growing, videos of beheadings frequent the news, and we are witnessing young people leave the sanctuary of their life in the UK to join war in the Middle East. Why? To understand how a person who is seemingly integrated and happy in British society becomes radicalised to the point of wanting to join a terrorist organisation in another country, we must first increase our understanding of how the process of radicalisation begins.
The following rough clustering of understandings of "radical" can be readily seen as overlapping or bleeding into each other, as well as being variously associated with extremes attracting condemnation as extremism. These considerations follow an earlier exploration of the implications of a strategic response to "radical", variously understood as "eradication" (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? Indicative checklist of possible domains of application, 2014).
In a period when appeals for "new thinking" are made, how might this be appropriately distinguished from "radical thinking" -- if "radical" insights are indeed required in creative response to strategic chaos? Is there every possibility that any new thinking will be "demonised" -- especially when articulated from a particular part of the political spectrum that is typically challenged in the political process from any other perspectives in that spectrum? There is some irony in evoking the demonic in this way, given that the policy sciences now frame the most intractable issues as "wicked problems".
Varieties of radical -- as a perspective or worldview
Political and strategic discourse in relation to the war on terror, has now firmly associated terrorism with extremism, as separately discussed (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting out" extremism? 2005). More recently the emphasis seems to have shifted to the conflation of terrorism with radicalism -- as manifested in the extremist behaviour of radicals.
Any review of the use of "radical" indicates a range of interpretations which may be variously understood appreciatively or calling for the severest sanction. Also of relevance is the extent to which these may be confused and/or conflated in different contexts and in support of different arguments.
In contrast with the distinctions made in the subsequent sections, those made here could best be recognized as "singular" in nature -- a radical attitude or an act of radical creativity. As such they are understood here as distinct from ongoing radical processes or their embodiment, as considered subsequently.
Clearly the radical nature of many of the following tends to be valued as a contrast to conventional perspectives. Employing "lateral thinking", or thinking "out-of-the-box", could be understood as radical, for example. They may be seen as exemplifying "cutting edge" creativity -- even though challenged from more conventional perspectives. However any such "cutting edge" may indeed be disruptive and unwelcome to some -- even harmful.
Radical idea: Most obvious is the use of "radical" in relation to an idea or concept, most typically with respect to innovation in many domains. In more abstract terms, "radical" may be used with respect to an insight, possibly that of an emergent paradigm -- and as characteristic of a "paradigm shift". Creativity and creative breakthroughs are typically acclaimed as "radical" -- as exemplified by the insight of Albert Einstein with respect to relativity. Engagement with that experience may be framed in terms of renaissance or rebirth (Varieties of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being "born again", 2004).
Radical understanding: Use of "radical" may be characteristic of a personal belief, understanding or attitude -- held to be distinct to that of others -- whether or not others are made aware of it. This may naturally include political opinions. Of particular interest is the radical acceptance which may be characteristic of engagement with life as it is -- as in the Sufi recognition of the "perfection of what is"
Radical religious experience: The experiences associated with any form of mystical revelation or religious conversion are necessarily considered to radical, especially recognition of being born again.
Radical proposal: Following from the previous points, proposals for strategic initiatives may be labelled as "radical" in their distinction from those made habitually (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005). Imaginative proposals may be seen as radical ( Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, 1729). Others have been made in that spirit (Enabling Fruitful Multiplication of Global Population, 2015; Challenge of Nonviolent Population Decimation: reducing effects of overpopulation on resources and climate change by major reduction in the height of people, 2007).
Radical design: A radical idea may well be embodied in a design or work of art, possibly patented in terms of its necessary originality. A period in Italian art is known by the term radical design. The expression may be used in relation to clothing fashions, architecture, or technology.
Varieties of radicalism -- being radical or so perceived
This cluster reflects the attribution of "radical" as category or label to the distinctions made above. It endeavours to cluster ongoing cognitive processes perceived as radical. notably when embodied in people or groups so distinguished -- and thereby sustained by them. In the light of distinctions made above, "being radical" may well be conflated with "being creative". Subscribing to a paradigm shift may be perceived as radical, as with involvement in a scientific revolution. There is the further implication of a strategic agenda of transformation to that perspective -- whether overt or undeclared (as discussed subsequently with respect to radical action).
Use of the term may however reflect a pejorative judgement critical of anything radical in contrast with maintenance of the status quo, as with the framing by David Horowitz (Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion, 2012), ironically subsequent to his autobiographical memoir (Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, 1996). The latter is thereby framed as satisfactory or characterized by a non-radical process of development -- however that is to be understood in the light of habitual "mainstream thinking". The questionable implications of radical change then tend to be emphasized -- as implied by the disruptive challenges of "revolutionary change" and "revolution". In the following cases there is increasing disassociation from what is framed as "radical" -- namely a distance from any such modality, rendering it increasingly questionable, if not dangerously challenging.
Radical thinking: This is helpfully clarified by Sarah Boyes (What is a radical thinker? Pulling up the roots, Culture Wars, 24 August 2007):
So what is a radical thinker? The word comes from the Latin radix, meaning 'root': it means to cut to the fundamentals, to advocate an overhaul of rudimentary principles to 'protract thorough political or social reform' (OED, 1998). A radical thinker, then, is anybody engaged with the very core of her material, who challenges and changes the key beliefs we all have about the way the world is - and should be. And as for the often forgotten flipside of thinking - action - radical thinkers develop and propagate practical methods of challenging and changing the status quo. By questioning deeply ingrained platitudes about ourselves and society, radical thinkers force us to rehash who we think we are and how we want society to be.
And yet there lies the problem. Many of the theorists selected for this second series of Radical Thinkers published by Verso have been charged with everything from obscurantism, irrelevance, and banality to sheer bloody-mindedness. In many ways they have heralded and developed the very ideas that seem to make any positive project for grand social change inconceivable - postmodernism, relativism, and particularity. Bereft of a common subject, theirs has often been a radicalism of method... But how should thinkers balance intellectual integrity with the need to be understood; how should radicalism express itself in order to be received positively; and if the ultimate aim is doing something, how can theories become manifestos? .... Whilst it's no good to try and fit an outmoded idea of what radical thinking means into contemporary society, or to advocate a straightforward regression to past modes of activism, neither does it do to have a simplistic understanding of both radicalism and extremism. If anything, the history of radical thought shows radical thinkers are always radical in a particular context, and it's possible to be a political radical in many ways, about many things. It's not just platitudes that need to be pulled up and replaced, but the very notion of being a radical concerned with action in contemporary society.
A blogger writes with respect to What is radical thinking (City Strolls):
To deal with ideas problems and solutions we need to think radically. We need to understand how things are connected. How one thing affects another, how language is used. How we analyze what is being said, offered and executed on behalf of ourselves. One of the first things you learn in dealing in radical ideas is people are very wary of the title radical. The title conjures up for some the pejorative "trouble making disgruntled lefties", a form of vilification used in right wing quarters for anyone who speaks against their policies or ideology. So really we are just meaning thinking using the facts available to us rather than what others would like us to think.... Of course if you do a "Radical Thinking" search on the internet, far from the views of disgruntled lefties, you are more likely to come up with titles such as "Annual plan for business requires radical planning," or "Knowledge revolution demands radical thinking," or "Modern materials handling requires radical thinking" and "Institute of Radical Thinking". Business uses radical thinking, radical planning, radical changes constantly, mostly in order to cut costs, staff and increase profits. Only when "radical thinking" is applied by the person in the street does the term become pejorative, trouble making and dangerous.
In the light of this creative take on the meaning of "radical", the introduction to Study Guides and Strategies with respect to Radical Thinking, argues:
Often the way we experience the world is built on and bordered by our experiences! When we find ourselves in a situation, we form solutions with "shortcuts" based upon patterns we have "learned" in our lives. Most of the time, these shortcuts serve us well by providing answers based upon how we have solved problems in our past. They provide efficient rules that guide us in decision making and problem solving. This is also called a heuristic approach to learning, discovery, and problem solving. However, these rules also can lock us into stereotypes, pre-conceived ideas, and uncritical analysis. When they are not helpful, one strategy or approach can be radical thinking, an approach to creatively engage with options! Perhaps radical thinking may help you generate new ideas?
Radical philosophy: As associated with philosophy, "radical" may for example refer to the philosophical radicals -- a loose term for the group of reformers who based their approach to government and society largely on utilitarian theories. More recent examples include anarchist philosophies and those of ecophilosophy (Paul Feyerabend. Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975; Henryk Skolimowski, The Participatory Mind: a new theory of knowledge and of the universe, 1994). The topic has been explored by Allan Megill (Prophets of extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault. Derrida, 1985).
Radical theology: This is an active academic preoccupation, associated with so-called Death of God theology, as instanced by Trevor Greenfield (An Introduction to Radical Theology: the death and resurrection of God, 2006) and Richard Grigg (Beyond the God Delusion: how radical theology harmonizes science and religion, 2008; Gods after God: an introduction to contemporary radical theologies, 2006).
Religious radicalism: This is the most notably focus of concern with radicalism, fundamentalism and religious extremism. It has its own periodical -- the Journal for the Study of Radicalism. However, rather than being associated primarily with Islam as is currently the case in the media, it is evident in a range of religions, most notably the Abrahamic (Christiane Timmerman (Ed.), Faith-based Radicalism: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- between constructive activism and destructive fanaticism, 2007):
- Islamic fundamentalism: As noted with respect to radical Islam:
While professing unwavering faith in a transcendent deity, radical Islam is a militant, politically activist ideology whose ultimate goal is to create a worldwide community, or caliphate, of Muslim believers. Determined to achieve this new world order by any means necessary, including violence and mass murder, radical Islam is characterized by its contempt for the beliefs, practices, and symbols of other religious traditions. This intolerant creed is cited by Islamists as the philosophical justification for their terrorism. (Discover the Networks: a guide to the political left)
- Jewish fundamentalism: There is a strong tradition of Jewish radicalism, which began in earnest in the late 19th century (Lori Shaller and Judith Rosenbaum, Jewish Radicalism and the Red Scare: Introductory Essay, Living the Legacy).
- Christian fundamentalism: Extreme forms may frame their initiatives as a means of "helping God" by bringing about the End Times, as with the so-called Armageddon Lobby (Rammy M. Haija, The Armageddon Lobby: dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy towards Israel-Palestine, Information Clearinghouse; Sarah Posner, Lobbying for Armageddon, AlterNet, 2 August 2006).
Radical psychology: As articulated by the Radical Psychology Network (RadPsyNet), the intention is to change the status quo of psychology. Challenging psychology's traditional focus on minor reform, members emphasise enhancing human welfare by working for fundamental social change (Po Chi Wu, Radicalism and Disruptive Innovation: can the metaphor of disruptive innovation help us understand radicalism better? Psychology Today, 12 November 2014). This may have epistemological implications, as with radical constructivism (John R. Anderson. Lynne M. Reder and H. A. Simon. Radical Constructivism and Cognitive Psychology). Radical Behaviorism is the school of thought pioneered by B. F. Skinner that argues that behavior, rather than mental states, should be the focus of study in psychology.
Radicalism, especially of a religious nature, has been understood as a form of psychosis, potentially open to a cure (Napp Nazworth, Neuroscientist: Radical Religion, Extreme Beliefs, May One Day be 'Cured', CP World, 3 June 2013; Sara C Nelson, Religious Fundamentalism 'May Be Categorised as Mental Illness and Cured By Science'. The Huffington Post, 30 May 2013). Contrary views have been articulated (Stephen N. Xenakis, Radical Jihadism is Not a Mental Disorder. The Washington Post, 10 December 2010)
As I listened to the prosecution's expert testimony depicting Khadr's state of mind, I was reminded of psychiatry and the politicization of mental health under the Soviet regime. Those were the years when political dissidents were accused of insanity simply because they had the audacity to challenge the Soviet system. The medical profession, especially psychiatry, was a political instrument of control and repression.... But radical jihadism is not a clinical condition, and diagnosing it is not within the domain of psychiatric experts. Radical jihadism is an ideology - and can be embraced by the psychiatrically sane and insane alike.
In Learning from Psychosis an effort is made to promote a deeper understanding of the subject to enable participants to reflect upon and improve their practice. To look at the implications of being labelled. To illustrate that there are individual differences and to encourage participants to look at users as individuals. The question of What are examples of radical psychological transformations? (Quora, 2011) evoked responses such as the way Dostoevsky became highly productive, Buddha's Enlightenment, lobotomy, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Radical personality: There is necessarily concern for profiling and remedial purposes to clarify the nature of a radical personality, notably in relation to social psychological correlates of New Left ideology (S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman, The Radical Personality: social psychological correlates of new left ideology, Political Behavior, 4, 1982, 3, pp 207-235). This sought to contrast this understanding with other studies that portrayed radicals as psychologically "liberated". Consequently it offers a model of psychopolitical rebellion as an inverted form of authoritarian personality.
Radical social work and radical sociology: According to Radical Reference, radical social work aims to:
- support social work that is informed by a class analysis.
- support social work that strives to reduce poverty and inequality of income and wealth.
- assert that social work aims to improve people's lives not only by helping individuals and families but also by striving for structural change.
- challenge the culture of managerialism and develop radical social work theories which give social workers confidence in tackling social problems.
- promote radical ideas by providing a forum for sharing experiences, discussing current events, clarifying views and developing awareness of social issues.
- support radicals in front-line social work who struggle to maintain a radical perspective.
Critical social work is the application of social work from a critical theory perspective. It seeks to address social injustices, as opposed to focusing on individual people's problems. This is naturally framed by radical sociology as a discipline (Rhonda F. Levine (Ed.), Enriching the Sociological Imagination: how radical sociology changed the discipline, 2005; R Flacks, and G Turkel, Radical Sociology: The Emergence of Neo-Marxian Perspectives in US Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, 4, 1978, pp. 193-238)
Radical politics: This typically refers to the "far left" or the "far right" -- in contrast with the cognitively unchallenging business-as-usual of the conservative centre. The philosophical radicals endeavoured unsuccessfully to embody their views in a political movement in the early 19th century. Individuals may convert from one political worldview to another. David Horowitz has articulated criticism in this light (Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, 2004; The Politics of Bad Faith: the radical assault on America's future, 2000; The Art of Political War And Other Radical Pursuits, 2000).
A conference organized by the Research Group for Radical Philosophy and Literature on Fanaticism, Extremism, Radicalism, 2014) explored intersecting as well as diverging areas of today's philosophical and political opposition to the liberal hegemony. In summary:
Even though the concepts of "fanaticism," "extremism," and "radicalism" have different connotations and are often used to designate diverse phenomena, they all basically refer to the same impulse, namely the desire to radically alter the current social conditions.... Only a truly radical philosophy is capable of thinking beyond the "false binaries" on which terrorism thrives and thus articulate the "real," antagonistic conflict lines of our present situation. During the last couple of years a series of revolutions has taken place, most notably in the Arab world; social protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street have gathered forces across national borders to promote a radical political agenda; and "the idea of communism" has been re-launched as the only political idea worthy of a philosopher (Badiou).
A panel discussion organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy reviewed the causes for the rise of radicalism in Iraq and Syria and the creation of militant groups such as ISIS (ISIS, Radicalization, and the Politics of Violence and Alienation ResetDoc, 4 September 2014). An earlier survey by Eric Plutzer noted that:
The endorsement of leftist radical proposals among members of the mass public has been variously attributed to political ignorance, social isolation, social integration, economic insecurity, objective economic hardship, and subjective deprivation (Determinants of Leftist Radical Belief in the United States: a test of competing tTheories, Social Forces, 65, 1987, 4, pp. 1002-1019)
However, in contrast to the above points, which modern countries can claim not to have been created by radicals and radical actions -- labelled as terrorists and terrorism respectively?
Radical belief or worldview: Such a worldview may be characteristic of political, religious, moral, or other extremes. In the case of Islamic extremists, for example, it can be seen in terms of a search for meaning (Rosleenda Mohamed Ali and Simon Moss, The Search for Meaning : exploring the radical worldview of Islamist extremists in Victoria, 2010). Radical beliefs are considered to be those which are extreme, namely far outside the norm -- irrespective of whether those of the norm are debatable. The website of Radical Belief cites an Apple Super Bowl Commercial:
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits, the trouble makers, the rebels. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules and have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them,. glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they are crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvass and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
It is appropriate to contrast the radical nature of socio-psychological worldviews with those engendered by the natural sciences. With their paradoxical understanding of the nature of matter -- beyond "normal" comprehension -- these can be understood as even more extreme. They are expected to engender credibility.
Radical scientism: Scientism can be understood as the radical belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints.
Advocates of the doctrine of scientism believe that the boundaries of science (that is, typically the natural sciences) could and should be expanded in such a way that something that has not previously been understood as science can now become a part of science. The pattern resembles to an extreme degree the radical ambitions of various religions.
Varieties of radical action
This cluster tends to reflect the perceptible consequences of a radical perspective or process -- most obviously in the light of their effect on others, as with physical violence. As such it is the primary focus of condemnation of "radicals" and "radicalism" -- irrespective of the considerations above. These consequences are most readily distinguished as worthy of the most severe sanction -- whether or not they are justified and legitimated by other considerations. Radical action may be enabled by radical arguments from extreme perspectives -- notably justifying violence against others in terms of a set of values, typically associated with religion.
- Physical harm to others as a form of radical action (beyond practices recommended by convention): Distinctions can however be made:
- military and security strategies acclaimed as "radical": Depending on perspective, these may of course include the previous category. Notable examples include carpet bombing of Dresden the Ho Chi Minh trail, and use of the hydrogen bomb at Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Use of mass waves of soldiers sent "over the top" into highly probable death -- the case of the trench warfare of World War I constitutes a much-commented example. Strategic responses unconstrained by the Geneva Convention offer further examples, as implied by the "gloves off" response of the Bush regime (E. L. Gaston, Taking the Gloves off of Homeland Security: rethinking the federalism framework for responding to domestic emergencies). The suggestion of bombing a culture back to the Stone Age can be explored in this light (Nick Cullather, Bomb them Back to the Stone Age: an etymology, History News Network).
- suicide bombing as characterizing terrorism: Confusion arises when consideration is accorded to suicide bombing by us (and ours) and that against us (and ours). Clearly, when employed by members of a group considered worthy, this confusion is especially problematic -- as with actions by pilots esteemed heroic when crashing their fatally damaged planes in warfare so as to cause the maximum damage to the enemy. Military personnel may be consciously sent on suicide missions with or without the awareness and consent of those so ordered. However the actions of kamikaze pilots, much esteemed in Japan at the time, are to be deplored.
- unethical experimentation on humans: Considerable commentary exists on use of humans in experiments on exposure to radiation in testing nuclear weapons. Similar reports exist with respect to biochemical agents with a view to biochemical warfare. These may be compared with human experimentation by the Nazi regime, notably on those in concentration camps. Wikipedia notes controversies regarding Unethical human experimentation in the United States
- enhanced interrogation and torture: These have featured controversially in the "gloves off" response by the USA to those suspected of terrorism (U.S. Senate Report on CIA Detention Interrogation Program, 2014). The pattern has however been evident in the response by security services to threats of terrorism in other arenas (UssR, Libya, Kenya, etc). It was preceded by the use of such practices in centuries past, notably in Europe (Inquisition, etc). Gunatanamo bay***
- corporal punishment: A distinction is made in Wikipedia between three main types:
Each of these is variously recommended, condoned or condemned. Far more controversial is the use of such punishment by groups without any judicial authority or recognition, as with those considered to be terrorists, and confirmed as such in consequence.
- Parental or domestic corporal punishment: within the family -- typically, children punished by parents or guardians;
- School corporal punishment: within schools, when students are punished by prefects, teachers or school administrators, or, in the past, apprentices by master craftsmen;
- Judicial corporal punishment: as part of a criminal sentence ordered by a court of law. Closely related is prison corporal punishment or disciplinary corporal punishment, ordered by prison authorities or carried out directly by staff. The latter process to the controversial use of violence by the police in stop and search operations.
The issue is of course evident in some forms of bullying in institutions, whether educational, military, or the workplace -- where in each case the group engaging in that practice arrogates such legitimacy to itself -- possibly condoned to some degree by the institutional authority. Variants meriting consideration include limb amputation (as recommended by Islamic sharia law), as well as the therapeutic use of lobotomy, electro-shock, and castration (as have been recommended by medical authorities)
- mutilation: In addition to that framed as punishment, mutilation of the body continues to be a characteristic of many cultures -- notably in the form of scarification, burning, flagellation, tattooing, or wheeling -- typically understood as part of a rite of passage. Most obviously this includes mutilation of the genitals -- as in male circumcision and female genital mutilation
- capital punishment: Again use of the death penalty by some countries is variously condemned by others. Its use "in the field" in the treatment of enemy captives or those considered traitors is well-recognized and variously condoned. The condemnation of decapitation by radical Islamic jihadists is the subject of widespread criticism, even framed as an act of "pure evil" (Beheading versus Befooting: in quest of the lesser evil for the greater good, 2014).
The issue is confused by the fact that beheading by guillotine was employed in France as recently as 1977 (in the execution of the Tunisian Hamida Djandoubi), long after becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Beheading was of course a characteristic mode of execution in centuries past -- especially of fallen leaders and their supporters. Distinctions are also complicated by comparison with burning at the stake -- long favoured by Christians of various persuasions, notably as punishment for heresy (List of people burned as heretics). The issue has been further confused by the widely reported declaration of Avigdor Lieberman (Israeli foreign minister says disloyal Arabs should be beheaded, The Washington Post, 10 March 2015; Lieberman: Behead Arabs who aren't loyal to Israel, Middle East Monitor, 9 March 2015).
- euthanasia: Again there is the confusion between that desired by the person (for lack of viable alternatives) and that deplored by others (claiming the existence of viable alternatives)
- ethnic cleansing: As widely condemned. Confusion arises in the recommendation of this approach by governments as a means of eliminating what are framed as genetic impurities. Wikipedia distinguishes between:
- massacre: Typically understood as a specific incident which involves the deliberate slaughter of people. It is however difficult to distinguish from use of use of weapons of mass destruction and carpet bombing.
- "eradication": With its implied definition of radical through metaphor, this strategy can be understood as the "rooting out" of radicals of whatever form -- by whatever violent means are feasible. As noted above, this strategic mindset is discussed separately (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting out" extremism? 2005; Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? Indicative checklist of possible domains of application, 2014). The latter included the following sections:
- Self-harm with non-physical implications for others: Usefully distinguished are the radical experiences associated with:
- Destruction of objects
and infrastructure: Typically cited in this period is the destruction of icons and statues valued as features of cultural heritage, notably as indicative of the deplorable characteristics of Islamic radical action,. This practice has however been characteristic of
Christianity, as in its treatment of indigenous cultures of Latin America. There are many associated instances
of the destruction of libraries and sacred writings valued as sacred.
The controversy regarding the Eligin Marbles can be recognized in this context, as with the transfer of artefacts of indigenous cultures (including bones) to museums in other countries.
Curiously the pattern of regrettable destruction can be recognized in the case of wilderness and forest areas -- and the associated wildlife habitats -- variously reframed euphemistically as "clearing the land". A related process is evident with respect to waste disposal destructive of the oceans and marine habitats.
- Apparently physically harmless forms of radical action:
Distinctions can be usefully made in this respect with regard to:
- structural violence, namely a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.
- cultural violence, as a form of structural violence,
this refers to aspects of a culture that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence, and may be exemplified by religion and ideology, language and art, empirical science and formal science
- spiritual violence, namely the act of using religious grounds to persecute a particular person or group of people, without actual violence.
- symbolic violence, namely the tacit almost unconscious modes of cultural/social domination occurring within the every-day social habits maintained over conscious subjects
- destruction of cultural heritage is evident in prohibition of use of indigenous languages, celebrations, and modes of clothing
- withholding aid to persons in danger offers a further understanding of radical action
- Harmless forms of radical action: This category might include:
- radical sport, as widely used, possibly understood in relation to extreme sports. This is illustrated by the tragic accident at the time of writing resulted in the death of heros of the French sporting world, including Florence Arthaud, framed as "hors normes" (La presse rend hommage à des champions "hors normes", Europe1, 11 mars 2015). As with off-track skiiing ("hors-piste"), such prowess is admired as exemplifying radical capacity -- with its acceptance of danger, in contrast to the risk aversion characteristic of normal sport.
- radical lifestyle, most notably including:
- voluntary simplicity, and extreme dietary regimes
- life in an intentional community, namely with a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often following an alternative lifestyle.
- hermit life
- invention of virtual worlds and artificial languages
Varieties of radicalisation -- becoming a radical and adopting radical modalities
Irrespective of the challenge to society, or how radical may be valued by society, the following cluster is concerned with how "radicalisation" is enabled. As readily assumed, this process is primarily (if not solely) associated with forms of violence, now readily labelled as "terrorism". There are however other forms of radicalisation which merit consideration within this cluster.
As argued above, radicalisation may be intimately related to a capacity for innovation. Radicalisation may then, to some degree, be understood as the process through which creativity is engendered within society. It is not for nothing that the paradigm shifts in society result in part from radical thinking -- appropriately leading to so-called "scientific revolutions"..
To the extent that radicalisation may be experienced and upheld by its advocates as a form of rebirth, it is useful to explore the variety of understandings of rebirth, as discussed separately (Varieties of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being "born again", 2004). The latter distinguished:
- Cultural rebirth (renaissance, aesthetic birth, mytho-poesis)
- Socio-religious rebirth (birthright, destiny, reincarnation, socal status, ceremony, ritual, group affiliation, games, sports)
- Psycho-behavioural rebirth (sin-to-virtue, changing patterns of consumption, conversion)
- Developmental rebirth (education, perspective, initiation, cultural creativity, individuation)
- Therapeutical rebirth (release from trauma, mentors, self-help, discipleship)
- Cognitive perspective (metacognition, critical thinking, philosophy, aesthetic sensibility, orders of thinking, systematics, orders of abstraction, disciplines of action)
- Experiential rebirth (operacy, flow, embodiment of mind, speaking with God, born-again, possession, psychedelic experience, embodiment in song, spiritual rebirth)
There is considerable irony to the fact that the switch by the Bush regime to a "gloves off" strategic approach can be understood as a form of radicalisation -- presumably to be upheld as acceptable and justified, rather than meriting any form of demonisation.
Stages of radicalisation are necessarily evident in any process of indoctrination, whether upheld as the most appropriate education (family values, etc) or undertaken through methods otherwise described as brainwashing. The distinction between such extremes is clearly problematic in the case of intentional communities, sects, secret societies, and student fraternities. The process gives rise to the subsequent preoccupation with methods of deprogramming.
There is extensive commentary on the manner in which formal education may inhibit or destroy any creativity calling for recognition as being "radical" -- creativity which would emerge in other contexts. Expression of (radical) creativity may well be severely deprecated as failing to conform to educational norms.
How is "new thinking" to be enabled if it is conflated with the need to deprecate radical thinking? The issue is especially evident in some framings of so-called "critical thinking" -- readily deprecated as judgemental, negative criticism. The point has been argued by Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, 2009; Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, 2010).
Another approach to understanding the stages of radicalisation is through the stages of "normalisation" whereby diversity is minimized or eliminated in the quest for a standard form. This process is evident on a large scale within free trade areas, such as those of Europe. The elimination of extreme perspectives is also to be explored through censorship, managing consent, and dumbing down disseminated content (Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media, 1988).
Patterning the varieties of radical experience
Radical experience: This might be usefully articulated from several contrasting perspectives on which there is extensive commentary:
- Religious experience
- Experience of doing mathematics:
- "Inner game" of various sports:
- as in the Inner Game of: Tennis, Golf, Frisbee, Chess, Poker, Billiards, Fencing, Go, Sumo, Skiing).
- as adapted to competitive economic activity (cf the Inner Game of: Business, Investing, Wealth, Work, Management, Trading, Entrepreneurship, Selling, Prospecting).
- as adapted to gardening (cf Diane Dreher, Inner Gardening: A Seasonal Path to Inner Peace, 2002)
- Aesthetic experience:
- Richard Shusterman and Adele Tomlin (Eds.): Aesthetic Experience (2010)
- John Dewey: Art as Experience (2005)
- Elliot W. Eisner: The Arts and the Creation of Mind (2004)
- Technical experience:
- Erik Davis and Eugene Thacker: TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (2015)
- Robert Romanyshyn:
Technology as Symptom and Dream (1989)
- Philosophical experience:
In their fundamental relation to the intangible -- and their manner of identification with it -- they offer complementary clues to the cognitive implications of "radical". These challenge the tendency to oversimplification. A degree of fruitful relationship between them may be suspected and explored, as in the case of mathematical theology (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief -- Self-reflexive Global Reframing to Enable Faith-based Governance, 2013).
Axes of radical bias: Also fruitful is the possibility that the radical experience may well be multi-facetted or emergent in some way through the complementarity between facets -- or through alternation between such contrasting modalities. The latter possibility suggests the merit of looking at contrasting patterns of cognitive experience as outlined separately (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993).
Of particular interest amongst these is that from the philosophical perspective of W. T. Jones (The Romantic Syndrome; toward a new method in cultural anthropology and history of ideas, 1961). The title derives from consideration of the radical differences in academic debate regarding the nature of the so-called romantic period.
- Order versus Disorder
- Preference for order: Radical experience should be orderly, based on an ordered array of specialized cognitive modalities. Favoured by those defining the environment and development in an orderly manner.
- Preference for disorder: Radical experience must necessarily be chaotic and disorderly in order to be fruitful. Favoured by those modalities recognizing that they are subject to more forces than can be rationally presented.
- Static versus Dynamic
- Preference for static: Radical experience should be understood as forming a static, semi-permanent configuration of cognitive modalities positions. Favoured by those mandated to respond to particular problems over an extended period of time.
- Preference for dynamic: Radical experience should be understood as a dynamic, shifting relationship between cognitive modalities. Favoured by those preoccupied by short-term considerations.
- Discrete versus Continuous
- Preference for discrete: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience should be distinguished by clear boundaries. Favoured by those who need to distinguish and allocate responsibilities.
- Preference for continuous: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience should be understood as forming a continuous, possibly "seamless", field of tensions. Possibly favoured by those recognizing pervasive fields of tensions, conspiracy theories, and negative forces.
- External versus Identification
- Preference for external relationship to phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities should be understood as externalities, namely objects of radical experience to be experienced from without. Basic to the strategic assumptions of many international programmes.
- Preference for identification with phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities should comprehensible through an intuitive identification with the radical experience they constitute. Favoured by those whose views have been strongly influenced by personal experience of suffering.
- Sharply versus Implicitly defined
- Preference for sharply defined phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience are understood as directly experiencable. Favoured by those responding to problems seen as concrete realities as opposed to unreal abstractions.
- Preference for implicitly defined phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience implying levels of significance greater than are immediately obvious. Favoured by those who detect more fundamental problems in issues which may not otherwise appear problematic.
- Comprehensible versus Incomprehensible
- Preference for inherently comprehensible phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience are comprehensible in terms of existing paradigms. Favoured by pragmatists working in the light of long experience.
- Preference for inherently incomprehensible phenomena: Specialized cognitive modalities of radical experience call for explanations in terms of other frames of reference. Favoured, notably, from certain religious perspectives.
- Due versus Spontaneous process
- Preference for due process: Radical experience should be governed by pre-defined processes. Favoured by those sectors relying on well-developed procedures.
- Preference for spontaneous process: Radical experience is at its most fruitful when spontaneous processes emerge. Favoured by those who see chance and accident to be significant.
Languages of radicality? The following schematic is a development of one used previously to caricature contrasting "languages" (12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance, 2003). It was also adapted to distinguish Cultures engendering metaphors of death and dying (2013) -- perhaps especially appropriate to this context..
|Animation of alternation between radicality sensed positively as creativity,
or framed negatively as characteristically demonic
The point to be emphasized is the polarization between radical "languages" -- as suggested by the axes of bias above. This gives rise to a form of cognitive paradox (at the centre) and a challenge to transcendence of its associated ambiguity.
The visual contrast between the extremes of the animation is indicative of the manner in which radicality may be experienced as a form of insight of the most existentially fundamental nature (for which metaphors of light are common). However, in contrast,there is its deprecation from an external perspective as being characteristically destructive and threatening (for which metaphors of darkness are common).
The animation can be understood as holding the ambiguity of the relationship between any archetypal "Act of Creation" and an "Act of Destruction" -- which remain a challenge to cosmology. Appropriately the requisite understanding is typically articulated in art and by artists, as with Pablo Picasso: Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. That understanding as being essentially a proces has been fruitfully argued at length, citing Picasso and others, by Bobby Matherne (Art Is The Process of Destruction: An Essay, 2002). The point could indeed be made with the old adage: You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. However the systematic destruction of all eggs fails to ensure their renewal for the future. There is a need to transcend the linear thinking associated with black-or-white distinctions and metaphorical oversimplification (In Quest of Uncommon Ground: beyond impoverished metaphor and the impotence of words of power, 1997).
Radicalisation and demonisation: system dynamics of US and THEM
Processes: The previous sections frame the question as to the nature of the interplay between radicalisation (in its various senses) and the process of demonisation through which radicals and radical action may be condemned. The argument may be taken further by stressing the distinction between US and THEM. This follows from earlier discussions of this distinction, notably as a consequence of the foreign policy argument that one is either with us or against us (Us and Them: Relating to Challenging Others -- patterns in the shadow dance between "good" and "evil", 2009; Eliciting Insight from Covert Operations by US: understanding global governance otherwise in response to THEM, 2015). The latter explored the matter under the following headings:
The interplay can be presented schematically as follows with respect to radicalisation and demonisation.
|Simplified US-and-THEM dynamic of Rationalisation-Demonisation
(normality beyond reasonable criticism
from the worldview of US)
(otherness evoking reasonable criticism
from the worldview of US)
|Radicalisation of US
(triggered by THEM
returning, or homegrown)
|Radicalisation of THEM
(in reaction to
|Demonisation of US
|Demonisation of THEM
The above table is usefully descriptive but does not offer any leads for insightful transcendence of the dynamic. It can be further articulated as follows.
|Articulated US-and-THEM dynamic of Rationalisation-Demonisation
(normality beyond reasonable criticism
within the worldview of US)
(otherness evoking reasonable criticism
from within the worldview of US)
|Increasing pressure on US for radical initiatives
||Increasing pressure on THEM for radical initiatives
|Increasing unrest engendering radicalisation of US
||Increasing unrest engendering radicalisation of THEM
||Recognition of THEM-in-US (by US)
||Recognition of US-in-THEM (by THEM)
|External projection (no mirroring)
||Increasing demonisation of US (by THEM)
||Increasing demonisation of THEM (by US)
Towards comprehending the dynamic: There is a case for using the dimensions of the above table to suggest the conceptually challengingnature of the dynamic through an animation. The following exercise is partly inspired by the pattern of dimensions interrelated as a "coaction cardioid" in the work of Edward Haskell (Full Circle: the moral force of nnified science, 1972). This is discussed separately (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005). As indicated on the animation below, using biosystemic analogues, he distinguishes symbiosis, allotrophy, predation, amensalism, synnecrosis, allopathy, parasitism, and commensalism. Haskell's insight has been a particular focus of Timothy Wilken (UnCommon Science, 2002), as noted by its summary by the P2P Foundation (Evolution of Cooperation: Haskell, 2011)
|Animation suggestive of an 8-fold alternation
in the light of the above table (with indicative inclusion of coaction cardioid)
The animation above, with the implied interplay, may be suggestively explored in the light of traditional Scottish sword dance -- with the dancer shifting positions across two (or more) crossed swords on the ground. Missing from the animation is then the manner in which the directionalty of the arrowed processes might be variously combined -- indicative of processes combining patterns, potentially embodying a higher order of harmony.
Self-reflexivity and learning: In the articulated table above, some rows suggest learning opportunities. Especially interesting is the introduction of the self-reflexivity row -- reminiscent of the mirror test of self-consciousness. As expressed succinctly in the much-cited phrase of Pogo: We have seen the enemy and them is us (Pogo, 1972).
The table is also indicative of potential learnings from a process of enantiodromia. Clearly there is a trend to be recognized from the manner in which the practices and values of regimes of the past were abhorred (Stasi, UssR, etc), now leading to effective adoption of those same practices and values (invasive surveillance, gulags, etc). Enantiodromia offers a description of this psychodrama as a process. The US would seem to be showing its true face by projecting its problematic facets onto others. However the arguments long made by US, that no question of moral equivalence could be considered, are now brought radically into question. The argument had been notably developed by a US Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick (The Myth of Moral Equivalence, Imprimis, 1986).
In contrasting radicalisation and demonisation in religious terms, it is useful to recall the treatment of Jesus of Nazareth -- presumably to be recognized as a radical exemplar by any modern standards. Given the historical consequences, it is appropriate to ask how engagement with some radicals of today might be most fruitfully envisaged -- in the light of how this might possibly be perceived by the future, This theme is explored separately (Would Jesus Now be Prosecuted by US? As a law-breaker -- like Manning, Assange and Snowden -- Yes we can! 2013; Iconic Extrajudicial Execution of Jesus through Osama by US? 2013).
Demonisation reframed as daimonisation?
Given the reference in the introduction to the prospect of a hypothetical encounter with extraterrestrials, there is some probability that their stringent variant of the mirror test will be based on a higher order of self-reflexivity (Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criteria of species maturity? 2008). How is engagement with radical insight of a higher order to be envisaged (Engaging with Insight of a Higher Order, 2014)?
How is current understanding of the demonic then to be distinguished from its historical connotations, notably articulated as the daemonic by artists (Interweaving Demonic and Daimonic Associations in Collective Memory, 2008; Patrick Harpur, Daimonic Reality: a field guide to the Other World, 1994). It has been articulated otherwise (David Farrell Krell, Daimon Life: Heidegger and life-philosophy, 1992; Eugen-Maria Schulak, Daimon: über die Motive philosophischen Denkens, 2001; Sandra Lee Dennis. Embrace of the Daimon: sensuality and the integration of forbidden imagery in depth psychology, 20012; Aldo Carotenuto and Charles Nobar, The Call of the Daimon, 1994).
Aspects were notably honoured in classical Greek culture as the voice of the conscience, in Iberian cultures as "duende", and by such as the poet W B Yeats (The Daimon). Of relevance to subtler understanding of the "mind of a radical" or the "mind of a terrorist" is the insight of Yeats, as commented by Heather Martin (W.B. Yeats: Metaphysician as Dramatist, 1986):
The daimon, according to A Vision , is the part of an individual which exists beyond the confines of time and space, that other self with which he or she will be united at the end of time... It now appears that the daimon may exist within the individual, in that "buried self" beyond his or her conscious life. (p. 137)
Some such intuition potentially points to the kind of understanding by which a jihadist is nourished and sustained -- as with any form of radicality. This suggests the merit of relating such understandings of identity with those framed by fundamental physics, as separately discussed (Encountering Otherness as a Waveform In the light of a wave theory of being, 2013; Being a Waveform of Potential as an Experiential Choice: emergent dynamic qualities of identity and integrity, 2013).
In a compilation on W. B. Yeats's "A Vision": Explications and Contexts (2012), Neil Mann offers an account of The Daimon whish is of further relevance to the "mind of the radical":
While Yeats's System is dominated by forms of duality, the dualism of human and Daimon is perhaps the most enigmatic and personal of all of the formulations, cutting across the divisions and categories of the geometry and representing the maverick element within the System. The Daimon's relationship with the human being is capricious and unpredictable in a way that is aptly summed up in the symbol of the lightning flash. If the schema of A Vision is founded in mechanisms of reflection and balance, the Daimon is their active controller, embodying all that least resembles the human, and enforcing awareness of this opposition, through crises which shock the individual into recognition of its otherness.
Exploiting the interpretation of the above animation in terms of a dance across swords, the dancer in a daimonic modality transcends the "swords" of US-THEM and Radicalisation-Demonisation at the nexus of their crossing. As in various mystical accounts, the extremes of each sword are paradoxically entangled reminiscent of insights from physics. The daimonic understanding is only partially associated with any of those extremes. This is reminiscent of the quadrilemma -- A, not-A, A and not-A, neither A nor not-A -- as discussed by Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic Dialogue; essays on multipolar politics. 1988). Daimonisation is not demonisation and calls for carefull exploration.
Creative people may simply recognize the daimon as the gift of their "muse" -- deploring the challenge of its absence or loss. In psychology the daimonic may also be recognized as the unrest within everyone which forces a person (or presumably a culture) into the unknown, leading to self-destruction or self-discovery (Daimon, Djinn, Muse and Duende: variations on a timeless experience, 2007). It is appropriate to note the renowned exponent of the subtle understanding of duende as a transformative experience -- an influential radical artist Federico García Lorca, assassinated by the Nationalist militia of Spain. As famously described by him:
These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which we get what is real in art. . . . Thus duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet. Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action (Play and Theory of the Duende, 1933)
One approach to understanding the "lost language" of pattern-shifting in a process reality can be obtained from insights into the 4,000 year-old chanted hymns of another culture -- the Rg Veda of the Indian tradition, as discussed separately (Embodying the Paradoxes and Contradictions of the Pursuit of Happiness: en-joying the world through en-joying oneself, 2011). As noted there, a very powerful exploration of this work by a philosopher, Antonio de Nicolas, using the non-Boolean logic of quantum mechanics, opens up valuable approaches to the cognitive integration implied by the daimonic modality. The unique feature of the approach is that it is grounded in tone and the shifting relationships between tone. It is through the pattern of musical tones that the significance of the Rg Veda is to be found:
Therefore, from a linguistic and cultural perspective, we have to be aware that we are dealing with a language where tonal and arithmetical relations establish the epistemological invariances... Language grounded in music is grounded thereby on context dependency; any tone can have any possible relation to other tones, and the shift from one tone to another, which alone makes melody possible, is a shift in perspective which the singer himself embodies. Any perspective (tone) must be "sacrificed" for a new one to come into being; the song is a radical activity which requires innovation while maintaining continuity, and the "world" is the creation of the singer, who shares its dimensions with the song. (Antonio de Nicolas, Meditations through the Rg Veda: Four Dimensional Man, 1978, p. 57)
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