Theoretical Frames on Pathways to Violent Radicalization

  • Hawkins H
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Abstract

As the result of our case studies, we hypothesize that the development of terrorist networks, plots and attacks resembles more the development of a complex system, with inherently chaotic and unpredictable characteristics, which can nevertheless be evaluated for probabilistic and path-dependent developments. Much like water that becomes heated to boiling, or even more like a soup with locally different densities and viscosities, it may be impossible in principle to precisely predict where the rising cones and bubbles will first appear; however, likely “neighborhoods” and path-dependent developments can be projected. Understanding the dynamic interaction of interpersonal behaviors, social emotions (e.g., moral outrage) and collectively distributed cognitions (including causal and moral construals of the world )is critical to projecting path-dependent developments. The growth and development of terrorist networks is largely a decentralized and evolutionary process, based on contingent adaptations to unpredictable events and improbable opportunities, more the result of localized tinkering (of fragmentary connections between semi- autonomous parts) than intelligent design (hierarchical command and control). As in any natural evolutionary process, individual variation and environmental context are the creative and critical determinants of future directions and paths. To ignore or essentialistically abstract away from variation and context is to entirely miss the character of natural group formation and development along with better chances for intervention and prevention of enemy attacks from the bottom up rather than the top down.

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  • Harold Hawkins

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