||Radicalism and Extremism are words frequently used, but as concepts or terms, they are contested. This, in part, can be explained by the fact, that their meanings are somehow fuzzy. The term extremism is, in the German context, used by authorities and government agencies that have mandates to ensure public safety. They use it to mark the enemies of the constitution –which makes a clear definition important. Over many decades, a large number of definitions has been developed by authorities and academics. Nevertheless a legal definition that is generally accepted is still lacking in Germany. In this doctoral thesis, many definitions have been brought together and analyzed, in order to differentiate between radicalism and extremism. Two scientific methods have been utilised in order to achieve this goal: the terminological analysis method introduced by Koselleck and the conceptual analysis method proposed by Sartori. On the basis of these two approaches, one more historical, the other more comparative, this thesis critically reviews radicalism and extremism. The goal of the thesis is, to develop two consensus definitions of radicalism and extremism respectively. The academic consensus definition of terrorism, that Schmid developed between 1984 and 2011, serves as role model and example.
In a first step, the two different methodologies are explained. The historical term analysis, developed by Koselleck, is used in order to analyse the change of meanings of a term over time. The analytical concept analysis, developed by Sartori, is used in order to generate lexical competence of a concept by comparing it with neighouring concepts, so that it is possible to highlight the scope of its contemporary meaning.
Kosellecks historical term analysis starts with the description of the etymological aspects of that term and its everyday use. Then, the historical periods when these terms were used are explored and the meanings of these two concepts radicalism and extremism in the different time periods and socio-political environments are analyzed. The historical term analysis focuses on the social and the political contexts of a term and related shifts of meaning. Especially Kosellecks history-oriented method makes very clear that concepts have a social-historical dimension and that the meanings of a concept are always linked to the past reality in which it was situated and used. In this thesis, the concepts’ places in social history are explored. The historical evolution of word-meanings make clear that concepts are subject to circumstance or contingency. This shows the value of historical term analysis as an alternative method for the development of political theory.
The meaning of the concepts radicalism and extremism has evolved differently, depending on different social and political developments in the countries analyzed. This has also impacted on the terms subsequent meanings, reflecting political power constellations in different periods of time. Comparing the developments in England and Germany show the interplay between political power and social history. The analysis makes clear that, historically, radicalism is primarily linked to the 19th century civil rights movement, while extremism is a more modern concept that developed only in the 20th century in the context of totalitarianism.
Radicalism found its place in the English word pool of political concepts early and is deeply connected to an antimonarchic attitude and the rejection of absolutistic claims to power. Only many years later, the concept of radicalism enters the German word pool of political concepts. Here as well, the concept of radicalism is connected to a civil rights movement and its claim for voice in the political process and the fight for greater democratic rights. Extremism on the other hand, is mostly connected to the development of totalitarian mass movements.
In a subsequent section, the instrumentalization of the concepts is presented. The political power potential of the concepts of radicalism and extremism is demonstrated by the positive or negative load of meaning in the use of the two concepts. Both concepts turn out to serve as instruments of political controversy, as they are competitive rhetorical devices. It can be shown that the rhetorical instrumentalisation by word users has again a sociopolitical background. Kosellecks historical term analysis is followed by a concept analysis use of Sartori’ method.
Concept analysis in the footsteps of Sartori begins with the collection of definitions that have been made in different contexts. The collection of definitions from schoolbooks, lexica and compendiums is a necessary step in order to represent the bredth of generally accepted word knowledge. The presentation of everyday understandings allows to access the prevailing Zeitgeist of an epoch. Zeitgeist and concept appear to be intimately linked.
Subsequently definitions from various academic disciplines (namely: political science, sociology, criminology, historical studies, jurisprudence) were collected in order to have a broad spectrum of understandings in different academic disciplines. The collected definitions enables the identification of definitorial elements which are caught in matrices. The ordering of definitional elements and the analysis of their structural features allows us to get closer to consensual definitions of extremism and radicalism.
By listing the particular structural elements of the definitions, the broad spectrum of the concepts under consideration becomes visible. Sartori also advises the researcher to explore the semantic field of concepts. The semantic field of a concept is co-determined by bordering concepts for both radicalism and extremism which also allows for further differentiation. Sartori also proposed that the scientific understanding of a term is determined by theoretical frameworks. Therefore, the various theoretical frameworks that exist within the field of extremism research are addressed. In addition to the theoretical context of definitions the political context is highlighting, based on an analysis of official government definitions. The socio-political context of postwar Germany turns out to be an important background to a better understanding of extremism and, to a lesser extent, radicalism. At the end of the thesis, two synthetic definitions of radicalism and extremism are presented which should be able to attract a higher level of consensus than existing definitions in the German academic discourse.