61 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2022

See all articles by Jean-Paul Carvalho

Jean-Paul Carvalho

Department of Economics, University of Oxford

Michael Sacks

Clarkson University

Date Written: September 30, 2022


To analyze the mechanisms behind radicalization and the design of counter-radicalization policies, we study a population (or subpopulation) known as the identity group that derives meaning from participation in identity-based activities. A forward-looking organization provides a platform (i.e., club) for these activities. By dynamically tuning its membership requirements, the organization determines both current participation and the future share of radicals. The warning sign for radicalization is cultural purification, i.e., the screening out of moderates and exclusive recruitment of radicals. While this shrinks the club, it puts it on a growth path along which it becomes larger and more extreme over time. Conventional counter-radicalization policies can backfire and fuel this process of radicalization. The organization can itself boost radicalization through outreach and by inducing discrimination against group members. The radicalization mechanisms we identify can be disabled by mild anti-radical messaging and informational interventions that eliminate stereotypes.

Keywords: extremism, cultural transmission, economics of religion, discrimination, club goods

JEL Classification: D23, Z12

Suggested Citation

Carvalho, Jean-Paul and Sacks, Michael, Radicalization (September 30, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3297267 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3297267

Jean-Paul Carvalho

Department of Economics, University of Oxford ( email )

10 Manor Rd
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Michael Sacks (Contact Author)

Clarkson University ( email )

Potsdam, NY 13699
United States

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