The development of a moral and motivational approach to understanding the role of narratives in right-wing extremist radicalisation

Rutter, Dryden (2024) The development of a moral and motivational approach to understanding the role of narratives in right-wing extremist radicalisation. Doctoral thesis, University of Cumbria.

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There is a wide discrepancy amongst literature and research on radicalisation, regarding how narratives are conceptualised, their relation to ideology, and their wider role in the radicalisation process. Resolving this discrepancy might allow researchers, and particularly those involved in de-radicalisation/counter-radicalisation, to better understand how narratives function in this context, and what can be done to address them. Accordingly, the aim of this study is to utilise, and synthesise, research into theories/models of radicalisation, particularly Griffin’s (2012, 2017) heroic doubling paradigm and Atran’s (2016) Devoted Actor Model, with interpretative and narrative theories, alongside relevant concepts from moral and motivational psychology, in order to develop a practical heuristic for understanding the role of narratives in Right Wing Extremist (RWE) radicalisation. The heuristic developed here seeks, therefore, to be able to provide a clear framework for describing how specific RWE narratives can involve the psychological processes integral to the radicalisation towards violence. To do this, it draws on Heideggerian concepts, such as “throw-projections,” Jerome Bruner’s narrative psychology, Peter Berger’s “sacred canopies,” and Rene Girard’s work on the scapegoat mechanism. After synthesising relevant theories and research, the preliminary heuristic was then developed further, through an analysis of contemporary RWE narratives, in the form of three terrorist manifestos. Accordingly, this study argues that RWE narratives, such as those analysed, are adopted, and evolve, through a dialectical process of interpretation, whereby adherents integrate, or “emplot,” themselves, and the various aspects of the world around them, into a Manichean master narrative, whose temporal dimension brings about a sense of both existential dread, and a subsequent moral duty, to act in defence of their sacred canopy and sacralised in-group. RWE terrorists, such as these, thus feel they must destroy the present, in order to save the future.

Item Type: Thesis/Dissertation (Doctoral)
Departments: Institute of Business, Industry and Leadership > Business
Additional Information: This thesis has been submitted in partial fulfilment for the requirements of the University of Cumbria for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Institute of Business, Industry, and Leadership, University of Cumbria, February 2024.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2024 12:49
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2024 13:00


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