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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Inequalities as Drivers of Radicalisation: Is Perceived (Socio-Political) Inequality More Important than Objective (Economic) Inequality?

Political Psychology
Political Violence
Social Justice
Survey Research
Renata Franc
University of Zagreb
Renata Franc
University of Zagreb
Tomislav Pavlovic
Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar

Inequality, which represents the objectively unequal, or subjectively perceived, unjust distribution of valued outcomes, resources, power, chances or the gaps in access to opportunities, is one of the most frequently perceived and theorised drivers of radicalisation. However, existing findings of empirical studies about the relationship between inequality and radicalisation, as well as those of previous synthesis work, are inconclusive. This leaves us unable to provide a valid and reliable answer to the question of whether inequality is associated with radicalisation and if it is, how (positively or negatively), when and where that association exists and how it can be explained.
To find more reliable answers to these questions, two syntheses of previous empirical work were conducted within the DARE project: a systematic review of quantitative (and mixed method) research and a meta-ethnographic synthesis of qualitative (and mixed method) research on the relationship between inequality and radicalisation. The literature search for both reviews focused on original empirical studies published as journal articles, books/book chapters or reports between 2001 to 2017 in English language. It included the search of seven electronic databases, hand searching of journals not indexed in databases, a grey literature search and cross-referencing of cited literature.
This presentation is based on findings of the systematic review of quantitative studies which analysed a total of 141 publications. The review indicates an inconsistent and complex relationship between inequality and radicalisation, not least as a result of the diversity of conceptualisations and methodological approaches applied in existing quantitative studies of inequality and radicalisation. For this reason, we separately analysed: findings of studies which investigated the inequality-radicalisation relationship at the individual level (42 studies based on surveys of non-radicalised individuals and 15 analysing biographical evidence on radicalised individuals); and studies which investigated the relationship between macro inequality indicators and terrorism (84 macro-level studies). Moreover, we differentiated between indicators of economic and socio-political inequality, and their objective/measurable or subjective/perceived basis. Adopting such an approach revealed that socio-political inequality, especially in terms of human rights abuse and repression at a macro level, or perceived social inequality at an individual level, is more consistently related to terrorism/radicalisation than economic inequality. The findings of the review are discussed in terms of the importance of differentiating between dimensions, indicators and levels of inequality with a special emphasis on the role of subjective or perceived inequality and psychological processes in Islamist and far-right radicalisation.
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