Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 277–285 | Cite as

Dreams and disillusionment: engagement in and disengagement from militant extremist groups



People engage in terrorism and similar forms of violent extremism for a variety of reasons, political or non-political. The frequent failure to achieve what they expected or dreamed about is also usually the source of their disillusionment, and subsequently, a main reason to disengage from violent extremism. Individuals involved in terrorism often come from a diversity of social backgrounds und have undergone rather different processes of violent radicalisation. Profiles of terrorists do not work as a tool to identify actual or potential terrorists because such profiles fail to capture the diversity and how people change when they become involved in militant extremism. This study suggests a more dynamic typology of participants in militant groups, based on dimensions which represent dynamic continuums rather than static positions. During their extremist careers individuals may move from resembling one type initially into acquiring more of the characteristics of other types at later stages. When it comes to prevention and intervention measures, one size does not fit them all. The typology may be used as an aid to develop more specific and targeted strategies for preventing violent radicalisation and facilitating disengagement, taking into account the diversity and specific drivers behind different types of activists.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Norwegian Police University CollegeOsloNorway

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