From Academic Kids

Extremism is a term used to describe either ideas or actions thought by critics to be hyperbolic and unwarranted.

In terms of ideas, the term extremism is often used to label political ideology that is far outside the political center of a society.

In terms of actions, the term extremism is often used to identify agressive or violent methodologies used in an attempt to cause political or social change.

Political radicals are sometimes called extremists, although the term radical originally meant to go to the root of a problem. "Radical" is a somewhat less negatively-connoted label sometimes used by people or groups to label themselves. In terms of the use of violence, the terms "extremist" or "radical" are generally used to label those who use violence against the will of the larger social body, rather than those who believe in violence to enforce the will of the social body.

The terms "extremism" or "extremist" are almost always applied by others, rather than a group labeling itself such — the term connotes using illegitimate means such as subterfuge or violence to promote one's agenda. For example, there is no sect of Islam that calls itself "Islamic Extremism"; there is no political party that calls itself "Right Wing Extremist" or "Left Wing Extremist".

The idea that there is a philosophy of extremism is thought by some to be suspect. Within sociology, several scholars who study (and are critical of) extreme right-wing groups have objected to the term "extremist," which was popularized by centrist sociologists in the 1960s and 1970s. As Jerome Himmelstein states the case: "At best this characterization tells us nothing substantive about the people it labels; at worst it paints a false picture." (p. 7). The act of labeling a person, group or action as "extremist" is often a technique to further a political goal--especially by governments seeking to defend the status quo, or political centrists.

Rather than labeling themselves "extremist," those labeled such tend to see the need for extreme actions in a particular situation. John Fitzgerald Kennedy paraphrased Dante by saying "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality" (from Dante, Inferno, The Divine Comedy). Barry Goldwater said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" at the 1964 Republican Convention.

It is a common saying that "One man's 'terrorist' is another man's 'freedom fighter.'" Extremism is perceived through the mainstream beliefs of the time. History and the mainstream beliefs of a later time may tell a different story.

Ideologies that are classified as extremist by critics include:

See also


Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1998. "All But Sleeping with the Enemy: Studying the Radical Right Up Close." Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, San Francisco.

ar:تطرف de:Radikalismus und Extremismus sv:Extremism


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