Radicalization has become a serious global problem. Groups and nations are increasingly embroiled in escalating conflicts with one another that are defined by pathological hatred and ideological polarization, with devastating consequences, including terrorism and war.

Social psychologist Fathali M. Moghaddam calls this process "mutual radicalization." In this groundbreaking book, he explores its causes and potential solutions.

Drawing from well-established psychological principles, Moghaddam presents a dynamic, cyclical three-stage model of mutual radicalization that explains how groups gather under extremist ideologies, establish rigid norms under authoritarian leadership, and develop antagonistic worldviews that exaggerate the threat each poses to the other. This process leads to intensifying aggressive actions that can even reach the point of mutual destruction.

Moghaddam applies his model to 10 real-world case studies of mutual radicalization that focus on three main areas: the conflict between Islamist radicals and extreme nationalists in the West; nations that are mired in longstanding hostilities, including North Korea and South Korea; and the increasingly toxic atmosphere in American politics.

Moghaddam offers practical solutions for achieving deradicalization and highlights historical successes, such as German reunification.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Radicalization and Conflict in Global Context

  1. A Dynamic Model of Mutual Radicalization

I. Islamic Radicalization and the West

  1. Israel–Palestine
  2. Iran–United States
  3. United States–Islamic Jihad
  4. Extremist Nationalists and Islamic Jihadists in the European Union

II. Nation-States in Transition

  1. China–Japan
  2. North Korea–South Korea
  3. Pakistan–India

III. Mutual Radicalization in the United States

  1. Gridlockracy in U.S. Politics
  2. Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Their Supporters
  3. The National Rifle Association and the Gun-Regulation Groups

IV. Toward Solutions for Mutual Radicalization

  1. Solutions to Mutual Radicalization



About the Author

Author Bio

Fathali M. Moghaddam, PhD, is a professor of psychology and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science at Georgetown University. He is editor-in-chief of the APA journal Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology.

Dr. Moghaddam was born in Iran, educated from an early age in England, and returned to Iran to study radicalization and change processes during and after the 1979 revolution.

His most recent published books are The Psychology of Dictatorship (2013), The Psychology of Democracy (2016), Questioning Causality (with Rom Harré, 2016), and the two-volume The SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behavior (2017).

His ongoing research focuses on the cognitive processes underlying radicalization, democracy, and dictatorship.

Reviews & Awards

This book is an important milestone for the study of mutual radicalization, combining rigor and intellectual power with illustrative case studies that reveal the applied and contemporary relevance of the topic. By showing that mutual radicalization does not occur within a group alone, but is a function of relations between groups, Moghaddam has produced a soul-searching ethical manifesto for addressing one of the most pressing political problems of our age.
—Sandra Jovchelovitch, CPsychol, FBPsS
Program Director for MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England

Now is the right moment to learn and profit from Moghaddam's concept of mutual radicalization, which is examined in different contexts ranging from intergroup conflicts within nations to conflicts between nations. Moghaddam supports his novel perspective with impressive empirical evidence from different nations. This book is a rare treat from a creative spirit.
—Bertjan Doosje, Professor of Psychology and Political Science and Frank Buijs Chair on Radicalization Studies, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In this exciting book, Moghaddam explores the destructive effects of mutual radicalization, the psychological processes and actions that increase hostility toward another group, while generating reciprocal radicalization in that group. He uses extensive psychological research, provides detailed examples, and describes antidotes, in highly accessible prose.
—Ervin Staub, PhD
author of The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence, Overcoming Evil, and The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil