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Origins of Political Extremism
Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

  • Date Published: June 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521700719


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About the Authors
  • Political extremism is one of the most pernicious, destructive, and nihilistic forms of human expression. During the twentieth century, in excess of 100 million people had their lives taken from them as the result of extremist violence. In this wide-ranging book Manus I. Midlarsky suggests that ephemeral gains, together with mortality salience, form basic explanations for the origins of political extremism and constitute a theoretical framework that also explains later mass violence. Midlarsky applies his framework to multiple forms of political extremism, including the rise of Italian, Hungarian and Romanian fascism, Nazism, radical Islamism, and Soviet, Chinese and Cambodian communism. Other applications include a rampaging military (Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia) and extreme nationalism in Serbia, Croatia, the Ottoman Empire and Rwanda. Polish anti-Semitism after World War II and the rise of separatist violence in Sri Lanka are also examined.

    • Suggests why political extremism gained power in certain countries but not in others, expanding our ability to explain important events like mass violence against civilians during wartime, or wanton terrorism
    • Provides a new explanation for the rise of terrorism as an offshoot of political extremism which could be beneficial in suggesting policies to limit or eliminate terrorism
    • Deepens our understanding of the ways in which morality can subvert the extremist enterprise by suggesting ways in which morality that typically governs human behavior is obviated by political extremism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Midlarsky elegantly weaves insights from modern social psychology with macro-historical analysis to produce an original theory of the emergence of violent extremist movements. With its innovative theoretical framework and its command of an impressive range of historical evidence, this fascinating book will make a lasting impact on the literature on extremism and political violence.' Giovanni Capoccia, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Oxford

    'From Fascism to Communism to Radical Islam, from South Asia to the Balkans, and with insights from social psychology, history, philosophy, and more, this book is staggering in its breadth. Midlarsky makes a compelling case on how territorial loss can produce political extremism and mass killing. This is a book not just about the past, but what we might behold in the future.' Paul F. Diehl, Henning Larsen Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    'Rarely does the timing of a book's publication coincide so well with the relevance of its subject matter in the real world. In this age of extremes, Midlarsky's masterful volume carefully guides us through what motivates and drives people to political violence; highlighting - as only an experienced scholar can - the key unifying elements in otherwise disparate-seeming cases across time and space.' Monica Duffy Toft, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

    'Midlarsky has produced an excellent, theoretically innovative, and empirically rich study.' Siniša Malešević, Perspectives on Politics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521700719
    • length: 442 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 154 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • contains: 23 b/w illus. 5 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Theory and Empirics:
    1. The ephemeral gain: intimations of the politically finite
    2. Mortality salience: intimations of the corporeally finite
    3. Cases
    Part II. The Secular 'Isms':
    4. Fascism
    5. Communism
    Part III. An Ostensibly Sacred 'Ism':
    6. Radical Islamism: foundations
    7. Contemporary radical Islamist movements
    8. Muslims in India
    Part IV. Extreme Nationalism:
    9. Sri Lankan Tamils
    10. Poland
    11. The Balkans
    12. The rampaging military
    13. Variations in genocidal behavior
    Part V. Conclusion:
    14. Pathways to extremism
    15. Ethics and morality: the rejection of traditional moral restraints
    16. War, peace, and the decline of extremism.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Modern Genocide
    • Political Development
    • Politics of International Terrorism
    • conflict resolution in world politics
  • Author

    Manus I. Midlarsky, Rutgers University, New Jersey
    Manus I. Midlarsky is the Moses and Annuta Back Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

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