The global financial crisis, a reduction in farming to create food, failed and late harvests have all taken their toll on the ability of people to afford their basic living necessities. In the wake of all of this, there has ripened dissatisfaction and movements for change.

Radicalism and radicalisation has become common descriptive currency. There seems to be, globally, (from a U.K. perspective), acceptable and unacceptable radicalism. There will be much manipulation of strings in the political stage wings, which you, nor I, will be privy to. It has led me to thinking about the meaning of radical and how the term is being used today. What is radicalism? As there will be numerous perspectives on the subject, I am not sure I can truly answer my own question.

There are a number of definitions, including a mathematical one. Bear in mind that the starting point is, of or from the root:

• (esp; of change or action): Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something. e.g an overhaul of an existing regulatory framework

• Radicalism could also be characterised by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive: a radical approach to electoral reform.

They sound familiar. These two points appear to be the progressive conviction politics of the present British Government

• Advocating complete political and social reform; representing or supporting an extreme wing of a political party. (‘Left wing’ is an exemplar in the Oxford English Dictionary. However, extremes of left or right are unlikely to be so different).

What we are currently witnessing in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, are restless, mistrustful, angry movements that appear to come from deep within the roots of their various peoples. There is deep desire for change, different social politics to that with which they have lived for decades. All this, as defined, is undoubtedly radical.

In the UK we too have witnessed protests. Like elsewhere there is a deep anger lying at the root of the protests against policies that are being imposed by a Government that did not obtain a decisive mandate to impose its radical ideology on the population, an ideology that they define as ‘progressive’. ‘ Progressive’ can be an element of radicalism. (See bullet point 2 above).

Police, who use force against their people in other countries, are described by our media as authoritarian; yet, our own civil police are being supported by the legal system, to exert a level of aggression that could otherwise be actionable. I fully appreciate that safety for all is paramount, as it should be, and that there are provocations. However, it does look as if there has been yet another radical regulatory shift as to what is currently legally acceptable public policing in our own country.

There is money being offered by the British Government to fend off the radicalisation of students at the British higher education (H.E) campuses. The focus appears to be generally towards stemming young British students from becoming influenced by Islamist fundamentalist proselytizers and to prevent Moslem students from being motivated by radical orthodoxy. There is a belief, suggested by H.E. educators that there is a desire from the centre for all student radicalism to be suppressed. I would find it difficult to believe that our present political leaders were not young radicals in their time. If I were to be advised that those same people were not radicalized by their earlier social political experiences and influences, it would be totally unbelievable.

In today’s environment, it seems that radicalism is constructive, only if it is supported by both internal and external powerful influences. Whether the end result of the revolutions in the Arab countries fits in with the real -politique of other nations is yet to be seen.



  1. First of all, on the subject of food, we should be aware of certain sweeping changes in the availability of food in the world. Though the fires in Russia this summer influenced their contribution greatly (after a series of range fires, the Russians announced that they were not going to be exporting food for a while), the most significant changes have been in China and in the US. In china, a large percentage of the population has gotten wealthier, and now wish to eat meat as part of their standard diet. In order to raise meat, one has to raise a lot more grain, and there is no question that this will raise food prices all over the world. And secondly, the Americans have decided to counter the high petrol prices by using grain as a source for vehicle fuel, and this ‘green’ move may also cause great changes. Because the US has been very liberal with its surplus food supply for many years. As for radical political changes, keep in mind that democracy means more than free elections. Those free elections may bring into power an administration that denies equality to women and the handicapped. In certain countries it has given rise to regimes that are extremely undemocratic by western standards.

  2. I hope Tunisian revolution will give ideas to french people, to vote in 2012.

    Already, we received on internet request to ask for a constituent assembly… I’m OK on this point.

    I notice finally, that I am not the only one to have the ideas which I defend for two years :

    – Social VAT
    – Progressive tax
    – Customs taxes on products made in China and in any countries having no national insurance contributions
    – Relocation of the industries which we need
    – Protection of the agriculture
    – Purchase of raw materials with moderate prices in producing countries in process of development with stable prices negotiated from state to state


  3. Thank you for your perspective Shimon. As I was focussing on what appears to be understood by radicalism, I did not go into the total detail of the rises in cost of food and fuel, about which you are well informed and, with which we are all affected.

    As I said, I am unlikely to be able to fully answer my own question as to what is radicalism, as there will be so many different global perspectives to take into account. I opened up my thoughts from a UK perspective on what it seems to mean to be radical.

    I understand your final point about what may evolve from the current unrest, the political aspects of which, will be of particular concern to Israel.

  4. Hi, Mon Ami,

    Si, tu as raison a dit comme tu as deja ecrit depuis longtemps. Un lange different et parlee sur quoi que les nations demands, mais, les resulta son la meme.

    I was musing about the meaning of being radical from where I see it. What you say gives your vision of a French social, economic, radical, perspective.

  5. Thank you for this very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. It’s certainly worth considering the meanings of words that are bandied about in common currency which people do not usually fully understand. In church life I guess ‘radical’ usually means point two – but if I am being pedantic about the original meaning of the word, it would be more accurate to say that radicalism means getting back to the original.

  6. And is the ‘original’ you suggest, fundamental? There’s another very much bandied about term which is also radical. I could just as easily re-frame my own question and ask ‘What Fundamental changes will we see”?

    Both terms, radical and fundamental have varied connotations and will evoke a range of reactions in people, according to how they may understand them.

    Already, I find it interesting to assess the comments the vocabulary engenders. Thank you for your interesting thoughts on the focus of my post

  7. Foundations or fundaments are also coloured by various types of histories. In this day and age, I wonder if these terms, our belief vocabulary, if you will, can be objectively considered.

  8. That is what all meetings, including those of minds, should be able to do. Defining the ground rules can be the first great hurdle to progression. Additional difficulties arise when the definitions are re-framed. How tightly can pre-arranged definitions and terms be, without being seen and described as authoritarian and suppressing?

  9. that’s always a good question, and will be answered according to the ‘grounds’ or ‘roots’ of each person’s outlook. I believe in consensus but it is a very difficult and elusive objective. But not impossible.

  10. I do agree with what you say, the ideal may be elusive, a compromise is usually what moves matters along. Therefore, there is likely to be a built in leverage to manoeuvre/manipulate movement towards an objective, which in itself may be seen as a compromise and not completely acceptable to all.

    It can be from such an outcome that the roots of some kind of radicalism may eventually fruit. Whether it be an acceptable or unacceptable form would remain to be seen.

  11. As far as church differences are concerned I believe that the distinctions between the different denominations are allowable in a ‘radical’ understanding of consensus. But when these are dis-unifying, I also believe that it’s necessary to go back to the ‘roots’ of when we were all agreed – the pre-schismatic church – for inspiration.

    I think working on radical consensus is part inspiration and part perspiration!

  12. Yours is a specific, perhaps more closed perspective, than mine. The general principles have much in common with all sorts of people and world politics.

    I can envisage problems in reverting to roots; there has to be reliance on objective and partisan reports that relate to another time and not necessarily to the time in which new events are occurring. The old roots may be gnarled and dried out and inappropriate, whereas their shoots may have some appropriate development that connects and associates with the period in which they have grown and borne fruit.

  13. Yes indeed. I have focused my perspective on the church as it is something I know a bit about … the general questions vary more widely and in a post-modern culture it is my impression that there are far fewer generally-agreed ‘routes’ for or from the ‘roots’.

    I take your comment about the old dried-up roots: my view is that shoots can’t grow from dead roots! They will bear some family resemblance to the parent plant.

  14. Did I say ‘dead’ roots; no, I spoke of gnarled dried out ones. Some dried out roots rest and revive with ‘new vigour’, not necessarily producing absolute clones of themselves by any means.

    I accept your metaphor wholeheartedly, as one of the many very interesting thoughts this whole provoking subject accesses.

    I guess using your knowledge of the church gives you a bit of a head start in the broader terms of the thoughts I have raised. What you have first hand knowledge of in those cloisters can have so many overlays in the secular forum.

    I do feel very keenly though that there currently is a great change of use (a transformation, a convulsion)in the language of belief and ideology, as well as a change in the various scenarios and manner in which that element of language is used. This is the major reason I started to think about the definitions of radicalism.

  15. Yes, indeed. I’m not sure how much we are noticing. With the loss, largely, of the meta-narrative, the post-modern emphasis on personal autonomy and the growth of the insistence of subjectivism, I wonder more and more what values can now form an agreed ‘root’ for decision-making. Do you happen to know of any sociological surveys addressing this issue?

  16. I don’t know of any specific surveys addressing agreed values for the ‘root’ of decision-making. I have a gut feeling that there are two sources that might reveal something of interest. One would be the academic schools of international relations and the other might well be a business/management schools study. The Americans have made an art out of social science research. Much has found its way to the UK.

    Behavioural studies deal with goal setting, not too different a theme by any means.

    Here’s an interesting section of a paper (1959) on a Parallel theme.

    The Science of “Muddling Through”
    Charles E. Lindblom
    Public Administration Review, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Spring, 1959), pp. 79-88

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