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A Systemic Approach to Violent Radicalization: Closing the Circle around the “Epic Pathway”

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Revista de Estudios en Seguridad Internacional

This paper proposes that the model "Epic Way in the Process of Radicalization" (VEPR, after its acronym in Spanish), developed in previous works and based on the context of the self-styled Basque Movement for National Liberation, could also be applied to the current context of jihadist radicalization in Western societies.

The latter is characterized by aspects such as the phenomenon of foreign fighters, the possibility of spontaneous generation of cells and local groups, the influence of the so-called "agents of radicalization", the lesser relevance of the religious fact, the social environment that could exist within some Muslim communities, and above all the profuse use of the of Internet.

The difficulty involved in a direct comparison between both contexts of radicalization can be overcome by contemplating them as authentic systems, whose main process –individual’s radicalization- is seen from a cognitive-behavioral approach as a learning process of violent behavior associated with an ideology or certain beliefs. Functional Behavior Analysis, under the principles of Learning Theory, is especially useful when it comes to explaining the motivation associated with violent radical behavior in the particular environment of Western societies.

The VEPR model applied to the context of jihadist radicalization provides accommodation to phenomena such as the so-called "lone wolves", or the spontaneous gestation of autonomous structures. But, above all, the observation that there is a common thread running through contexts of radicalization of different nature shows that the process of radicalization could be structurally and sequentially similar. This, in turn, makes contexts of radicalization, in general, to lose relevance in favor of the individual and the interpretation he makes of each of them, although it is certain that some might be more prone than others to be interpreted in a radical manner by certain individuals.

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To cite this article: Miguel Peco-Yeste, “A Systems Approach to Violent Radicalization: Closing the Circle around the ‘Epic Pathway’”, Revista de Estudios en Seguridad Internacional, Vol. 4, No. 2, (2018), pp. 139-170.