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Rational Extremism
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  • Page extent: 298 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.539 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 320.53
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: HN49.R3 W56 2006
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Radicalism
    • Political violence
    • Terrorism
    • Group identity

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521859646 | ISBN-10: 0521859646)

DOI: 10.2277/0521859646

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 (Stock level updated: 02:09 GMT, 28 November 2015)


Extremists are people whose ideas or tactics are viewed as outside the mainstream. Looked at this way, extremists are not necessarily twisted or evil. But they can be, especially when they are intolerant and violent. What makes extremists turn violent? This 2006 book assumes that extremists are rational: given their ends, they choose the best means to achieve them. The analysis explains why extremist leaders use the tactics they do, and why they are often insensitive to punishment and to loss of life. It also explains how rational people can be motivated to die for the cause. The book covers different aspects of extremism such as revolution, suicide terrorism, and global jihad. The arguments are illustrated with important episodes of extremism, including the French Revolution, the rise of nationalism in Yugoslavia under Milosevic, and the emergence of suicide terror and Al Qaeda today.

• Author is internationally known specialist in political economy, government vs. individual dynamics • Rich examples include Al Qaeda, Yugoslavia, French Revolution, ethnic conflicts • Analyzes religious and non-religious cases, all in single theoretical framework


Introduction; 1. The problem of extremism; Part I. Groups: 2. Social interactions, trust and group solidarity; 3. Some illustrations and a general framework; Part II. Extremism: 4. The calculus of discontent; 5. Can suicide bombing be rational?; 6. Religion and suicide terror; Part III. Revolutions, Nationalism and Jihad: 7. Rational revolutions; 8. Slobodan Milosevic and the fire of nationalism; 9. 'Jihad vs McWorld' revisited; Conclusion; 10. Summary of propositions and policy implications.


Review of the hardback: 'The work that Ronald Wintrobe offers us is dense, original, and at times, provocative. He forces us to question his arguments instead of reading them passively. … Rational Extremism gives us ideas and allows us to connect it with the most advanced studies in the field of the contemporary social sciences. It is the hallmark of great books.' Sociétal

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