Public Choice

, Volume 122, Issue 1–2, pp 199–220 | Cite as

Radicalization as a reaction to failure: An economic model of Islamic extremism

  • Mario Ferrero


This paper views Islamist radicals as self-interested political revolutionaries and builds on a general model of political extremism developed in a previous paper (Ferrero, 2002). Extremism is modelled as a production factor whose effect on expected revenue is initially positive and then turns negative, and whose level is optimally chosen by a revolutionary organization. The organization is bound by a free-access constraint and hence uses the degree of extremism as a means of indirectly controlling its level of membership with the aim of maximizing expected per capita income of its members, like a producer co-operative. The gist of the argument is that radicalization may be an optimal reaction to perceived failure (a widespread perception in the Muslim world) when political activists are, at the margin, relatively strongly averse to effort but not so averse to extremism. This configuration is at odds with secular, Western-style revolutionary politics but seems to capture well the essence of Islamic revolutionary politics, embedded as it is in a doctrinal framework.


General Model Public Finance Capita Income Economic Model Production Factor 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Policy and Public Choice (POLIS)University of Eastern PiedmontAlessandriaItaly

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