This article provides insight into the psychological and social determinants of radicalisation and the conditions under which radicalism is abandoned.
Islamist radicalisation has moved markedly into the spotlight since 9/11. Most examinations deal with military and police counter-measures to curb terrorism. We know very little about the psychological constitution of radicals. In order to gain insight into the psychological and social determinants of radicalisation, this article analyses an interview with a former radical from Saudi Arabia. In so doing, it draws on two central concepts from Alfred Adler’s individual psychology: fiction and counter fiction. This text shows that extremism results from the conflict between the personal fiction of the individual and Saudi Arabia’s societal counter fiction. It further analyses the conditions under which radicalism is then abandoned. The article finds that the underlying cause of extremism lies in the neglect of pluralism or in an education without alternatives; extremism is not an ‘irrational’ phenomenon.