Extremism by JM Berger is part of the MIT Essential Knowledge series of short books hitting on critical issues and technologies. These books give definitions and give a brief overview of a topic. It’s similar to the Very Short Introduction series. This is the first of the series I have read, though I plan to read more.
This particular volume couldn’t be more timely. Berger talks about online extremism in his chapter on radicalization, but it is not a major focus of the book. Still, in a world in which extremist rhetoric is amplified and algorithm-ized, the insights in the book are all the more vital.
He defines Extremism as referring “to the belief that an in-group’s success or survival can never be separated from the need for hostile action towards an out-group” and that it can be “the province of state or non-state actors” the latter of which distinguishes it from terrorism. The hostile action is not necessarily physically violent, though it certainly can be. It can be verbal harassment or discrimination.
Extremism is not a new phenomenon, and Berger goes into historical instances. And he does not pretend that extremism is a phenomenon common to only one group. Any ideology can spawn extremists. Overall an excellent overview of the subject, and a sobering read.
Library Books and Everything Else 2020 17/35