Extremism as a form of social deviation.

Topic 4. Psychology of youth extremism

Psychology of extremism.

Categories of youth most prone to extremist activity

Extremism as a form of social deviation.

Psychology of destructive behavior.

Characteristics of the personality of an extremist

Youth communities and subcultures as institutions for the transmission of extremism in society.

Psychology of extremism

This lecture is not so much a study as a proposal of a certain approach to the problem of modern extremism.
Now everyone is talking about the problem of “Islamic extremism” – “external” extremism, which seeks to reduce the territory and spheres of influence of non-Islamic societies and undermine their ability to resist by force. However, for an organized society, a more important problem is “internal” extremism, which seeks not to destroy, but to transform the existing society into new, hitherto unknown forms. This extremism (unlike “external”) can be dealt with in a constructive way only if the essence of this phenomenon, the psychology of its participants and the place of the extremist community in society as a whole are understood.
Let’s look at a few general points first.
Extremist communities, ideologies and political practices belong to the class of extreme phenomena. By an extreme phenomenon we mean such phenomena, the essential characteristic of which is a real threat of loss of life or identity (personal, cultural, civilizational, etc. – depending on who is the main character in the extreme phenomenon – a person, ethnic group or civilization) . The entire space of vital activity of human communities can be conditionally divided into extreme and regular zones . Without going into detailed definitions, we can say that an extreme zone is a war, a catastrophe, a revolution, extremist actions pursuing illegitimate goals and using illegitimate means for this, technologies that destroy the former social structure and much more, fraught with a gap in social development. Regular zone – regular, self-reproducing political and social life, legitimate political actions, continuous cultural genesis, technologies that contribute to the reproduction or continuous development of the social structure.
Let’s call the totality of systematized knowledge about the extreme zone and methods of its study extremology , and a specialist in this field – an extremologist . It is possible to express three main theses of extremology without going into their detailed proof and confirmation (this is done in the forthcoming work “Extremology”).
The first thesis: it is impossible to understand an extreme phenomenon without being a participant in it. Participants of an extreme phenomenon, as a rule, are in altered states of consciousness, in which the picture of the World, basic values, mechanisms of perception and assessment of the environment change. As a result, extreme experience cannot be adequately reproduced by means of a regular language, since different semantics correspond to the same syntax in the extreme and regular zones.
Second: one cannot understand an extreme phenomenon by being only a participant in it. For the same reasons that are indicated in the first thesis, it is impossible to translate extreme experience into the regular zone by means of a language formed in the extreme zone and adequate to those altered states of consciousness that are generated by the proximity of death.
And the third: an extreme phenomenon can be understood only by forming a special three-dimensional consciousness that combines the key regular and extreme characteristics. This consciousness can be formed using special deconcentrative psychotechnologies, which should be included in the process of professional training of an extremologist (Fig. 1, 2).
An extreme phenomenon encourages its participants, in the face of probable death, to look for new ways to ensure survival in the extreme zone. This is due to overcoming the usual stereotypes of behavior and decision-making, i.e., with an appeal to new or previously rejected possibilities of non-standard solutions. Such decisions become real due to the dedifferentiation and despecialization of the main mental mechanisms of the participants, and the resulting special experience of suddenly expanded opportunities motivates a certain part of the participants in extreme events to repeat the extreme experience more and more.
Let’s apply these provisions to our topic. The extremist community belongs to the extreme zone. First, it seeks to destroy the former identity, seeks to change society so radically that its new form cannot be perceived as a continuation of the old. Secondly, its members do not identify themselves as members of a legitimate society, which means that they are internally outside the regular society. Thirdly, the extremist community acts by illegitimate methods (uprisings, coups, terror) and thereby exposes its members to a real threat of death or isolation.

The extremist community cannot be adequately understood and described only from the standpoint of the regular world. Understanding extremism is available only to extremist consciousness. The extremist community must be understood from within and described as any other human community with its own specific language, picture of the world and system of values. Otherwise, the study of extremism is replaced by its propaganda discredit, which hinders an adequate assessment of both its carriers and the place that extremism occupies in the sociocultural system.
On closer examination, it turns out that extremist ideologies and practices are attractive to many creative, intelligent and active people. This phenomenon becomes clear if we remember what any extreme zone offers a person – the restoration of a world of possibilities as opposed to an already existing option – one of the many possible ones. The temptation to create a new world to replace the existing one, but not created by this creative and active person, can be difficult to overcome for this part of the people who become ideologists, organizers, and often performers of various extremist actions.
The chance to realize the need to create a new, different world also sheds light on the place that extremist communities occupy in the state and culture. Having radically different ideas and plans unacceptable to the regular world, the extremist community creates a reserve of opportunities for a society that is experiencing a catastrophe. A catastrophe – the irreversible collapse of the entire socio-cultural system – should be distinguished from a crisis that is resolved by the forces of regularity itself due to a change in elites or the coming to power of a legitimate, systemic opposition. Extremists come to power when all the potentialities of the regular zone are exhausted and, having immersed the whole society in the extreme zone, they create a new regularity (Fig. 3 and 4).

Thus, extremism, representing a dangerous and undesirable phenomenon for any society, turns out to be its necessary component from the point of view of a position built on the process of changing societies, understood as a single coherent procedural whole . This is the profound paradoxical nature of the phenomenon of extremism – it is necessary to fight against it for any regularity that wants to prolong its existence and, at the same time, extremism is necessary in the event of a social catastrophe as the factor that will restore society on a new basis.

The proposed view of the problem of extremism cannot serve as a guide to the actions of law enforcement agencies – their task is precisely to maintain the existing regularity. But the extremologist must combine in his mind both paradoxically the combination of the unacceptability of extremism for local regularity and the understanding of its necessity (as a kind of reserve parachute) for a broader metaregularity .
An extremologist must himself be an extremist, otherwise he will not understand extremism from the inside and will not have expert knowledge of the subject of his study. But not only by an extremist, otherwise he would not have needed to form not only direct knowledge of the extreme zone, but also knowledge about the extreme zone. The status of an extremologist proper, i.e. he gets a specialist who studies the life and patterns of the dynamics of extremist communities only in the regular world, belonging to it with some part of himself and accepting the laws and values of the regular world. It is the regular world that needs knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon of extremism. At the same time, the extremologist is not an agent of regularity in extremeness, he belongs to both worlds and has the advantage of understanding them both.
This approach makes it possible to take a certain metaposition , from which one sees the strategic need for the presence of extremist resources in society and determines the levers of influence on the development of a complex sociocultural metasystem, which includes both regular and extreme aspects. With such a view, we get a chance not only to avoid the catastrophe of the social system for some time, but also to control the behavior of a regular-extreme metasystem in the conditions of a catastrophe and thereby preserve the continuity of the old and radically new forms of social and cultural life (Fig. 5).
One can speak of the extremist resources of society , meaning by this the presence of various radical and, perhaps, exotic ideas and plans in the politically marginal strata. A society with such resources is more stable than one without them. But in order for this stability to be implemented relatively painlessly and extremist resources to be used for their intended purpose, it is necessary to develop a system for training a specific layer of the elite capable of such meta -management or, at least, not being afraid to consider controversial and, perhaps, not always “politically correct” topics.

2. Categories of youth most prone to extremist activities

The main attention should be focused on the special socio-psychological situation in the life of any person, which falls on the age period from 14 to 22 years. Young people who are in a situation of possible “falling” into the field of extremist activity (youth in the “risk zone”). In this context, activities to prevent extremist manifestations among young people are aimed at young people whose life situation suggests the possibility of their inclusion in the field of extremist activity. These categories may include:

– come from dysfunctional, socially disoriented families, with a low socioeconomic status, insufficient intellectual level, having a tendency to behave that violates social or cultural norms, causing wariness and hostility of others (alcoholism, drug addiction, physical and moral violence );

– “golden youth”, prone to impunity and permissiveness, extreme leisure and considering participation in an extremist subculture as a natural form of pastime;
– children, adolescents, young people with a tendency to aggression, a forceful method of solving problems and disputes, with undeveloped skills of reflection and self-regulation;

– carriers of youth subcultures, members of informal associations prone to behavior that violates social or cultural norms, causing a wary and hostile attitude of surrounding street companies;

– members of extremist political, religious organizations, movements, totalitarian sects.

When organizing preventive work, it is important to take into account the socio-economic and age characteristics of different periods in which adolescents and young people find themselves.
The most dangerous, from the point of view of entering the field of extremist activity, is the age from 14 to 22 years. At this time, there is an overlap of two major psychological and social factors. Psychologically, adolescence and youth are characterized by the development of self-awareness, a heightened sense of justice, the search for the meaning and value of life. It was at this time that the teenager was preoccupied with the desire to find his group, the search for his own identity, which is formed according to the most primitive pattern of “we” – “they”. He also has an unstable psyche, easily susceptible to suggestion and manipulation. In social terms, most young people aged 14 to 22 find themselves in the position of marginals, when their behavior is not determined by practically any socio-economic factors (family, property, promising permanent job, etc.).
Young people, continuing their education, leave school, family, leave for another city or region, finding themselves in a situation of freedom and social insecurity. As a result, the young man is mobile, ready for experiments, participation in actions, rallies, pogroms. At the same time, the readiness for such actions is enhanced due to its low material security, and therefore participation in protest actions paid for by someone can be considered as an acceptable opportunity for additional income. The search for identity, attempts to gain a foothold in life lead to uncertainty, the desire to form a circle of like-minded people, to find someone responsible for all troubles and failures. An extremist subculture, an informal association, a political radical organization or a totalitarian sect, which gives them a simple and concrete answer to the questions: “What to do?”, may well become such a circle. and “Who is to blame?”.

Extremism as a form of social deviation.

The transitional period of Russian reforms is characterized by instability of general social conditions, which is also projected onto the criminal situation, in particular, youth crime. The state and dynamics of crime indicate the growth of negative processes in the adolescent environment. The level of juvenile delinquency, if we keep in mind its real scale, on average, according to experts, is 4 to 8 times higher than the rates of registered crime, and for some types of assaults, “scissors” are even more significant. Consequently, the social significance, the measure of the social danger of juvenile delinquency, is much higher than can be judged by statistics[1].

This gives grounds to state the fact that in Russia at the moment there is a fairly strong concentration of criminogenic factors, which opens the way to sliding to the highest degree of criminalization of society. Extremism in the behavior of a person and social groups is a phenomenon characteristic of every historical era, which is probably not amenable to complete eradication. But the degree and severity of the manifestation of extremist sentiments are due to social and environmental transformations, the weakening of the level of integrity of society.

The spread of political extremism in Russia has become one of the most acute problems. The number of crimes is increasing, the level of violence is rising, its manifestations are becoming more and more cruel and professional. A special place in this series is occupied by the extremist behavior of young people associated with the commission of acts of a violent nature for political reasons[2].

The extremist behavior of young people is one of the most pressing socio-political problems. The state, level, dynamics of political extremism of youth in Russia are widely discussed by the media and in specialized literature, and analytical collections are published[3].

Young people are considered as a large social group with specific social and psychological traits, the presence of which is determined by the age characteristics of young people and the fact that their socio-economic and socio-political position, their spiritual world is in a state of formation. In modern scientific literature, this group usually includes (in statistics and sociology) people aged 15 to 30 years. Young people, determining their way of life, solve conflict situations based on a comparison of possible options, given that the youth age is characterized by: emotional excitability, inability to restrain, lack of skills in resolving even simple conflict situations, then all of the above can lead to committing deviations[4].

The problem of aggressive and extremist behavior of young people is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of Russian reality. Elements of extremist behavior of young people are formed against the background of deformation of the social and cultural life of society. Researchers tend to include the following in the list of the main reasons for the growth of extremist behavior of young people: social inequality, the desire to assert themselves in the adult world, insufficient social maturity, as well as insufficient professional and life experience, and, consequently, a relatively low (uncertain, marginal) social status.

Youth extremism as a phenomenon of recent decades, expressed in disregard for the norms of behavior in society or in their denial, can be viewed from different positions. The youth at all times was subject to radical moods. Due to its age characteristics, even in politically and economically calm times, the number of radical people among young people is always higher than among the rest of the population.

Youth is characterized by the psychology of maximalism and imitation, which in the conditions of an acute social crisis is a breeding ground for aggressiveness and youth extremism. The development of political extremism among young people is of particular danger, not even because juvenile and youth crime has increased markedly, but because it is associated with the development of “abnormal” attitudes in the group consciousness of the younger generation, which affects values, preferred patterns of behavior, and assessments of social interaction. , i.e. in a broad sense, it is connected with the social and political culture of Russian society in its projective state. Unfortunately, the formation of the first generation of the new Russia took place mainly in the conditions of the negative socio-economic situation of the 90s of the XX century, which created the prerequisites for the marginalization of a significant part of the youth, the deviation of their behavior, including political extremism.

A special analysis of the problem shows that extremism in Russia is “getting younger”, the most frequently committing crimes are young people aged 15-25 years. Young people are also more likely to commit crimes of an aggressive nature. According to statistics, the bulk of such serious politically motivated crimes as murder, grievous bodily harm, robbery, terrorism, are committed by persons under 25 years of age. It is important to take into account that youth extremism is currently growing at a faster rate than adult crime[5].

These processes are of particular importance in the context of the problems of social security of Russian society caused by the actions of extremists and leading to physical and spiritual degradation, destruction of the individual, ethnic group, society, state. Since the activation of the political extremism of young people currently poses a serious danger to Russian society, it should be deeply and comprehensively studied, including by means of political science, as a phenomenon that requires public: political, legal, administrative, managerial and socio-cultural opposition.

The extremist movement as a type of deviation is a complex socio-political phenomenon that tends to self-develop. Its appearance is due to the presence of a number of socio-economic and socio-cultural factors that are closely interacting with each other. At the same time, the absence of one or more of these factors significantly hinders the spread of extremist sentiments and dramatically reduces the impact of extremist ideology on the ethno-national mentality and socio-cultural activities. In domestic scientific literature, the concept of political extremism provides for violent actions aimed at changing the political system, the policy pursued by the government of the state. Sometimes it is conventionally divided into “left” and “right”, but we believe that such a division is far from exhausting all forms of political extremist manifestations. Thus, for example, the activity of bandit formations in Chechnya is difficult to bring under such a classification. The ideology of some foreign extremist organizations combines elements of both “leftist”, pseudo-Marxist theories and ultranationalist concepts[6].

The problem of deviation in the political sphere, as well as the phenomena of social apathy and anomie as a whole, is new. It, in all its aspects and forms of interconnection, has traditionally been the most acute and topical for Russia. For the most complete and visual representation of this specific social phenomenon, which has its historical and sociocultural roots back in pre-revolutionary Russia and retained its foundation both at the socio-economic and spiritual and moral levels in the Soviet period of the development of our society, it is necessary to consider the interaction of repressive and tolerant principles in relation to representatives of the so-called deviant and delinquent groups. It should be noted that the official list of deviations and persons with certain deviations from a certain standardized norm was compiled in such a way as to present them as a kind of emotional and psychological targets for the mass consciousness, both for the completely traditionalist and for those experiencing modernization stresses[7].

Traditionally, in Russia there were such social phenomena as begging and vagrancy, which were condemned by the official ideology and morality, and legal institutions and organizations were actively persecuted or sought to isolate. Today, this problem is more acute than ever, and we should long ago understand that we will not be able to eliminate this phenomenon, which has deep socio-economic and socio-cultural roots, by repressive measures alone, on the contrary, in a number of cases, rejected by the official authorities, these people are just and need the greatest degree of social protection from society, especially when it comes to the younger generation, which sometimes has very different needs, interests and aspirations from officially recognized ones. It should be noted that for a significant part of the population of modern Russian society, representatives of various religious sects and associations also act as outcasts and deviants, the assessment of which in the mass consciousness of modern society often has a clearly negative connotation. The penetration of some attributes of Western culture into Russian soil was marked by the emergence in many cities of various informal youth organizations that have created today a very branched and stable subculture, which also often act as deviants in relation to the prevailing socio-cultural standards and stereotypes[8].

Crisis processes in various spheres of public life, exacerbating the existing contradictions, not only give rise to criminalization in the spheres of the market economy, but also intensively penetrate into politics, deform the system of power, increase the political deviation of significant segments of the population covered by the processes of lumpenization and marginalization, which creates objective prerequisites criminal and extremist activity of youth.

It is necessary to more deeply analyze the nature and essence of the deviant behavior of young people, which is traditionally identified in sociology with negative forms of youth deviation and even with purely criminogenic acts. Deviant behavior is one of the most difficult aspects of modern society. It is formed under the influence of multifaceted processes and phenomena occurring in the political, economic, and social spheres. The action of these factors can influence the actual prevalence of antisocial behavior, the strengthening of social pathology, the high rates of juvenile delinquency, extremism, causing enormous material and moral damage to society. Therefore, establishing the causes of antisocial behavior, crime, and finding ways to combat them are important[9].

In sociology, deviance in its most general form is taken as a deviation from generally accepted norms of behavior. The concept of “deviation” as a neologism appeared in the social thought of the 20th century in the early 1960s to explain the essence of non-conventional behavior and social problems that go beyond the criminal law system. Deviation includes crime, but this concept is also used to refer to punishable violations of social rules, norms, and attitudes.

The general theory of social deviation presents different, sometimes mutually exclusive points of view and approaches, reflecting the complex relationship of social, economic, political, psychological and other factors. Most concepts correspond to three main models – psychogenic, sociogenic and regulatory. At the same time, Western experts themselves admit that such a complex social phenomenon as deviant behavior cannot be fully explained from the standpoint of sociology, psychology, biology or political science and therefore consider it appropriate to study it on the basis of a multi-paradigm, which includes socio-ecological theory, theory differentiated communication, anomie, subcultures, alienation, stigmatization, neutralization, “drift” and youth countercultures[10].

In Western sociologists and social deviation is considered, as a rule, in a broad social context, as a natural product of the development of social structure. With regard to young people, we are talking about socio-psychological anomalies specific to this age group, manifested in juvenile delinquency, the formation of youth delinquent subcultures, asocial groups, about the behavior of adolescents at school, family, at work and in their free time, about identifying the causes of weak adaptation of young people to established social norms, cultural traditions and social conditions of life[11].

The concept of “deviant (deviant) behavior” in Western sociology is interpreted very broadly, it covers all types of behavior that do not fit into the established system of law, morality, politics, and economics in each particular society. It includes delinquent and criminal behavior, as well as so-called social vices (alcoholism, suicide, gambling, bohemian lifestyles) and other acts that are not subject to criminal punishment.

V. Fox believes that deviant behavior is a legal definition of unacceptable behavior of an individual or group, which significantly deviates from the expected and thereby violates the normal functioning of society or traditional ideas and feelings. According to P. Roach, social deviations are processes that reflect the release of hidden antisocial drives inherent in all people. D. Matza believes that deviant behavior is an act of behavior that violates moral and legal norms. The definition proposed by A. Cohen means that deviation is understood not only as a criminal or asocial act, but also any behavior that violates generally accepted norms and rules. Thus, deviant behavior is considered in Western science as a deviation from social standards and expectations, which is detrimental to society and includes a wide range of acts – from a hooligan act to a complete social pathology of political extremism, radicalism and terrorism[12].

In general, Western sociology has developed the idea that the global cause of the development of deviant behavior of young people in the modern world is disorganization as an integral part of significant social changes that have engulfed society under the influence of modernization. These changes are due to industrialization and urbanization, which led to a socialization crisis, family breakdown, mass migration of rural youth, falling into the criminogenic conditions of large cities, psychological stress and other factors of social deviation. The desire of young people to find non-traditional forms of a way out of a crisis situation is seen as a global socio-cultural process of collectively solving complex problems that are the social consequences of modernization.

Two types of deviant behavior should be distinguished: constructive and destructive. The main criterion for determining the nature of deviant behavior is not the form of its implementation, in particular the presence of an attribute of violence, but the level of fairness in the redistribution of sources of replenishment of vital energy. The aggressive type of deviation, both in direct and in a displaced form, is aimed at overcoming frustration by redistributing social benefits inadequate in the current situation, achieving the goal without taking into account the interests of the people around, unfair solution of the problem in favor of one of the interacting parties due to the deterioration of the adaptive conditions of the other. The aggressive nature of behavior is determined not only by education, but also by the nature of the behavior of the interacting side. The displaced form of aggression indicates that the energy potential of a person is insufficient to overcome frustration [13].

Deviant behavior of a destructive orientation – the commission by a person or a group of people of social actions that deviate from the sociocultural expectations and norms that dominate in society (a separate social group, stratum), generally accepted rules for the fulfillment of social roles, entailing a curbing of the pace of development of society: the destruction of the energy potential of individuals and society as a whole. Destructive (asocial) deviation cannot be identified only with crime. Crime – behavior that is criminally punishable, prohibited by law, and is only one of the forms of this type of deviant behavior.

The main sources of youth extremism in Russia are primarily socio-political factors: the crisis of the socio-political and economic system; sociocultural deficit and criminalization of mass culture; the spread of social manifestations of “passing away from life”; lack of alternative forms of leisure activities; crisis of school and family education. All this suggests that the main range of problems that young people in Russia have to deal with lies in the sphere of conflict relations, primarily in the family and in relations with peers. Personal factors also play an important role, such as the deformation of the value system, an “unhealthy” communication environment, the predominance of leisure orientations over socially useful ones, inadequate perception of pedagogical influences, and the lack of life plans.

In Russia, the national extremist, extreme left and extreme right, ethno-confessional and separatist foundations of political extremism have recently been clearly identified. It should also be noted that although the manifestation of extremist actions on various grounds have different manifestations, they are united by the use of extreme forms of violence to increase the aggressiveness of the environment. Thus, criminal extremism seeks to impose norms of behavior on young people based on brutality, vandalism, cruelty and aggressiveness. Some young people perceive violence as a special value, a life strategy in a risk society, and themselves become the subject of violence, the victim of criminal forces, embark on the path of crime and extremism.

Being included in a society with established social and role structures, young people tend to integrate into a particular social group and acquire the desired status position in it. As they become aware of their status, they need to improve it. However, the realization of such a need often encounters many sometimes insurmountable obstacles. It is not surprising that contradictions arise between young people and society at all its levels regarding requests and expectations, rights and obligations, interests and opportunities for their implementation.

In conditions of social uncertainty, the probability and risk of aggravation of these contradictions, the emergence and expansion of social conflict are rapidly increasing. At the same time, spontaneous attempts on the part of the authorities to restore order without mastering the situation as a whole only increase uncertainty, producing new risks that affect young people. Simultaneously with the aggravation of conflicts in the risk society, the chances for their positive resolution are noticeably reduced. Such a society is more likely to face an escalation of the conflict and its transition to an extreme form of confrontation.

If for one part of the youth, crimes sometimes serve as a means of active self-affirmation, then for others it is preferable to “leave” from an alien, incomprehensible and incomprehensible world into alcohol, drugs, or voluntary death. Consumption of alcohol and drugs, suicidal behavior are forms of retreat, withdrawal from social reality and inability (unwillingness) to adapt to it in ways approved by society[14].

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