I like this post a lot, and it touches on a number of topics I've been thinking about for a couple of pieces I'm working on.

This, to me, is vital: "ideology exists in multiple, simultaneous, seemingly contradictory modes—fluid and fixed, theoretical and practical, comprehensive and casual." I like it because it reflects the reality that we can try all we like to define things in one specific way or another — and it's natural to, working in social-scientific settings — but there are also common uses of a term as potent as "ideology" that won't fit this or that technical definition (and might not even be particularly about extremism).

Thank you also for pointing to the Barnett article. Looks like plenty of good material to explore. The developmental aspect there makes me think of the social-psychology research that points to deep-seated competing values (e.g. adherence to rules versus charitable treatment of everyone) that seem to underlie people's political ideologies.

And this is a gem: "Futilely, they long for that unrecoverable innocence, the uncritical acceptance of an ideology that purely validates the rightness and goodness of their in-group, and thus of themselves."

One of my big interests is the connection of (group) ideology with (individual) identity. My view fits what you describe here: individuals need to believe in something timelessly correct and pure about *themselves*, which exists in a mutually reinforcing relationship with the timeless purity and correctness of what's believed by their *group*, whether neo-Nazis, birdwatchers, Rotarians, Dallas Cowboys fans, Mormons, or whatever.

To my mind, this is simply the other side of the coin which says "that the social construction of reality is derived from in-group consensus." My group is right — both correct and upstanding — so that makes me right, too. Concomitantly, my group's views couldn't be wrong (incorrect, corrupt), or else I'd be wrong, too.

It's a powerful elixir of belief, and not only for extremists.

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My favorite line: We need to use a wider aperture.

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Aug 26, 2023Liked by J.M. Berger

I think this is a very good post. Connections between family "ideology" and adult extremism are surely important to understand.

I appreciate that you frame the post as an initial attempt. I'm not sure how far generalizations will prove valid (which is why I like your tentative tone). I think there would need to be a range of models explaining varied etiologies. Some accounts by individual "formers" seem to involve early childhoods where family absence or dysfunction seems to have involved no coherent family ideology, while others seem to have mirrored clear family orientations. Protecting one's in-group / recapturing the purity of one's in-group / finding one's initial in-group and other formulas may all be in play to different degrees.

It would be a huge research project to work from cases towards typologies, but without that kind of empirical data I wonder whether we can get much past the tentative stage.

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