The Internal brakes on violent escalation

Why do some ‘extremists’ or ‘extremist groups’ choose not to engage in violence, or only in particular forms of low-level violence? Why is it that even in deeply violent groups there are often thresholds of violence that members rarely if ever cross, even if they apparently have the capability to do so?

This project helps academic researchers and security, law enforcement and intelligence analysts develop a better understanding of decision-making within extremist or terrorist groups/movements by enabling analysis of a largely neglected dimension of their decision-making: the mechanisms through which group members themselves seek to inhibit or set parameters around the adoption of new or more extreme forms of violence – what we refer to as the ‘internal brakes’ on violent escalation.

In this project we develop a descriptive typology of these internal brakes. We do this by drawing both on a review of the general published literature on decision-making within terrorist or extremist groups, as well as through the development of case studies of three groups/movements with very different ideological underpinnings and characterised by very different levels of violence: the transnational and British jihadi movement between 2001 and 2016; the British extreme right in the 1990s; and the animal liberation movement in the UK from the mid-1970s until the early 2000s.

For academic researchers, the project provides new insight about the dynamics of non- or limited-escalation, a hitherto under-researched issue – and enables the development of formal hypotheses about how ‘internal brakes’ work, where, when and why: a crucial step in gaining a deeper understanding about the patterns of terrorist or extremist activities and how, ultimately, violence can be more effectively inhibited.

For security, intelligence and law enforcement practitioners, the typology provides a tool that can be used to refine understanding about the propensity towards and away from violence by particular groups or sub-groups, and assess how externally applied counter-measures might interact with, and sometime undermine, internal brakes.

Principal Investigator

Dr Joel Busher

Institution

Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University
University College London
Oslo University

People

Outputs…

Credibility contests and the ebb and flow of anti-minority activism

How can analysis of ‘credibility contests’ help us understand where and when anti-minority activism is more likely to gain momentum? Joel Busher, Gareth Harris...Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology

Why do some ‘extremists’ or ‘extremist groups’ choose not to engage in violence, or only in particular forms of low-level violence? Joel Busher, Donald...Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology (Full Report)

A CREST report by Joel Busher, Donald Holbrook and Graham Macklin examines why there are often thresholds of violence that members of extremist groups...Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology (Executive Summary)

This is the executive summary of the full report on The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation, by Joel Busher, Donal Holbrook and Graham Macklin....Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: The Transnational and British Jihadi Scene

This report is the first empirical case study, produced out of The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology project, funded by CREST....Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: The British Extreme Right

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: The British Extreme RightThis report is the second empirical case study, produced out of The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology project, funded by CREST....Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: The Animal Liberation Movement

Animal Liberation Front CoverThis report is the third and final case study, produced out of The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology project, funded by...Read More »

The Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation: A Typology

Most groups do less violence than they are capable of. Yet while there is now an extensive literature on the escalation of or radicalisation...Read More »