Notes on Teenage Radicalisation

Feature section “Subjectivity and Political Dimension”
By Michèle Benhaïm, Nadim El Malki

Adolescence is an existential crisis, a passage, a construction. It is an ethical crossing, an ethic of renunciation, it is the age of awkwardness, it is, lastly, a moment of subjectivation because growing up is partly determined by the social sphere. Currently, for many teenagers, the constructive dimensions of growing up, of becoming, seem to have broken down or have been jeopardised by the fabric of contemporary family discussions, on the one hand, and the prevailing socio-political discourse, on the other hand.Discourse dictating what one must do to be a good man or a good woman, an adequate father or an adequate mother is a speech that shapes one’s relation to the world. Is it any surprise that some disoriented teenagers hand themselves over body and soul to this type of discourse when we know that it doubles up as a lifebelt? The problem arises from the radical downward spiral, when the drives dedicate themselves to the death of the Other. Radicalisation, is without doubt, another name for disaster.A disaster rooted in a climate we would not hesitate to call “traumatic” – nevertheless one must endeavour to uphold a certain labour of the mind, as frail as it may be in the face of forces that are now fully unleashed.Radicalization speaks as much to the dead-ends of modern times as to the profound distress of today’s subjects.Radicalization bears witness to adolescence, a cruel time of metamorphosis – the most sensitive time, in fact, when it comes to the subject’s self-construction.Radicalisation is a symptom that has appeared recently. One more symptom to add to the two tragic juvenile symptoms that are addiction and delinquency. Similarly to those two symptoms, it sheds light on and magnifies – as pathologies do – the subtle mechanisms that are at play within any teenager.The article will focus mainly on the very unique period of life that is adolescence, and more specifically on what underpins any radicalization – i.e. teenage radicality, an ethical relationship to life, that purports to be devoid of compromise, concessions and subterfuge, and which today has found a “Islamic” religious guise.


  • radicalization
  • radicality
  • adolescence
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