Radical politics

Radical politics denotes the intent to transform or replace the fundamental principles of a society or political system, often through social change, structural change, revolution or radical reform.[1] The process of adopting radical views is termed radicalisation.

The word radical derives from the Latin radix ("root") and Late Latin rādīcālis ("of or pertaining to the root, radical"). Historically, political use of the term referred exclusively to a form of progressive electoral reformism, known as Radicalism, that had developed in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the denotation has changed since its 18th century coinage to comprehend the entire political spectrum, though retaining the connotation of "change at the root".[1]


The Encyclopædia Britannica records the first political usage of "radical" as ascribed to Charles James Fox, a British Whig Party parliamentarian who in 1797 proposed a "radical reform" of the electoral system, franchise to provide universal manhood suffrage, thereby idiomatically establishing "Radicals" to denote supporters of the reformation of the British Parliament.[2]

Throughout the 19th century, the concept of radical politics broadened into a variety of political notions and doctrines, manifesting in working class, middle class, philosophic, democratic, bourgeois, Tory and plebeian forms.[citation needed] In the event, influential political figures, such as Thomas Spence and Richard Carlile, gave rise to their own trends of radical politics. As party politics in England became less radical, marginalised radical movements branched off and formed more politically aggressive factions.[3][better source needed] In United States politics, the term came to be used pejoratively among conservatives and moderates to denote political extremism.[2][4] The 19th century Cyclopaedia of Political Science describes it as "characterized less by its principles than by the manner of their application".[5]

During the 20th century, radical politics took political power in many countries across the world. Among these radical leaders were Joseph Stalin in Russia, Mao Zedong in China, Adolf Hitler in Germany, as well as more mainstream radicals such as Ronald Reagan in the United States, and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom.[1][6]


Status quo changeEdit

The common feature to all radical political forms is a view that some fundamental change is required of the status quo. For an array of anti-capitalist forms, this manifests in anti-establishment reactions to modern neo-liberal regimes.[1]

Concept of ideologyEdit

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes the radical concept of ideology to be that:

  • While social conditions exist "that are vulnerable to criticism and protest; ideology exists to protect these social conditions from attack by those who are disadvantaged by them."[7]
  • "Ideology conserves by camouflaging flawed social conditions, giving an illusory account of their rationale or function, in order to legitimate and win acceptance of them."[7]

This view reflects "a consensus among radicals of all stripes on the role of law as a dissembling force to safeguard the unjust relations of the status quo."[7] This radical critique of ideology is especially prominent within post-leftism.[8] Furthermore, in addressing specific issues some radical politics may completely forgo any overarching ideological plan.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Pugh, Jonathan, ed. (2009). What is Radical Politics Today?. ISBN 9780230236257.
  2. ^ a b "Radical (ideologist)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Radicals/Radicalism - Radical Liberalism". science.jrank.org. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  4. ^ Sanders, Mike, ed. (2001). "General Introduction". Women and Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century. ISBN 0-415-20526-3.
  5. ^ Block, Maurice (1893). "Radicalism". Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States. p. 492.
  6. ^ Short, Clare (2009). "The Forces Shaping Radical Politics Today". In Pugh, Jonathan (ed.). What is Radical Politics Today?. p. 59. ISBN 9780230236257. For example, Mrs Thatcher was radical, the British National Party is radical and Hitler was radical"
  7. ^ a b c Sypnowich, Christine (2001-10-22). "Law and Ideology". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 ed.).
  8. ^ McQuinn, Jason (2004). "Post-Left Anarchy: Leaving the Left Behind". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit