Political radicalism

Political radicalism

Political radicalism or simply radicalism is adherence to radical views and principles in politics. The meaning of the term "radical" (from Latin "radix", root) in a political context has changed since its first appearance in late 18th century, while it preserves its sense of a political orientation which favors fundamental, drastic, revolutionary changes in society, literally meaning "changes at the roots". Its specific flavors historically vary from "reformism" (early 19th century, antonymous and in opposition to conservative) to modern synonym of "extremism" (antonymous and in opposition to moderate).

The 19th century American "Cyclopaedia of Political Science" asserts that "radicalism is characterized less by its principles than by the manner of their application". ["Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States", 1893, [http://books.google.com/books?id=l-J3vOPWd50C&pg=PA492&dq=%22radicalism+is%22&lr= p. 492, article "Radicalism"] , by Maurice Block ]

Early usage

According to "Encyclopedia Britannica" the first use of the word "radical" in a political sense is generally ascribed to the English whig parliamentarian Charles James Fox who in 1797 declared for a "radical reform" of the electoral system, drastically expanding the franchise to provide universal manhood suffrage. This led to a general use of the term to apply to all supporting the movement for parliamentary reform.

Over the 19th century the term has been combined with various notions and doctrines and various flavors of radicalism have been spoken about: working-class, middle-class, philosophical, democratic, bourgeois, Tory, plebeian. Furthermore, every influential radical leader gave rise to their own trend, such as Spencean radicalism or Carlilean radicalism. Still, there existed a certain degree of unity and identity among all these currents. Conservatives frequently used the term "radical" as a general-purpose pejorative. [Mike Sanders (ed.) (2001) "Women and Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century", ISBN 0415205263, [http://books.google.com/books?id=9W4ucbBfkoQC&pg=PR18&dq=%22radicalism+is%22&lr=&sig=lPpumOh7NWu_qt7zy1AiQP5rCcM "General Introduction"] ]

Modern usage

In modern usage, the terms "radical" and "radicalism" refer to the political views of the far left (radical left, leftist radicalism [Edward Walter (1992) "The Rise and Fall of Leftist Radicalism in America", ISBN 0275942767] ) and far right (radical right [Gilbert Abcarian (1971) "American Political Radicalism: Contemporary Issues and Orientations" ] ) of the conventional political spectrum.

ee also

* Radical centre


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