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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. Nevertheless, it preserves its sense of a political orientation that favors fundamental, drastic, revolutionary changes in society, literally meaning "changes at the roots".
Its specific forms vary from reformism (early 19th century, antonymous to conservative) to the contemporary synonym of extremism (antonymous to moderate). The 19th century American Cyclopaedia of Political Science states that "radicalism is characterized less by its principles than by the manner of their application". Conservatives often used the term radical as a pejorative. In contemporary usage, the terms radical and radicalism refer to the political views of the far left and radical left, as well as the far right (also known as the radical right).
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 who supported parliamentary reform. Over the 19th century, the term has been combined with various notions and doctrines, and various forms of radicalism have included: working class, middle class, philosophical, democratic, bourgeois, Tory, plebeian. Many influential radical leaders gave rise to their own trend, such as Spencean radicalism or Carlilean radicalism. French political scientist Jean-Jacques Rousseau is often stated to be the main theoretician for radicalism within republican thought, especially in the course of the French Revolution and other modern revolutions, as the antithesis of John Locke's liberalism.
Personality and political radicalism
References & Bibliography
- Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, 1893, p. 492, article "Radicalism", by Maurice Block
- Mike Sanders (ed.) (2001) "Women and Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century", ISBN 0415205263, "General Introduction"
- Edward Walter (1992) "The Rise and Fall of Leftist Radicalism in America", ISBN 0275942767
- Gilbert Abcarian (1971) "American Political Radicalism: Contemporary Issues and Orientations"
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