There is little consensus on what the key drivers of radicalisation and extremism are. Some scholars and policy-makers argue that an absence of participatory democracy and a legitimate arena to channel discontent contributes to extremism. However, others have found no causal connection between authoritarianism and extremism. A common finding in the literature is that while consolidated democracies are less prone to extremism and terrorism; countries that are in the process of transitioning to democratic norms are more susceptible to extremism than societies that remain authoritarian.
There is also divergence of opinion over the role of economic conditions. While absolute poverty is not considered by most as a key driver of extremism, it is considered an enabling factor. The more important driver is ‘relative deprivation’ – disparities among groups and regions regarding economic prosperity, service delivery, educational and employment opportunities and infrastructure.
Grievances, primarily over Western foreign policy and ongoing conflicts, and a sense of humiliation are also commonly recognised as causes of extremism. Issues of identity are also important to women, who desire greater status and respect in patriarchal societies.