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Extreme Politics: Fringe Groups and Their Impact on the Modern World

(13) Extreme Politics: Fringe Groups and Their Impact on the Modern World - P. Nick Kardulias, Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Program in Archaeology

Political systems are created in order to provide the means by which people can undertake activities vital to the functioning of societies.  These systems rarely, if ever, achieve total agreement on any course of action.  Since different groups within a society may have varying interests, the distribution of key resources (money, jobs, education, etc.) can be contested, but successful societies find ways to reach acceptable levels of agreement through compromise.  However, every society also has extremists who hold ideas outside of the mainstream.  Often such groups are adamant (even fanatical) about their beliefs and engage in activities outside the normally accepted range, including the use of violence.  In this seminar we will examine the nature and role of extreme political groups in various countries, with a focus on the United States.  Some of these groups are arranged as political parties while others are more loosely constituted.  Among the groups we will examine are some with large general programs or agendas (for example, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, libertarians, sovereign rights associations, nativists, anarchists), and others that focus on specific issues (for example, anti-Obama “birthers”, gun rights).  Many individuals associated with such perspectives espouse outlandish conspiracy theories and distort history to serve their political ends.  In order to evaluate the various claims, we will discuss the ways to determine the validity of arguments, with a focus on the use of scientific method.  We will also examine the impact of such groups on the politics of countries and regions.