Sunday, November 16, 2014

From behavior to belief...or the possible virtues of novel political participation

Analogous to the Pascalian prescription for acting as if one believes and has faith (‘Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.’), and akin to Confucian insight (at least with regard to the tradition’s concept of li), a contemporary social science description speaks to a (proven?*) strategy for indirectly prompting political actors to eschew a reliance on violent methods to achieve their aims:

“[T]he sustained participation of political actors in new institutional settings can trigger a reflexive and unconscious process of socialization variously described in the literature as ‘role playing,’ ‘mimicking,’ ‘copying,’ and ‘emulating’ prescribed norms of behavior. When political actors enter a new institutional environment, they are under pressure to conform with its established rules of speech and conduct. And once they adapt to such expectations, they must justify this adaptation to themselves and others. As a result, ‘they may later adapt their preferences to these justifications, in this way reducing cognitive dissonance.’ Changes in the behavior of political actors iterated over time, may thus produce changes in their beliefs. As Zürn and Checkel have argued, ‘Acting in accordance with role expectations may lead to an internalization of these expectations,’ a situation in which, to borrow an elegant phrase from Suzanne Hoeber Rudolph, ‘the mask becomes the face.’ As Islamist actors have assumed new roles and responsibilities, it can be theorized that they have developed new competencies and skills and adapted their behavior to the norms and institutions of which they are a part.” – Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement (Princeton University Press, 2013): 11-12. 

This in one reason why, for instance, it was absolute folly to deny Hamas a realistic chance to govern in Gaza after its (democratic) electoral success, and it is sheer madness to repress the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, particularly given its earlier historic avowal of violence and more recent willingness to abide by the democratic rules of the game (such as they were or are in Egypt). 

* See, for example, Omar Ashour, The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements (Routledge, 2009).


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