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dennis h. wrong

Subject Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631221647.2002.x


The word is of Latin derivation and means literally ‘of or pertaining to a root or to roots’ ( OED ). Not surprisingly, it has been extended to mean relating to that which is central, essential, fundamental, primary, or the source and origin of any phenomenon. It has, consistently with this broad connotation, acquired technical meanings in mathematics, geometry, philology, music, botany and chemistry. The word or its derivatives came to be applied in politics to what were perceived as far-reaching and thoroughgoing reforms, those seeking them, and their advocacy as a more or less systematic belief system. This use originated in English politics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the course of the ferment arising out of the French revolution and later became prominent in France as well. Radicalism initially referred only to the left in politics, that is, to proposals, programmes and ideologies advocating change in existing institutions and practices (the left-right distinction itself had its origin in the politics of the French revolution). ‘Radical’ may be used to characterize either the content of desired changes, suggesting that they are far-reaching, the methods recommended for achieving them, methods seen as going beyond the conventional norms regulating political conflict, or both in combination, envisaging a ‘totalistic’ transformation of the political ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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