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3.1 Basic Definitions

< 3. Examination of Extremist Traits | AnalyseIndex | 3.2 Absolutist Claims >

The “positive definition” of extremism offered by Uwe Backes in 1989 serves as the basis for selecting the analytical criteria to be used here. This should help us extend the analysis and sharpen our distinctions beyond what is possible using the purely “negative definition” of extremism stipulated by the Bundesverfassungsschutzgesetz (Act on the Protection of the German Constitution)(BVerfSchG) (opposition to fundamentals of the constitution as defined in Section 4 Paragraph 2 of the BVerfSchG. 10 The “positive definition” seeks to grasp the inherent structural elements (among others, absolutist claims, dogmatism, friend/enemy stereotypes, conspiracy theories, fanaticism/activism) common to various extremist movements. As the special case examined here will show, the “positive definition” leads to a substantially more textured picture than do the “negative criteria”. 11


10 See Uwe Backes, Politischer Extremismus in demokratischen Verfassungsstaaten. Elemente einer normativen Rahmentheorie (Political Extremism in Democratic Constitutional States. Elements of a Framework Theory), (Opladen, 1989)(esp. pp. 298-311).
11 For reasons of space, this discussion is limited to the criteria of absolutist claims, friend/enemy stereotypes and conspiracy theories. The other traits such as utopianism and especially fanaticism/activism will be well enough illustrated through the other criteria.

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