The Online institution

psychiatric power as an explanatory model for the normalisation of radicalisation and terrorism

Robyn Torok

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

2 Citations (Scopus)


While the use of the internet and social media as a tool for extremists and terrorists has been well documented, understanding the mechanisms at work has been much more elusive. This paper begins with a grounded theory approach guided by Foucault's analytic framework on psychiatric power that utilizes both terrorism cases and extremist social media groups to develop an explanatory model of radicalization. Preliminary hypotheses are developed, explored and refined in order to develop a comprehensive model which is then presented. This model utilizes and applies concepts from Foucault's psychiatric power including the use of discourse and networked power relations in order to normalize and modify thoughts and behaviors. The internet is conceptualized as an institution in which this framework of power operates and seeks to recruit and radicalize. Overall, findings suggest that psychiatric power is a well suited, yet partial model of explaining the process of online radicalization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings
Subtitle of host publication2011 European Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference, EISIC 2011
EditorsNasrullah Memon, Daniel Zeng
Place of PublicationLos Alamitos, Calif.
PublisherConference Publishing Services
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780769544069
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventEuropean Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference (1st : 2011) - Athens, Greece
Duration: 12 Sep 201114 Sep 2011


ConferenceEuropean Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference (1st : 2011)
CityAthens, Greece


  • Foucault
  • Normalization
  • Online radicalization
  • Power relations
  • Psychiatric power
  • Terrorism

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