The Transformation of a White Supremacist: A Dialectical-Developmental Analysis

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This paper pursues 3 basic aims. First, it outlines a relational model of extremist ideology and ideological transformation. The relational model holds that ideological transformation can occur when ideological advocates are engaged in ways that (a) preserve their dignity, (b) acknowledge and address their interests and grievances, (c) create contradictions internal to their ideological systems, and (d) provide resources for constructing alternative systems that addresses the interests served by the extremist ideology. Second, the paper describes a dialectical-developmental method for tracking the ways in which conflict prompts changes in systems of meaning through 4 dialectical moments: thesis → antithesis → conflict → synthesis. Using this method, third, the paper tracks the process of ideological transformation as represented in a narrative entitled “Confessions of an Ex-White Supremacist” posted on The Experience Project, a website devoted to anonymous discussions of personal experiences. The developmental changes represented in “Confessions” illustrate the circumstances under which conflict generated within an ideological system can motivate transformation and renunciation of that system.

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