Just Sociology

Exploring the Complexity of Fundamentalism: Causes Nature and Success

Fundamentalism is a religious and cultural phenomenon that has become increasingly relevant in contemporary society. As a result, it is essential to understand the causes and nature of fundamentalism to gain a deeper insight into its implications.

The following academic article will explore two main topics related to fundamentalism: the causes of fundamentalism, including modernisation, secularisation, external factors, marginalised individuals, and common enemies, and the nature of fundamentalism, including political representation in political institutions, religious beliefs, and actions.

Causes of Fundamentalism

Modernisation and Secularisation

Modernisation and secularisation have contributed to the emergence of fundamentalism by triggering differentiation and rationalisation, which have led to the erosion of traditions. The rise of modernity, characterised by the rise of scientific and industrial revolutions and technological advances, has led to a significant transformation in societies and cultures.

As societies become more differentiated and specialised, traditional forms of social, cultural, and religious practices erode, leading to a sense of loss, instability, and insecurity. Fundamentalists view modernisation and secularisation as a threat to their traditional beliefs, leading them to cling more tightly to their religious beliefs and practices.

External Factors

Another significant factor leading to the emergence of fundamentalism is external factors. Fundamentalist movements gain strength when they can present a common enemy or enemy ideology against which they can unite.

Likewise, when leaders are unable to provide ideological cohesion, they may rely on messages of fear and distrust to mobilize members, resonating with Schmitts theory on political representation, leading to the mobilisation of marginalised individuals. In cases such as these, a movement driven by a common ideology can gain traction, leading to the emergence of fundamentalism.

Nature of Fundamentalism

Political Representation

Fundamentalism often presents challenges to political institutions, as it sees political representation as ineffective at best if not adversarial. Fundamentalists may rely on violent methods to achieve their goals, viewing peaceful protest or other non-violent means as ineffective.

When fundamentalism gained traction in the Middle East, it was the result of the perceived failure of secularism to provide meaningful representation. In the West, fundamentalist movements have become increasingly vocal and violent, using tactics such as bombings, assassinations, and hostage-taking to further their own objectives.

Religious Beliefs

Religious beliefs are central to the nature of fundamentalism, regardless of the religion or ideology in question. Fundamentalist movements tend to be characterised by a strict adherence to certain religious principles, often with a disregard for other groups beliefs and practices.

Christianity and Islam, in particular, have been noteworthy for the emergence of fundamentalist movements. For example, Christian fundamentalist movements in the United States present a significant challenge to the traditional politicians in their country, while Islamic fundamentalist movements such as the Taliban have gained traction in the Middle East.


In conclusion, fundamentalism is a complex religious and cultural phenomenon that has significant implications for contemporary societies. The causes and nature of fundamentalism are diverse and multifaceted, ranging from modernisation and secularisation to external forces and the emergence of political representation.

Despite these challenges, however, understanding these causes and cultivating an awareness of their implications is essential for society to move forward in a constructive manner. It is essential to recognise the diverse causes that we have detailed above and the complementary nature of these theories for fundamentalist movements.Fundamentalism is a phenomenon that has taken hold in many regions of the world, impacting societies in complex, multifaceted ways.

Causes and nature of fundamentalism have been examined in detail in the preceding article, and this expansion will explore the success and lack of success of fundamentalism. It will consider how fundamentalism has succeeded (and not succeeded) in both Western societies and less developed regions around the world.

Success of Fundamentalism

Western Societies

In general, fundamentalism has not been successful in Western societies. This is due in large part to the structure of these societies and systems of laws governing religion and religious practice.

Western states, including the United States, have laws in place that separate church and state, meaning that the state is not aligned with a particular religion. Furthermore, the concept of secularism is central to Western society, in which an individual’s religion is considered a private matter rather than one that is integrated into the public domain.

Despite this, fundamentalism has become an increasingly visible presence in Western societies over the past several decades. In particular, Christian fundamentalism, also known as Evangelicalism, has gained a foothold in the United States, where its influence has been evident in political discourse and movements.

However, even in the US, where Evangelicalism has had some success in politics, it has not gained a sufficient power base to dominate society at large.

Less Developed Regions

In contrast, in less developed regions of the world, fundamentalism has a much greater chance of success. In these regions, religious, social, and cultural institutions may be in a nascent stage, meaning that they are more suscepti ble to being influenced by new ideas and movements.

Furthermore, such regions often lack strong, well-developed governing institutions, leading to ineffective governance and a greater opportunity for fundamentalist groups to gain political power. In less developed regions, fundamentalists have often presented themselves as an alternative to corrupt and ineffective governments, appealing to individuals sense of disillusionment, hopelessness, and insecurity.

For example, the Talibans success in Afghanistan and Pakistan was in part due to its ability to provide an alternative governance structure, one that it presented as more effective than traditional political institutions. Likewise, in Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram has found widespread support by positioning itself as an alternative to existing political structures, appealing to individuals sense of disillusionment and lack of faith in the government.


The relative success of fundamentalism in Western societies and less developed regions of the world highlights the complexity of this phenomenon. While in developed societies, including the US, fundamentalist movements have made some headway, the structure of these societies and the legal framework governing religious practice means that they have not pulled in sufficient power to significantly impact society as a whole.

However, in less developed regions, fundamentalism has been able to gain greater footholds, with various groups appealing to individuals sense of disillusionment and presenting themselves as more effective alternatives to existing institutions. The success of fundamentalism in less developed regions generally comes in the form of violent extremism, with groups such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban using violence to establish governance systems they see as being in line with their interpretation of Islam.

In all cases, the use of violence and the relegation of ideas to the background mark the nature of fundamentalism in its various forms. Nonetheless, despite its successes, fundamentalism is often marred by a fundamental conflict between tradition and modernity.

This conflict will likely continue until fundamentalist groups find ways to address the complex issues underlying their movements, recognising that the world is more complex than traditional religious beliefs may have envisioned. Furthermore, non-fundamentalist societies need to begin widening the conversation around the drivers of fundamentalism, coming up with new strategies for tackling the issue as a whole.

In conclusion, this article has explored the complex phenomenon of fundamentalism by examining its causes, nature, and success. It has highlighted how modernisation, secularisation, and external factors trigger the emergence of fundamentalism, and identified the role of religious beliefs and political representation in the nature of fundamentalism.

Furthermore, it has shown that fundamentalism tends to have limited success in Western societies due to the legal framework governing religious practice, while in less developed regions, it can gain more traction by presenting itself as a viable alternative to existing governance structures. Understanding the complexities of fundamentalism has significant implications for modern society, requiring us to engage in critical conversation about how we might address this issue as a global community.


Q: What are the main causes of fundamentalism? A: The main causes of fundamentalism include modernisation, secularisation, and external factors.

Q: What is the nature of fundamentalism? A: The nature of fundamentalism is characterised by a strict adherence to religious principles, often with a disregard for the beliefs and practices of other groups.

Q: Why has fundamentalism struggled to gain traction in Western societies? A: Fundamentalism has struggled to gain traction in Western societies due to the legal framework governing religious practice, which separates church and state, and the overarching concept of secularism.

Q: Where has fundamentalism gained more traction? A: Fundamentalism has gained more traction in less developed regions of the world where individuals may feel disillusioned with existing governance structures and are more susceptible to religiously-based movements.

Q: What is the role of violence in fundamentalism? A: Violence is often used by fundamentalist groups to establish governance systems in line with their interpretation of religious doctrine.

Q: What implications does understanding fundamentalism have for modern society? A: Understanding fundamentalism is essential for modern society, requiring us to engage in critical conversation about how to address this issue as a global community.

Popular Posts