The Nature of Beliefs. An Exploration of Cognitive Science and Sociological Approaches to the Crisis of Democracy
This paper constitutes the beginning of the final phase of a three-phase project that investigates democratic backsliding in the United States and elsewhere in the world. The first phase focused on the role of social media, concluding that political economics should be given greater weight when explaining the legitimacy crisis of authoritative democratic institutions. The second phase investigates the nature of radicalising organisations. This paper starts the third phase with a critique of the dominant positivist approach to investigating the embrace of extremist ideas. The paper reviews political scientists‘ adoption of cognitive science research methods and concepts, followed by a second approach rooted in the sociology of religion research literature. While the cognitive science approach looks to brain function to explain beliefs and their tendency toward intractability, the sociology of religion literature understands the nature of beliefs as a human response to precarity, especially during social and economic disruption.