An upheaval in the north: when ideas at the core are radicalized at the periphery

Conflicting theoretical perspectives present radical innovation as originating either from the core or the periphery of a system. Inverting the established tendency of “tempering” of innovation in moving from the periphery to the core, this paper describes a process where ideas from the core are radicalized on the periphery. This approach realigns the primacy of the core in diffusing ideas and that of the periphery in reinforcing uniqueness. Tempering and radicalization are portrayed as interdependent processes, where the fulfillment of one denotes the termination of the other. Radicalization is facilitated by the interaction of fragmentation and mobility – simultaneously increasing differences and exchanges between core and periphery.

Innovation scholarship tends to emphasize mobility from the periphery to the core, based on the pulling power of the center. I argue that the opposite flow is unjustly neglected. It includes two types of trajectories – actors visiting the center and returning to the periphery or ideas from the center penetrating the periphery. Mobility of this kind generates cultural contradictions and tension and may contribute to the radicalization of actors who are less accountable to audiences and more willing to escalate than those at the center. Quantitative and qualitative evidence from art and music lend support to the arguments. The focus is on Norway, featuring a major breakthrough in art in the late 19th century (The Scream by Edvard Munch) and the development of highly distinctive musical genre that diffused worldwide (“black metal”).

Discussant: Chris Gibson

PLACES: Session 2