As I understand it currently, centrism is the stance that political decisions should be taken pragmatically, avoiding the advocacy of a "one size fits all" solution, combined with the aversion to sweeping political changes that might be considered very right or left-wing.

What I'm struggling to understand is how radical centrism is defined. At first, it seems like an oxymoron, and indeed in some circles - especially online - the term is used in a sarcastic manner. How is this term defined, and how does it differ from moderate centrism? Are there any current political groups or parties that define their ideology as radical centrism?

Contemporary usage of the term:

  • 3
    You might want to add a citation of the term, for context
    – Machavity
    Mar 5, 2020 at 14:21
  • 1
    you might also want to add what country this refers to. Not all the english speaking users of this platform are familiar with the US socio-political context (which is the one I believe you are referring to).
    – Adriano
    Mar 6, 2020 at 4:23
  • 2
    See middle ground fallacy. E.g., some people claim to be "impartial/centrist* in Russia-Ukraine conflict - is this hardly a moderate position (though not sure we can apply here term radical.) Mar 15, 2023 at 15:33
  • 1
    The oxymoron is part of the intended shock value of the term.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 15, 2023 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


'Radical Centrist' isn't really a term used in political science or political theory (at least it's not one that I've run across there). My sense is that it's more of a pundit term used to describe someone who pushes back against any and every strong ideological position. There always seems to be a sardonic tinge to its use, in the idea that someone is trying to appear strong and decisive while actively avoiding every political identification. In other words, a radical centrist is someone who adopts a posture of the sort: "I'm not a leftist or a rightist, a capitalist or a socialist, a nationalist or an individualist, but I do believe we need assertive, positive change." It's a useful posture for a candidate who wants to maintain flexibility — i.e., who wants to appeal to a broad range of moderate voters without risking stepping on any of their toes — but it's not really a 'position' per se.

  • 5
    The term has, in some cases here in the UK, been adopted by the very people it describes, although it's also widely perceived by all others to be a contradiction in terms. It is basically the politics associated with the senior managers of capital - those who benefit from existing arrangements, who are accustomed by experience to a rational and optimising bureaucracy, who are very hostile to the left on economic matters, who ideally do not want disruption or absurdity from the right, and who are highly activist and ideological (hence radical).about defending the status quo (hence centrist).
    – Steve
    Apr 25, 2020 at 20:41
  • I would like to point out that the opposite of an individualist is a collectivist, not a nationalist. The opposite of a nationalist is a globalist.
    – hszmv
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:19
  • 1
    @hszmv: In domestic politics, nationalism opposes all forms of diversity, and thus suppresses individualism; in international politics nationalism opposes globalism. However, there's not much sense arguing the semantics of mere examples. Mar 15, 2023 at 15:39
  • @TedWrigley: Nationalism does not oppose diversity. In nations with large immigrant populations, first generation immigrants will get pretty pro-new nation in their politics. In the U.S. immigrant communities, there are a lot of people who are themselves naturalized citizens who are quite opposed to illegal immigration (because they did it the legal way and don't want people who didn't follow the rules coming into their new home country).
    – hszmv
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:52
  • I get the feeling it's related to the Third Way, in the Tony Blair/Bill Clinton sense, rather than the neo-fascist version.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 17, 2023 at 9:39

In addition to the above answer, radical centrism - at least in theory- is an ideology that rose based on the idea of 'reform of institutions' based on what would be considered realistic or pragmatic ideas. In the book Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now by Mark Satin, the concept is based on "idealism without illusions" - a phrase originally from John F. Kennedy - and in modern times, it usually comes from supporting market-based solutions to social problems with strong governmental oversight for the interest of the public according to The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love by Matthew Miller.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .