Notes on Conspiracism

Peter Knight’s, Conspiracy Culture – From the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files

This asks the question as to how the prevalence of conspiracism relates to the Postmodernish sensibility. This is not so much as a review, but a few notes on conspiracism.

Richard Hofstadter’s ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ (in The Paranoid Style in American Politics – and Other Essays) written just as the modern version was really taking off (1963) takes the clinical notion of paranoia and uses it as a lens to examine the practice of conspiracist thinking. A rough summary of his thesis is that major sections of the American population had come to feel dispossessed of a nation forged in the two great struggles of a democratic-popular revolution and the war against the slave-owners. The ‘paranoid’ response to the feeling of dispossession has been that, rather than attempting a serious analysis, it constructs: ‘conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power’. It’s a good read and points out things which, once pointed are obvious (but certainly didn’t occur to me), such as that ‘a fundamental feature of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy’, eg the Ku Klux Klan’s taking on aspects of Catholicism. Continue reading “Notes on Conspiracism”

Raphael’s Relativism

Raphael Samuel Capitulates to Relativism

 

The late Raphael Samuel, formerly of Ruskin College, is a revered figure on the Britsh Left, one of the founders of the ‘history from below’ movement, of the influential History Workshop Journal, and a key influence on the ‘public history’ historiography promoted by Ruskin College. It is surely significant then that this figure publically declared – at a conference in 1987 to discuss the New Left of thirty years previous – that he had no wish to live in a socialist society, and that what socialism meant to him was the ‘community’ of what might be called ‘the actually existing socialist movement'(see http://www.livejournal.com/users/david_murray/1451.html). Surely it is also unsurprising, as his own historiography is founded on the denial of any disticntion between history and myth, and thus deprives the present of any critical purchase on the past, and thus on itself. This is how he capitulates to rampant relativism: Continue reading “Raphael’s Relativism”

Jenny Dahling and History

The Archers and the Suppression of the Temporal

It is, I suppose, a fairly obvious observation to say that one of the constitutive features of soaps is the absence of history: In that events occur but there are no changes to the framework in which those events occur

It seems to me that The Archers is an exceptionally good machine for the suppression of history, in the sense that so much is about the essential continuity of the central family and its relation to the land. In each generation there is a crisis over the manner of the succession, but it is always amicably resolved. In other words, the Archers’ farm lives in the sensibility of tradition and rurality. It is the Burkean moment of Conservatism. Now Brian’s outfit is seemingly quite different in that Brian goes out of his way to see his role as making profit and emphasising that farming is no different from any other business. Brian is always one for the latest thing. He is the Hayekian moment of conservatism. If Simon (Debbies’ ex-, who lectured the local college) had ever read to him that wonderful passage from the Communist Manifesto on ‘the constant revolutionising of production … all that is solid melts into air’ he would surely have approved – until he realised that it came from the pen of Old Charlie. Continue reading “Jenny Dahling and History”