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A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society) New Ed Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520248120
ISBN-10: 0520248120
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many people assume that the X-Files conspiracy theory-malevolent space aliens in cahoots with shadowy government agencies-is the brainchild of caffeinated scriptwriters with an overnight deadline. But according to this fascinating cultural study, such scenarios have a long and disturbing intellectual pedigree. Political scientist Barkun (Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement) traces them to a venerable tradition of "New World Order" conspiracy theories combining fundamentalist dread of the Antichrist with secular right-wing suspicions that the powers that be are controlled by Masons, Jesuits, Jews and, above all, the Illuminati. Starting in the 1980s, extraterrestrials began to appear at the summits of these conspiracy-theory hierarchies, a process accelerated by the Internet's anarchic dissemination and recombination of myths and rumors. The resulting "improvisational millennialism" has yielded any number of baroque "superconspiracies" (one theory yokes together UFOs, the Gestapo, the Mafia and the Wobblies), but Barkun contends there are serious repercussions. As New World Order themes have infiltrated the previously apolitical UFO subculture, he argues, they have become more respectable and widespread: racialist and anti-Semitic ideologies have resurfaced in the coded guise of alien cabals, and a vast popular audience has been introduced by Hollywood to the notion that the government is a totalitarian clique in black helicopters-a view once confined to right-wing extremists. Scholarly but fluently written and free of excessive jargon, Barkun's exploration of the conspiratorial worldview combines sociological depth with a deadpan appreciation of pop culture and raises serious questions about the replacement of democracy by conspiracy as the dominant paradigm of political action in the public mind.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This book is a welcome contribution to the growing body of literature and continuing debate on the subject and is highly recommended to those interested in conspiracy theory, millenarianism and other forms of right wing, religious and occult phenomena." - Aaron Winter, E-extreme "Ideas, even bizarre and marginalized ideas, do have consequences, and we ignore them at our peril. Barkun's explorations, like the canary in the coal mine, warn us of what may lie ahead." - Paul Boyer, Christian Century "Millennial dreams, apocalyptic nightmares populated by agents of the Antichrist, space aliens, and acolytes of the New World Order - with a calm approach and scrupulous academic bearings, Barkun navigates through the reefs of conspiracist allegation from the cosmic to the comic, from Biblical prophecy to Internet alerts." - Chip Berlet, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America "For those who think conspiracy thinking is a fading phenomenon, or a cultural phenomenon of little significance or creativity, think again. Welcome to the third millennium." - Richard Landes, Director, Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University; editor of The Encyclopedia of Millennial Movements and author of Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History"

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Product Details

  • Series: Comparative Studies in Religion and Society (Book 15)
  • Paperback: 251 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (May 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248120
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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