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The Paranoid Style in American Politics Paperback – June 10, 2008
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'The Paranoid Style' is in fact a collection of essays, the first four of which are thematically-related studies of American hyper-conservatism. (I won't discuss the other essays in this review.) In the first, Hofstadter brings to light earlier historical avatars of conservative paranoia, reaching back to 18th century fears of 'Illuminati' and Freemasons, and 19th century anti-Catholic sentiment. Hofstadter then contextualizes the then-current anti-communist movement and McCarthyism as the latest examples of a 'style' of American political rhetoric that cannot brook coincidence, and that, in contrast, prefers to see historical events, which are largely beyond our control, as the evidence of a vast and perfect conspiracy to destroy America and its values.
In the next essays, Hofstadter engages with what he calls 'pseudo-conservatism,' a philosophy embodied in those ultra-right wing movements that do not seek to conserve or guide our social institutions at all, but instead wish to tear them out root and branch, on the grounds of their complete and utter corruption. At the time, Hofstadter's targets were right-wing organizations like the John Birch Society, but above all Barry Goldwater and his supporters. These 'pseudo-conservatives' rejected completely the moderate Republican leadership of the time, and sometimes went so far as to accuse them of treason.Read more ›
Hoftstadter delineates how fringe rightist elements took over the Republican Party and rallied behind the banner of Arizona's Senator Barry M. Goldwater, resulting in one of the party's most calamitous losses in the 1964 presidential election against incumbent Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson.
The work has a timely ring as an historical analytical measuring rod in comprehending the activities of current right wing movements, such as the Christian Right behind the banners of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and its link to the militant anti-abortion movement, alongside earlier rightist political philosophies and their vigorous adherents such as Welch and television commentator Dan Smoot.
But Hoffstedter's book really made sense of these periodic paroxysms in our society and, thanks to the wackoes, the book retains its great vitality and relevance. Be sure to buy the book now, though, before the Stamp Act party returns in 2030. And I can't wait for the Know-Nothings (or are they hiding amidst the Tea Party?)
My re-reading was prompted by what the McCarthy and Goldwater movements discussed in "Paranoid Style" could tell us about the motives and forces underlying the current right-wing resurgence in the Republican party.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a golden oldie. It helps one understand the times we have lived through and live in today, especially if, like your reviewer, you are in your eighties.Published 1 day ago by Birdie
This classic work is essential reading for making a voting decision in the 2016 presidential election.Published 19 days ago by Historian
"The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers,... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Peter Baklava
This is an important book, but if Vintage/Random House agrees with that judgment, then the least they could have done is print the book on decent paper. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Unaffiliated in Brooklyn
What can anyone say about Richard Hofstadter except that he is without peer as an American thinker and historian. And he is an elegant writer who is a pleasure to read. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Margaret R Gesell
The book was exactly what I wanted and it arrived in good condition. The quality of the material in the book by Richard Hofstadter should be required reading for every American... Read morePublished 13 months ago by James A Stirnaman
Hofstadter's classic study of the roots of the American radical right wing ideology may be 50 years old, but it couldn't be more current in terms of today's Republican ideology. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Anne Mills