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A Culture of ConspiracyApocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America$
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Michael Barkun

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520238053

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520238053.001.0001

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The Nature of Conspiracy Belief

The Nature of Conspiracy Belief

(p.1) Chapter 1 The Nature of Conspiracy Belief
A Culture of Conspiracy

Michael Barkun

University of California Press

Belief in conspiracies is central to millennialism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The essence of conspiracy beliefs lies in attempts to delineate and explain evil, and has implications both for the role of secrecy and for the activities a conspiracy is believed to undertake. The conspiracy theorist's view is both frightening and reassuring because it magnifies the power of evil, leading in some cases to an outright dualism in which light and darkness struggle for cosmic supremacy. Millennialist worldviews have always predisposed their adherents to conspiracy beliefs. Such worldviews may be characterized as Manichaean, in the sense that they cast the world in terms of a struggle between light and darkness, good and evil, and hold that this polarization will persist until the end of history, when evil is finally, definitively defeated. Conspiracism explains failure, both for organizations and for the larger world.

Keywords:   conspiracy beliefs, secrecy, Millennialist worldviews, evil, cosmic supremacy

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