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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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Millennialism, Conspiracy, and Stigmatized Knowledge

Millennialism, Conspiracy, and Stigmatized Knowledge

(p.15) Chapter 2 Millennialism, Conspiracy, and Stigmatized Knowledge
A Culture of Conspiracy

Michael Barkun

University of California Press

The sheer volume of activity makes the present period an era of particular interest to observers of millennialism. Attempts to map contemporary millennial ferment have become increasingly difficult and frustrating. This chapter focuses on the improvisational millenarian style, which is distinctive for its independence from any single ideological tradition. The improvisational style is characterized by relentless and seemingly indiscriminate borrowing, and provides holistic and comprehensive pictures of the world. The variety of their elements implies that the belief system can explain a comparably wide range of phenomena, from the spiritual to the scientific and the political. The combinations also suggest that apparent oppositions and contradictions can be resolved, and that an underlying unity transcends outward differences. Furthermore, stigmatized knowledge claims to designate a broader intellectual universe, into which both rejected knowledge and the cultic milieu may be fitted.

Keywords:   millennialism, improvisational style, stigmatized knowledge, ideological tradition, cultic milieu

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