Chapter 3 “Just because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not after You”: Populism, Political Theology, and the Culturally Repugnant Other

In: The Spirit of Populism
Thomas Lynch
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Populism and conspiracism are historically and conceptually intertwined. Conspiracism offers narratives that support simplified and binary worldviews. Confronted with a complex and rapidly changing world, it provides order. With its suspicions of global elites and distrust of official accounts, it is particularly amenable to populism. Populism and conspiracism also present the same conundrum to those who wish to diminish their influence: critiques of populism and conspiracism inevitably reinforce the social and political dynamics that animate populism and conspiracism in the first place. These critiques distance individuals, groups and movements that one finds objectionable—these people become what Susan Harding calls the culturally repugnant other. Focusing on the example of QAnon, Thomas Lynch investigates how critiques of populism mirror earlier critiques of fundamentalism. In response, he draws on political theology to argue that populism and conspiracism should not be opposed as inappropriate political styles, but on the basis of the racist and xenophobic ends to which they are directed.

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The Spirit of Populism

Political Theologies in Polarized Times



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