Richard Hofstadter 1964 Essay The Paranoid Style In American Politics

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In Europe, the financial crisis has had a dramatic and negative effect.

European Commission polls showed that by last year, public trust in all major European institutions had nosedived; indeed, for the first time ever, more Europeans distrusted the European Central Bank than trusted it.

Far-right parties have also secured significant gains in Italy, the Netherlands and France.

And no matter how the British National Party fare in this week’s election, it is obvious that the dominant mood among today’s British electorate is one of hostility towards the political class.

Most citizens in most advanced industrialised economies were buffeted by an economic shock they played no role in precipitating.

Global behemoths such as General Motors and Citibank had no choice but to request government bailouts.There is a long and distinguished history of conspiracy-crazed politics in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.Political paranoia is something of a tradition in the United States.The European Commission poll showed that, while trust in Europe-wide institutions declined as the Great Recession hit, trust in national governments actually increased.In the United States, the Pew survey revealed that 58 per cent of Americans believed that the federal government was interfering too much in state and local affairs.This distrust has played out in national elections this year; far-right nativist parties have done very well this year.The most prominent example is Hungary’s anti-Semitic and anti-gypsy Jobbik party, which finished third in parliamentary elections last month.Such frustration and anger with authority is a transatlantic phenomenon.In the US, the latest Pew survey finds that 22 per cent of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington always or most of the time, which is one of the lowest levels in the last half-century.Yet today, across the world, the conspiratorial bent he identified seems to be getting stronger. Maybe modern commentators are just being paranoid about paranoia.In every continent, people are growing more and more sour towards politics. There is plenty of evidence, however, to suggest that anger, frustration and distrust — the necessary conditions for paranoia — are spreading into the body politic of advanced industrialised democracies in new and profound ways.

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