Reading Group – 30.02.13
After a first introductory meeting a couple of weeks ago, we held our first Conspiracy and Democracy reading group on 30 January 2013. The focus of the session was on attempting to define both conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Basing ourselves on pre-circulated submissions by the group members, we discussed a number of issues relating to conspiracies, including whether a legal definition is a useful approach; the centrality of malign intent; the function of oath-taking in conspiracies from the French Revolution onwards; and whether scale can lead to conspiracies as ‘emergent properties’. In terms of conspiracy theories we queried why and how conspiracy theories are formed, with particular reference to the Indian government’s alleged releasing of ‘big cats’ to terrorise the population in northern parts of the county; why conspiracy theories seem especially prominent in the US; and enquired into the psychology of conspiracy theorists, in particular the role that pedantry plays in their approach. Finally, we asked what relationship conspiracy theories entertain with modern democracy, in particular whether they have replaced older theological explanations of the failings of government, and whether there are links between unitary (post-Marxist) worldviews and conspiracy theories.