The Role of Anti-Establishment “Conspiracy Theories”
By Colin Todhunter
November 11, 2012
In recent years, populist explanations for world events have become common and often taken the form of anti-establishment conspiracy theories. The contradiction between how people believe the world should be, according to the mainstream propaganda pertaining to liberty and democracy, and how it is in this time of crisis leads people to search for easily digestible answers.
It’s easy for conspiracy theorists to play on people’s fears and prejudices and to point fingers at certain groups. In the past, it has been ‘the Jews’, ‘the Irish’, ‘the blacks’, ‘the Poles’ or some other easily identifiable target that was blamed for society’s ills. Resorting to selective interpretations of history or some simplistic Hollywood-esque inspired political or sci-fi narrative where giant reptiles are taking over the planet can be quite seductive, particularly for ‘right-leaning’ sections of the population who never had any truck with socialism and probably once believed in the ‘free market’ and capitalist liberal democracy but now have trouble in fathoming out why it has all gone wrong.
Conspiracy theories of different kinds have been found on both the left and the right of the political spectrum over the decades. While the right saw reds under the bed everywhere, the left regarded every negative event as a consequence of capitalism – what sociologists call ‘left functionalism’.
Much of the left, however, possesses an analysis based on a sound understanding of how capitalism works and developed over time. David Harvey’s assessment of the current crisis (1) uses concepts of capital over accumulation, production outsourcing, wage and demand depression and credit access to explain why we are where we happen to be right now. John Foster (2) discusses the nature of the current crisis in similar terms.
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