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The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay: from The Paranoid Style in American Politics (Kindle Single) (A Vintage Short)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,000 ratings  ·  104 reviews
A Vintage Shorts Selection
A timely reissue of acclaimed historian Richard Hofstadter’s authoritative and unforgettable essay. First published in 1964 and no less relevant half a century later, The Paranoid Style in American Politics scrutinizes the conditions that gave rise to the extreme right of the 1950s and the 1960s, and presages the ascendancy of the Tea Party move
Kindle Edition, 45 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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4.17  · 
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 ·  1,000 ratings  ·  104 reviews

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Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Deep State Is Always With Us

Christianity has traditionally defined itself principally by what it is not, namely Judaism. America as a self-described Christian nation defines itself historically with a similar ambiguity. Being unique, in the minds of its citizens, America is self-defined as ‘exceptional.’ But functionally this status can only be described negatively - not a European constitutional monarchy; not an Asian dictatorship; not a Middle Eastern theocracy are historically common desi
Bill  Kerwin
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Nine months into the Trump presidency I’m seldom shocked anymore, but when I heard that the Las Vegas Shooting victims were being abused online, accused of being Soros-paid actors in an anti-gun conspiracy, I was shocked. I mean, c’mon, this isn’t Sandy Hook! (as crazy as that theory was too.) I mean, this is a large, well-publicized event, involving hundreds of salt-of-the-earth country music fans, an event which happened during a pro-NRA Republican administration! And you guys can find a consp
Six decades past publication, it is remarkable how much Hofstadter's analyses the conservative fringe have retained their lucidity, not least because the circumstances between then and now are too similar.

For example - why were the Birther movement/John Birch Society, and McCarthyism/Anti-Muslim scare as prominent as they were, then and now? Both Eisenhower and Obama were centrist presidents, what could have offended them? Granted, there is discontent with Obama because of the economy, and Eisen
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
One of the most important books I've ever read, and my only regret is I waited this late in life. (I think in my earlier days Hofstadter was tarred with the "liberal consensus" brush of ideas like Daniel Bell's "End of Ideology." To an aging liberal, however, Hofstadter holds up remarkably well.) Hofstadter takes a step back from the growing "pseudo-conservative" movement of the 1950s and 1960s and shows it in a broader historic context. Whereas contemporary commentators and bloggers tend to get ...more
Before I get into any minor critiques, first let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this book. Hofstadter put his finger on a trend in politics that has only gotten worse over time, and one that's difficult to see reversing. In fact, even though Hofstadter admits the 'paranoid' style infects both parties (but concentrates on the right-wing), it seems to me that in contemporary times, both sides have let paranoid politics consume them.

The Paranoid Style: That the world is sharply
The titular essay feels so contemporary that I had to recheck its date of original publication. It was written almost fifty years ago, but if you replaced 'Goldwater Republicans' with 'Tea Party', it could easily have been written anytime in the last year or two. The main difference is a sad one, that in the 1960s the U.S. and world economies were still growing, whereas now it looks as if we're headed into permanent decline driven mainly by fossil fuel depletion.
The focus of the book, as the tit
David Monroe
I re-read it last year. It could have been written today.
Peter Jana
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, history
The more things change, the more they stay the same ... This collection of essays is especially insightful in today's political environment where the Tea Baggers' boiling kettle is making such a ruckus.

The parallels between what Hofstadter called "pseudo-conservatism" in 1954 and today are amply discerned when he claims, "It is at least conceivable that a highly organized and effective minority [has developed:] whose main threat is its power to create a political climate in which the rational p
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everybody else has noted the prescience and relevance of Hofstadter's title essay (a study of the psychology underlying the extremist rhetoric of the John Birch Society and related libertarian ideologues in the 50s and 60s). I agree there. What is seldom pointed out is where Hofstadter went wrong.

First, Hofstadter is unfair to some of the historical movements he cites as presaging the "Paranoid Style". The preachers who fanned the Illuminati scare in 1790s New England were wrong, it's true, but
Anthony Buckley
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Eric kindly sent me a copy of the title essay, but I must certainly have a look at the entire book.

The phrase “paranoid style” has been bandied about in discussions of American politics ever since Hofstadter wrote his article, back in the 1960s. It points to an irrational fearfulness directed by the American right towards such people as communists, socialists, liberals and ethnic minorities. The article specifically pinpoints hostility to Catholics and Freemasons, which I never really thought to
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're scratching your head about Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs or Sarah Palin or any of our current crop of defenders of the American way, spend a few hours with Hofstadter, a legendary twentieth century political historian, cut off in his prime but not before he got a real bead on the phenomenon of right wing radicalism. Its a pretty honest attempt to rake through McCarthyism and Goldwater's rise to discern the common themes, the rhetoric and perhaps the underlying emotional, psychological and so ...more
pretty slick, even 50 years down the road. various essays on various topics, all insightful. eponymous essay is a true classic, detailing the variants of political paranoia, with attention to historical detail and to subgenres, such as the apocalyptic, the conspiratorial, and so on. best bit is that author smuggles in Frankfurt Marxism in the footnotes, which makes it fairly amazing that it was published during the Cold War in the US. E.g., great little essay on 'pseudo-conservativism' adopts ad ...more
Eu descobri o ensaio que da título a esse livro lendo How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future do Levitsky. A breve descrição que Levitsky faz da caracterização de uma parcela da direita americana feita por Hofstadter em "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" me lembrou muito a direita brasileira o que me animou a ler o ensaio na íntegra.
Acabei lendo toda a primeira parte do livro que é constituída por ensaios sobre a direita americana. É realmente impressionante como o que
Ivonne Rovira
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O Paul Krugman! Not only do readers learn so much by reading his column and blog posts, but even the commenters on his blog “The Conscience of a Liberal” strew pearls of wisdom! This is the second time that a commenter on Krugman’s blog has recommended a book that turned out to be fantastic.

I had read the title article of The Paranoid Style in American Politics in 1978 or 1979 when I was still in college, and I had forgotten completely about it. But the commenter mentioned that the book of essa
This book is a collection of essays examining radical political groups that influence American politics. The essays were well written and comprehensible, particularly in the first half of the book; the second half still is too, but they do get more scholarly and are meant for a more specific audience.

Although these essays explore multiple different aspects of fringe politics, it has a specific focus on the politics of the extreme right- a group that claims to be conservative, but is more willin
Lee Candilin
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A timely reminder that history always repeat itself, no matter how much the human race has evolved, or perhaps in spite of it. The writer explained about the mechanics and the mentality behind the lure of the paranoid style, and why this paranoia recurred over a long span of time and in different places. A very insightful essay into why fundamental fears and hatreds, rather than negotiable interests, ruled the political arena both in the past and today. What is scary to me is the rampant spread ...more
Vagabond of Letters
Part 1: 4 stars, incisive and thought-provoking. Related to the title of the book.

Part 2: 2 stars. The essays of part 2 might be good (so I'm not marking a 1), but they're unrelated to the description or purpose of the book, including such things as a biographical sketch of 'Coin' Harvey and the free silver movement, a strictly historical precis of the political environment leading to the American occupation of the Philippines, and an article on the Sherman Act. With zero connection to the firs

I haven't finished this yet but I can already say I'll read it for a lifetime. I'm quoting it and recommending it to my friends and I'm going to go over it and some of its themes and issues again and again.

As far as I can tell, it more or less prophesied the entire political situation of it and shiver....
Fen Trias
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although written in 1964, this short book covers the copious history of paranoia and conspiracy theories that has formed the nexus of American politics since before the Revolution. In a way, it's comforting to know that the lunacy spewing from our politicians is not new, and we have survived it before and will probably overcome it again.
Alexandra Sundarsingh
I expected Hofstadter to be anachronistic, but reading Paranoid Style felt eerily contemporary in the current election cycle. While I found the tone incredibly snide, almost a caricature of liberal politics, the collection of essays was generally well written and interesting.
Richard Hofstadter's book and 1964 Harper’s article, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, dazzles with relevance for our contemporary situation. It is worth quoting at some length:

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I belie
Wayne McCoy
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
'The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay: from the Paranoid Style in American Politics' by Richard Hofstadter is a Vintage Books reprint. It shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

First published in 1964, the essay is certainly biased towards the left since it is showing the rise of extremism in the Conservative Party. The book talks about fringe groups and goes back quite a ways in history to show that they have been with us for a long time. They don't seem lik
Mark Valentine
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title essay in Hofstadter's collection rides point for a good reason: His novel insights into the paranoid vein running through American politics and culture, running for generations, gets clarified in his laser-precise prose. He defines paranoia as follows: one who is "overheated, oversuspicious, overaggressive, grandiose, and apocalyptic in expression...[all directed] *against him*." In politics and in culture, it gets magnified in number. Enormous mistrust exists from different groups--le ...more
Douglass Gaking
Hofstadter's characterizations of the radical right from more than 50 years ago are today more relevant than ever. The election of Donald Trump is probably the apex of the movement's accomplishments, and it bears stunning resemblance to the Goldwater campaign and other movements that Hofstadter writes about. My only frustration is that Hofstadter thinks almost exclusively in the right-left paradigm and fails to acknowledge the role of paranoia in the American left and elsewhere.

The essays in thi
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book from the 1960's that records for us that many of the problems we face today in our national politics have been here before. It is a collection of essays by a lucid political science professor from Columbia University who tells us about Goldwater, the Spanish American War, McCarthy, and the decision to go off of a bimetallic standard in the 1870s. Throughout, Hofstadter shows us how paranoia and caricatures undermine facts when people are obsessed with winning at all cos ...more
David C Ward
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The introductory essay for a series of studies of anti establishment political movements that are more or less irrational or conspiratorial. Sets up the idea of a manichean interpretation of the world that is apocalyptic and hysterical. Interesting is hofstadter's faith in practical reason, that working politicians of all stripes share a common interest in getting things done and a general sense of how the world works. Not sure that is the case today. Moreover Trump goes beyond the idea that par ...more
Jing Ma
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disjointed set of essays - so only the first half of the book has anything to do with the title. The first half to had some interesting history on politics and fear. But, overall, I had trouble sticking with his writing style in these essays - especially the last one. His writings ramble and are overly wordy.
Rob Salkowitz
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should be required reading in every freshman Poli-Sci class. Still sadly relevant to the current moment.
Christopher Mcdermott
Relevant to today

Famous lecture that touches on subjects that are still very relevant today. The essay may give some insights into how some extreme and irrational views are held.
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Sean Wilentz on The Paranoid Style in American Politics 2 27 Jan 26, 2012 05:27AM  
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Richard Hofstadter was an American public intellectual, historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. In the course of his career, Hofstadter became the “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus” whom twenty-first century scholars continue consulting, because his intellectually engaging books and essays continue to illuminate contemporary history.

His most
“If for every error and every act of incompetence one can substitute an act of treason, many points of fascinating interpretation are open to the paranoid imagination.” 12 likes
“As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated–if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.” 8 likes
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