The Nature of Conspiracy Theories
The Nature of Conspiracy Theories
Translated by Sharon Howe
Conspiracy theories seem to be proliferating today. Long relegated to a niche existence, conspiracy theories are now pervasive, and older conspiracy theories have been joined by a constant stream of new ones – that the USA carried out the 9/11 attacks itself, that the Ukrainian crisis was orchestrated by NATO, that we are being secretly controlled by a New World Order that keep us docile via chemtrails and vaccinations. Not to mention the moon landing that never happened. 

But what are conspiracy theories and why do people believe them? Have they always existed or are they something new, a feature of our modern world? 

In this book Michael Butter provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to the nature and development of conspiracy theories. Contrary to popular belief, he shows that conspiracy theories are less popular and influential today than they were in the past. Up to the 1950s, the Western world regarded conspiracy theories as a legitimate form of knowledge and it was therefore normal to believe in them. It was only after the Second World War that this knowledge was delegitimized, causing conspiracy theories to be banished from public discourse and relegated to subcultures. The recent renaissance of conspiracy theories is linked to internet which gives them wider exposure and contributes to the fragmentation of the public sphere. Conspiracy theories are still stigmatized today in many sections of mainstream culture but are being accepted once again as legitimate knowledge in others. It is the clash between these domains and their different conceptions of truth that is fuelling the current debate over conspiracy theories.
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  • November 2020
  • 210 pages
  • 143 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509540815
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9781509540822
  • Open eBook $14.99
  • 9781509540839
About the Author
Michael Butter is Professor of American Studies at the University of Tübingen
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Reviews

"In this stunningly wide-ranging book, Michael Butter runs conspiracy theory through a prism that reveals its logic, narratology, history, cultural specificity and psychological appeal. Using examples from the assassination of Julius Caesar to the suspicions of Donald Trump, Butter shows how the scholarly delegitimation of conspiracy theory has paradoxically enhanced its visibility. The result is a compelling account of how conspiracy theory works, why it seems so pervasive, and how we can combat its most dangerous consequences."
Timothy Melley, author of Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America

"In this compelling book, Michael Butter provides a detailed perspective on the nature of conspiracy theories. He takes a historical perspective yet expertly weaves together research across many disciplines to explain why conspiracy theories are sometimes believed but often belittled."
Karen Douglas, University of Kent "
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