[Marxism] The Paranoid Style in American Politics | Harper's Magazine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 16 14:20:14 MDT 2019

1964 article by Richard Hofstadter.

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 believe there is a style of mind 
that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it 
the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the 
sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy 
that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not 
speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other 
purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any 
figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the 
idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little 
contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to 
men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of 
expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon 


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