The Anti-Semitic Style in Capitalist Politics

There’s been a good deal of sharp and insightful academic work on conspiracy thinking in recent years, but little if any of it has closely examined the elective affinity between the formal features of conspiracy rhetoric and anti-Semitism. Conspiracy theories are not only popular forms of “cognitive mapping” isomorphic with—and thus difficult to distinguish from—genuine political critique. Their genre conventions are not reducible to an abstract formal schema in which just about any social type can occupy any of the prescribed roles. The list of eligible types is highly restricted, and the roles for which they are eligible is largely predetermined. By the same token, popular conspiracy theories appear on the scene not only with the rise of capitalism, but with the Jew playing the part of evil genius covertly running the global system for his own insatiable greed and lust. The formula comes into existence and gains popular critical purchase only via this anti-Semitic trope; only later are other figures introduced as stand-ins for this archetype. And when they are, it is often necessary to reshape them to fit the paradigmatically “Jewish” function mandated by the genre.

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