The Paranoid Style in American Politics
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This timely reissue of Richard Hofstadter's classic work on the fringe groups that influence American electoral politics offers an invaluable perspective on contemporary domestic affairs.In The Paranoid Style in American Politics, acclaimed historian Richard Hofstadter examines the competing forces in American political discourse and how fringe groups can influence — and derail — the larger agendas of a political party. He investigates the politics of the irrational, shedding light on how the behavior of individuals can seem out of proportion with actual political issues, and how such behavior impacts larger groups. With such other classic essays as “Free Silver and the Mind of 'Coin' Harvey” and “What Happened to the Antitrust Movement?, ” The Paranoid Style in American Politics remains both a seminal text of political history and a vital analysis of the ways in which political groups function in the United States.
crime, because it has made thousands of suicides. A crime, because it has brought tears to strong men’s eyes, and hunger and pinching want to widows and orphans. A crime, because it is destroying the honest yeomanry of the land, the bulwark of the nation. A crime, because it has brought this once great republic to the verge of ruin, where it is now in imminent danger of tottering to its fall. [Applause.] The true center of this criminal conspiracy is, of course, London. Almost every step in
of gold. The metal appreciated and prices dropped. And certainly, if price stability was the thing most urgently desired, the record of the gold standard in these years and afterwards was not inspiring.1 Bimetallism, moreover, was a respectable proposition in economic theory, and it is easy to be persuaded that things might have been somewhat better had the nations, say, in the 1870’s or even the early 1880’s, successfully arrived at an agreement to put the Western trading community on a
eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention.5 This demand for unqualified victories leads to the formulation of hopelessly demanding and unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and
1960’s is to compare it with that of the 1920’s. During the 1920’s our political life was profoundly affected, and at times dominated, by certain cultural struggles, which were interrupted and deflected by the depression, the New Deal, and the war, but which have in a measure reasserted themselves in the different setting of the postwar decades. Both the 1920’s and the postwar years, as periods of relative prosperity, saw some diminution in the force of economic issues and an upsurge in the
nineties. Previously destiny had meant primarily that American expansion, when we willed it, could not be resisted by others who might wish to stand in our way. During the nineties it came to mean that expansion “could not be resisted by Americans themselves, caught, willing or unwilling,” in the coils of fate.3 A certain reluctance on our part was implied. This was not quite so much what we wanted to do; it was what we had to do. Our aggression was implicitly defined as compulsory—the product