Richard Hofstadter 1964 Essay The Paranoid Style In American Politics

And government institutions are not the only ones eliciting mistrust.

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The European Commission poll showed that, while trust in Europe-wide institutions declined as the Great Recession hit, trust in national governments actually increased.

In the United States, the Pew survey revealed that 58 per cent of Americans believed that the federal government was interfering too much in state and local affairs.

Most citizens in most advanced industrialised economies were buffeted by an economic shock they played no role in precipitating.

Global behemoths such as General Motors and Citibank had no choice but to request government bailouts.

Such frustration and anger with authority is a transatlantic phenomenon.

In the US, the latest Pew survey finds that 22 per cent of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington always or most of the time, which is one of the lowest levels in the last half-century.In Europe, the financial crisis has had a dramatic and negative effect.European Commission polls showed that by last year, public trust in all major European institutions had nosedived; indeed, for the first time ever, more Europeans distrusted the European Central Bank than trusted it.He is always manning the barricades of civilisation.’ The paranoid style obsesses about power, but is profoundly hostile to those who currently occupy the commanding heights of the power structure.Hofstadter formulated his argument to describe the movement behind the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.The economic crises have forced the highest levels of government to act.Since, however, this is also the level of government most removed from the average citizen, it is hardly surprising to see a growing sense of frustration and powerlessness have begun to well up.In the aftermath of the Great Recession, national governments like Greece are finding themselves at the mercy of unforgiving capital markets.In this kind of economic environment, individual perceptions of powerlessness inevitably rise, making conspiracy theories more appealing.What has caused this transatlantic spike in suspicion? Of course trust is down and suspicion and rage are up.Last week’s May Day clashes in bankrupt Greece, in which anarchists and extremists wreaked havoc, only prove this trend.


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