Conspiracy theory and the critical enterprise

Kevin McKenzie

Abstract

This paper explores the argumentative work undertaken in talk and text about conspiracy theory (CT), relating this to recent scholarly debate regarding the significance of critical inquiry in the context of developments in poststructuralist and postmodern social theory. We examine discussion of CT as a site where the transformation between deconstructive, depth analytic critique and its opposite, realist claims takes place. Meta-theoretical formulations attempting to accommodate both such argumentative gestures in a coherent program for the pursuit of dialogue are shown to be inconsistent with the nature of argumentation as an undertaking to resolve ambiguity in accounts. The sharing of concerns on which agreement is to be founded are the outcome, rather than the basis, of dialogue, even if such an encounter is pursued on the grounds of shared presupposition distinct from the shared concerns which emerge from dialogue. Discussion concerning CT is a site where the formulation of motivation is made to bear on the question of an argument’s validity in virtue of either depth analytic or realist assumptions.

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