Lecture “Apocalypse of the Profane: Reconsidering Political Paranoia in the 20th Century”

The rise of populist movements has given a new lease on life to psychological explanations of political behavior. The classical statement in this respect is Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 article on the paranoid style in politics, which developed a psychopathological understanding of the populist mindset, characterized in particular by its tendency to indulge in conspiracy theories. In retrospect, it was a difficult balancing act between history and psychology that failed to produce a stable synthesis. The two disciplines drifted apart, and any reference to paranoia as an explanatory factor has come to be seen as a crude form of psychological reductionism.

In the same year as Hofstadter’s article was published, the anthropologist Ernesto De Martino also published an important article on the notion of cultural apocalypses. While nothing connects these two publications, they nevertheless share common concerns and shed unexpected light on each other. Reading them jointly, the talk will suggest, reveals a complex history in which the notion of paranoia developed at the confluence of psychiatric nosography, existential philosophy and the history of religion, and implicitly conveyed a distinctly historical argument.

N.B.: Be aware that due to the physical distancing made necessary for the Covid safety measures, the rooms have a limited capacity. Please register with francesca.parenti@eui.eu.

The lecture is also open to online participants. Should you wish to participate online via Zoom, please register with Francesca Parenti (francesca.parenti@eui.eu) by Monday 12th October and the link will be sent the day before the lecture.

Dates: Wed 14 Oct 2020 17.00 – 18.30

Location: Sala del Consiglio – Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation: Department of History and Civilization

Type: Lecture

Contact: Francesca Parenti – Send a mail


    Giorgio Riello

    Federico Romero (EUI – HEC)

Speaker: Nicolas Guilhot (EUI)

Attachment: 2019 March – Privacy Statement for HEC Events.pdf