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Conspiracy trend in everyday practices of social reflection. Theoretical generalisations


Vsevolod N. Sergeev Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate professor, University of Сivil Protection of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk, Republic of Belarus,
mailto: v.n.sergeev@gmail.com
ORCID ID=0000-0001-9809-7864
Conspiracy trend in everyday practices of social reflection. Theoretical generalisations.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 91-113

Дата поступления статьи: 18.04.2022
Topic: Social Change in the Postmodern Era: Reactions and Reflections

For citation:
Sergeev V. N.. Conspiracy trend in everyday practices of social reflection. Theoretical generalisations. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 91-113
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2022.13.2.798. EDN: TJLDYG




Abstract

The article provides a generalized description of such a specific form of social cognition as conspiracy theory. It is emphasised that in the current context, conspiracy thinking can no longer be interpreted as marginal, since it is widely spread as one of the available ways for individuals and groups to reflect on the ambiguous phenomena of social life, primarily related to security threats. Regardless of what final product is produced by the conspiracy theorist – mundane explanations, exotic social, (pseudo)religious concepts, political and geopolitical doctrines, etc. – they are all united by a single conceptual structure (denoted in the work as the “ontological minimum”) and are the result of certain psychological mechanisms. Some similarity of conspiracy theories with the critical direction of philosophical and, more broadly, intellectual thought (in terms of identifying practices of coercion and combating them) is emphasised, with an important caveat about their significant differences (as a rule, an incomparable conceptual level, "excessive", "unsaturated" skepticism etc.).

When characterizing conspiracy theories, the position of research particularism seems quite justified - the avoidance of a generalized assessment of all ideas with signs of a conspiracy theory, since there is no single rigid criterion. Approaches based on the application of a single criterion to conspiracy theories (conspiracy as a “bad science”, psychopathological discourse, etc.) have limited potential and, if applied systematically, can be criticised for unfounded generalisations (in fact, for the same things that conspiracy theories are criticized for).

On a continuum of variables relevant to understanding conspiracy theories (psychological, social, etc.), most proven connections are not of a hard causal nature. Understanding specific constructions involves identifying exactly how such variables are combined in a particular theory. The above generalised characteristics can become a theoretical basis for empirical studies of the conspiracy trend in the practice of everyday reflection on social problems, primarily existential threats.

Keywords

conspiracy trend, conspiracy theory, conspiracy thinking, epistemological authority, epistemic nonchalance, agency, threat management, alliance detection, coercive practices

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