Conspiracy theories are extremely popular: millions of people in the western world no longer trust epistemic authorities (such as science, media and politics) and resort to conspiracy theories to account for what actually happens out there. Conspiracy theories are formulated about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 or about collective vaccination, but they also feature in popular culture. Films, books and TV- series like The Matrix, The Da Vinci Code, or The X-Files, all play with logic and rhetoric of hidden games.

But although conspiracy theories become more and more mainstream, a good sociological understanding of their popularity remains limited by their consistent pathologization in and outside academia. The stereotypical image of conspiracy theorists as paranoid fanatics is prominent, and the ideas they have about reality are easily put aside as irrational and preposterous. But is the idea of a conspiracy orchestrating world affairs that farfetched when secretive government operations and corporate collusions are a clear reality? Moreover, and this is the argument throughout the book, if we are to understand why so many people engage with conspiracy theories nowadays, then we need to explore the meanings they have for them.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Dutch conspiracy milieu and following a cultural sociological approach, Jaron Harambam explores such meanings in this book. He shows what contemporary conspiracy theories are about, which people are involved in the milieu, how they see themselves and what they actually do with these ideas in their everyday lives. Reality turns out to be much more complex than common stereotypes would suggest. As a conclusion, I will sociologically explain why conspiracy theories have such an appeal for so many people nowadays.

, , , , , , , , ,
D. Houtman (Dick) , S.D. Aupers (Stef)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS)

Harambam, J. (2017, October 26). “The Truth Is Out There” : Conspiracy culture in an age of epistemic instability. Retrieved from