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Why, Timothy Melley asks, have paranoia and conspiracy theory become such prominent features of postwar American culture? In Empire of Conspiracy, Melley explores the recent growth of anxieties about thought-control, assassination, political indoctrination, stalking, surveillance, and corporate and government plots. At the heart of these developments, he believes, lies a widespread sense of crisis in the way Americans think about human autonomy and individuality. Nothing reveals this crisis more than the remarkably consistent form of expression that Melley calls "agency panic"—an intense fear that individuals can be shaped or controlled by powerful external forces. Drawing on a broad range of forms that manifest this fear—including fiction, film, television, sociology, political writing, self-help literature, and cultural theory—Melley provides a new understanding of the relation between postwar American literature, popular culture, and cultural theory.

Empire of Conspiracy offers insightful new readings of texts ranging from Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to the Unabomber Manifesto, from Vance Packard's Hidden Persuaders to recent addiction discourse, and from the "stalker" novels of Margaret Atwood and Diane Johnson to the conspiracy fictions of Thomas Pynchon, William Burroughs, Don DeLillo, and Kathy Acker. Throughout, Melley finds recurrent anxieties about the power of large organizations to control human beings. These fears, he contends, indicate the continuing appeal of a form of individualism that is no longer wholly accurate or useful, but that still underpins a national fantasy of freedom from social control.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Half Title, Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vi
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  1. Preface
  2. pp. vii-x
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  1. Introduction: The Culture of Paranoia
  2. pp. 1-46
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  1. Chapter 1: Bureaucracy and Its Discontents
  2. pp. 47-80
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  1. Chapter 2: Bodies Incorporated
  2. pp. 81-106
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  1. Chapter 3: Stalked by Love
  2. pp. 107-132
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  1. Chapter 4: Secret Agents
  2. pp. 133-160
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  1. Chapter 5: The Logic of Addiction
  2. pp. 161-184
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  1. Epilogue: Corporate Futures
  2. pp. 185-202
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 203-218
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  1. Works Cited
  2. pp. 219-232
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 233-239
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Additional Information

ISBN
9781501713019
Related ISBN
9780801436680
MARC Record
OCLC
1016604342
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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