Why bad books matter: past and future directions for understanding reactionary ideology

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A useful tool for learning more about the ways in which the hard Right communicates and integrates is the reactionary diatribe. This is significant in a political context where the hard Right not only is experiencing success, but the default categories of interpretation and criticism can lack bite. A fresh direction for research would link present politics back to historical practice but channel contemporary methods for rhetorical study, picking out reactionary writings as a stable object for inquiry. Therefore, this article (1) revives the category of reaction by re-picturing it as a ‘second-order’ ideology encompassing all those right-wingers professing to stand on the ‘wrong side of History’; (2) draws lessons from some defects of ‘populism’ theories; (3) places a methodological proposal in relation to earlier theories of reaction, which are confounded most of all by reactionary contradictoriness – a feature that rhetorical analysis is far better able to accommodate, inasmuch as messy, chaotic, sometimes ugly communication is grist to its mill. Lastly, (4) the diatribe model itself is described (key properties being digression, repetition and point-dwelling), and then laid out as groundwork for further, in-depth inquiry. In the meantime, an important truth surfaces: bad books matter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-422
JournalPolitics, Religion & Ideology
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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