The paranoid style in petit-bourgeois politics

I’ve found that a lot of Qanon supporters and other conspirators are relatively financially successful and/or small business owners. This isn’t surprising on purely demographic grounds- these people are older, white, Republicans so why should anyone be surprised that they often own a jet-ski dealerships and diners?

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Put yourself in the position of a 60 year old, white property investor/car dealership owner. you’re doing pretty well in the financial aspects of the game of life, but like a lot of people who are doing fairly well (especially older people who are doing well), you feel like you haven’t gotten all that you deserve dammit!

But you’re in a double bind. You can’t question the rules of the game wholesale, because you want to believe that the game is in essence fair, insofar as it has put you ahead of many other people. That means any kind of left-wing critique of the justice of the social rules is out. You can’t even really imply that the problem is ordinary breaches in the rules, like tax-evasion, because you’ve probably done those things yourself.

So if you can’t question certain rules of the game, one strategy to explain the discrepancy between what you have and what you think you deserve to have is to imply that other people got ahead of you by breaking the rules. Elites must be breaking the rules. Since normally breaking these rules is punished by society, there has to be some way a set of elites are circumventing them on mass. A secret, on mass violation of the rules sounds a lot like a conspiracy. Maybe you think they’re tied together by a blood that most people don’t share (anti-Semitism), maybe you think they’re tied together by an ideological project to circumvent and eliminate the economic rules altogether (anti-communism), and maybe you think they’re tied together by supernatural pretensions or even real supernatural powers (conspiracies about the occult and elite Satanism)

Complicating the story I’ve told though is the reality that these people are not entirely wrong. The hyper-successful absolutely do breach the rules all the time, often through conspiracies, although this isn’t the only, or main reason that these people are more successful that the conspiracy mongering petit-bourgeois.

This all might sound pretty niche, and I guess to a degree it is, but to the extent that both conspiracy mongering and the petit bourgeois are linchpins of contemporary MAGA-dom, understanding their overlap is interesting, if a little disturbing.

TLDR: Conspiratorial style in petit bourgeois politics arises from a fundamental conviction that they are hard done by- that you haven’t got all you deserve. Naturally if you think you’ve been hard done by, you’ll want to understand why you’ve been hard done by. However in explaining why you have been hard done by you do not want to admit any fundamental problem in the underlying social order, because you have profited from that social order, so instead you must appeal to the idea that the social order is being circumvented. The most natural way to explain mass, gross, but hidden circumvention of the social order by everyone who is ahead of you and doesn’t deserve to be is a conspiracy.

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