Conspiracy Theory: Truth Claim or Language Game?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

7810 Downloads (Pure)


The paper is a contribution to current debates about conspiracy theories within philosophy and cultural studies. Wittgenstein’s understanding of language is invoked to analyse the epistemological effects of designating particular questions and explanations as a ‘conspiracy theory’. It is demonstrated how such a designation relegates these questions and explanations beyond the realm of meaningful discourse. In addition, Agamben’s concept of sovereignty is applied to explore the political effects of using the concept of conspiracy theory. The exceptional epistemological status assigned to alleged conspiracy theories within our prevalent paradigms of knowledge and truth is compared to the exceptional legal status assigned to individuals accused of terrorism under the War on Terror. The paper concludes by discussing the relation between conspiracy theory and ‘the paranoid style’ in contemporary politics
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)137-159
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Agamben
  • Contemporary politics
  • Epistemology
  • State of emergency
  • Terrorism
  • Wittgenstein

Cite this