Quotations by Hofstadter, Richard


Style has to do with the way in which ideas are believed and advocated rather than with the truth or falsity of their content.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964). Often misattributed to Douglas Hofstadter.
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As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 4-Mar-15 | Last updated 4-Mar-15
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The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent — in fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)

Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 24-Nov-20 | Last updated 24-Nov-20
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Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masons had envisaged drinking bouts and had entertained themselves with sado-masochistic fantasies about the actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths, the anti-Catholics invented an immense lore about libertine priests, the confessional as an opportunity for seduction, licentious convents and monasteries.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
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He [the pseudo-conservative] sees his own country as being so weak that it is constantly about to fall victim to subversion; and yet he feels that it is so all-powerful that any failure it may experience in getting its own way in the world … cannot possibly be due to its limitations but must be attributed to its having been betrayed.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt” (1954)
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Added on 28-Oct-20 | Last updated 28-Oct-20
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Intellect needs to be understood not as some kind of a claim against the other human excellences for which a fatally high price has to be paid, but rather as a complement to them without which they cannot be fully consummated.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Part 1, ch. 2 “On the Unpopularity of Intellect” (1962)
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For a man of sensitivity and compassion to exercise great powers in a time of crisis is a grim and agonizing thing.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
The American Political Tradition: And the Men Who Made It, Part 5, ch. 7 (1958)
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Referring to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.
Added on 24-Mar-20 | Last updated 24-Mar-20
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