Risk, Return to Industry, and the Future of Democracy

Lukas Szrot


Reflecting on 2020, I consider the possibility of the collapse of the United States, as well as the ways in which it has fallen short of representative and democratic promise. I argue that the spread of conspiratorial reason is symptomatic of the mistrust that has arisen from these failures. Drawing on naturalist, critical theory, and sociology of knowledge accounts of conspiratorial reason, I argue that such thinking is interest-bound, weaponizing mistrust, and is broadly appealing but ultimately disempowering, serving the ends of failed praxis and reification of power. I examine two possible sources of institutionalized mistrust: the “culture wars” thesis which argues that mistrust is iteratively linked to polarization along religious, racial, and cultural lines, and Ulrich Beck’s vision of a “return to industry” in which responses to novel hazards are constrained by techno-economic imperatives that politicize knowledge and splinter class loyalties. I emphasize the second explanation without discounting the first, arguing that this approach to hazards, from COVID to institutional discrimination to climate change, is both unsustainable and self-thwarting in terms of building social trust. Then, drawing on Beck as well as scholars from various democratic traditions, I offer possible future visions, including but not limited to avenues toward restoration of social trust in the United States, based on this analysis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.32855/fcapital.202101.009


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Copyright (c) 2021 Lukas Szrot

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ISSN: 1930-014X