Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Todd R. McGowan


Academic accounts of political paranoia in diverse fields often appeal to notions of personal responsibility, intellectual purity, logically unsound reasoning, or insufficient education. This thesis begins with a metacritical analysis of these accounts to show how they conform to a wider structurally embedded paranoid mode. This paranoid mode guides systems of representation under liberal capitalism; indeed, liberalism itself operates within the paranoid mode. It is a retroactive precondition of liberalism, a by-product of the narrative forms which seek to naturalize liberal capitalism. Both liberalism and paranoia share the same two primary foreclosures of contingency and the social. The present study argues that this convergence shows a necessary structural link between the two phenomena, while the prior critical tradition has taken the division between the two to be axiomatic. These earlier accounts engage in narrative structures and discourses which are already embedded in the logic of the paranoid mode in their attempts to theorize political paranoia. This essay takes a range of texts from literature, cinema and professional sports to show how this paranoid structure operates both consciously and unconsciously through the twentieth century in the United States. Some of these texts are conventionally regarded as paranoid, while others are not. The texts which are generally assumed to be paranoid represent and critique the logic of the paranoid mode; yet those which are not classified as paranoid operate unconsciously within it. The paranoid mode is a feature not simply of the text, but of the audience's perception of that text. The paranoid mode is the vanishing mediator of liberalism.



Number of Pages

107 p.

Available for download on Friday, April 18, 2025