Demokratie und Verschwörungstheorien: Eine unfreiwillige Partnerschaft?

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


Currently, the resurgence of conspiracy theories is explicitly understood as a threat to Western democracies. On the one hand, conspiracy theorists see today’s democracy as manipulated. To them democracy is only pretended, the real decisions are made elsewhere. On the other hand, the spread of precisely this belief makes a core element of democracies impossible: the fair dispute over the best argument. However, conspiracy theories are not diametrically opposed to the idea of democracy, but rather use democracy as a source of inspiration, for example, when the people are supposed to defend themselves against the manipulations of a corrupt elite. The article therefore examines the connection between conspiracy theories and democracy. Is there an inseparable relationship between the two that makes dealing with them an ongoing normative problem? That relationship is explored in two ways. One path can be called the postfacticity strand. The thesis is that scientific insights, roughly summarized as poststructural-ism, convey a fundamental distrust of established epistemic and political structures. This actually democratic opening is then to be understood as a gateway for absurd theories of all kinds. On the basis of the theories of radical democracy, it is discussed why precisely the epistemic foundations of democracy should grant conspiracy theories a legitimate place in democratic discourse and how these theories, in turn, can be demarcated from the discourse. The ideology strand, on the other hand, does not emphasize a dissolution of certainty and thus a relativistic stance, but rather a return to ideological worldviews, for example in ethnic semantics. Conspiracy theories, as can be read in the analyses of critical theory, create an understanding of the world by reducing complexity, in which real democratic self-determination can be reconquered against global complexity. As a critique of elites, they thus respond to processes of alienation in modern societies. Both strands result in a peculiar situation. While on the one hand the rise of conspiracy theories is attributed to an increase in complexity and the associated collapse of traditional and epistemic authority, on the other hand conspiracy theories are understood as a mere form of complexity reduction. In the following, it will be shown how both strands relate to each other in order to understand the renewed popularity of conspiracy theories and to counter the danger of instrumentalizing democratic semantics.

Translated title of the contribution
Democracy and Conspiracy Theories An unwilling alliance?


Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)199-226
Number of pages28
JournalZeitschrift fur Praktische Philosophie
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023

External IDs

Mendeley b5112e19-169d-364a-90fd-24f23700caf8
ORCID /0000-0003-2598-6745/work/142250591


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Conspiracy theory, critical theory, ideology, postfacticity, radical democracy, Conspiracy theory, critical theory, ideology, postfacticity, radical democracy