Why, how, and under what conditions do fear and anxiety become a significant force in politics?
In each of these essays, the author uses theories to explain events.
● Franz Neumann, explaining the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, argues that anxiety
plays a role in people’s decisions to elect particular authoritarian leaders, which
Neumann calls “Ceasars” (3). He also claims that conspiracy theories play a role: “just
as the masses hope for their deliverance from distress through absolute oneness with a
person, so they ascribe their distress to certain persons, who have brought this distress
into the world through a conspiracy” (3).
● Tom Pyszczynski uses his “Terror Management Theory” to explain American’s
reactions to the 9/11 attacks. He says that human culture generates values and
worldviews that counteract anxiety about death by allowing us to believe in immortality,
whether literal or symbolic. However, these beliefs makes us vulnerable to manipulation
and cause us to be hostile towards individuals or groups that disagree with us.
● Neil Strauss explains why a contemporary person, identified as Jen Senko’s father,
changed under the influence of political commentary on TV and radio. Strauss reports
that, for psychological and neurological reasons, people can be manipulated into “a state
of alarm” (13) because we are “prone to cognitive distortions and overreactions”(14) in
response to “inflammatory rhetoric and imagery” (14).
Why, how, and under what conditions do fear and anxiety become a
significant force in politics?
In your analysis, discuss the theories and the examples in all three essays, and test the
theories by applying them to other authors’ examples. (This is similar to how Strauss
applies Pyszcynski’s ideas to Jen Senko’s father.) For example, can Terror Management
Theory and psychology and neurology be used to explain the rise of Nazism before
World War II? And, can Neumann’s ideas or the neurology and psychology reported on
by Strauss help to reveal something about the American reaction to the 9/11 attacks?
Your essay must explicitly use and refer to all three essays in the reading set.
In developing your argument, incorporate ideas that support your position as well as
ideas that disagree with your position. Your essay must quote and/or paraphrase and
work directly with material from all the readings in this reading set. In addition, define and
employ key terms that seem to be central to the arguments of your sources and,
therefore, to your argument as well. Primary among these key terms are fear and
anxiety. For additional key terms, see the glossary of terms at the end of the reading set.
You must attribute any material that you summarize, quote, or paraphrase to its
source (using the page numbers of the reading set for quotations and
paraphrases). Your own ideas and thinking are necessary and important.
However, you should base your essay on the information contained in the set of
readings, not on your own life experience, on outside readings (including the
internet), or on courses you have taken. You may only receive assistance with
writing your paper from employees of UMass Boston—not from friends, relatives,
or outside tutors. Plagiarism in a portfolio, whether it is in the new essay or in one
of the supporting essays, will be treated in the manner as outlined in the Student
Code of Conduct, which can be downloaded in PDF form
The consequences of violating these policies are serious and may include
suspension or expulsion.
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