Legitimacy Research in Progress II: Jelle van Buuren

Jelle van Buuren is reaching the end of his PhD research at our Profile Area Political Legitimacy. He hopes to defend his thesis in 2016 at Leiden University. Title: "Target The Hague? Conspiracy Constructions and Hatred of the System in The Netherlands, 2000-2014." We are proud to publish an abstract of his thesis.


In Van Buuren's PhD-research, the main question addressed is whether or not conspiracy constructions are boosting hatred against the political system - and if conspiracy constructions could prompt violent actions against politicians, institutions or symbols of the political system. Based on research into digital communities in which conspiracy constructions flourish, the research concludes that conspiracy constructions function as substitute ideologies and substitute religions in a post-political setting. Offering a clear master narrative of 'Us' and 'Them', and making a complex world eligible again, conspiracy constructions function as coded social critiques informing those who feel alienated, neglected and betrayed by the political establishment.

However, as conspiracy constructions neglect real social and political opposites, cleavages and antagonisms that divide each society and construct a fictitious homogeneous 'People', the political mobilizing potential of conspiracy constructions is almost absent. Notwithstanding the violent and hateful discourse on social media one should not exaggerate the risks in terms of national security. The popularity of conspiracy constructions and the hateful discourse against the political system signals foremost powerlessness, despair and resentment that finds an outlet on social media.

Dissertation title (provisional): "Target The Hague? Conspiracy Constructions and Hatred of the System in The Netherlands, 2000-2014."
PhD candidate: Jelle van Buuren 
Start of research:
PhD defense: expected in 2016
Supervisor: prof. dr. B.A. de Graaf (formerly appointed by the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, Leiden University)

Last Modified: 03-03-2016