This article proposes a counterintuitive approach to the timely phenomenon of so-called post-truth politics. The article argues that the premise of a post-truth politics misdiagnoses the particular crisis of truth that now threatens to undermine democratic norms and institutions. Social and political appeals cited as prime examples of an allegedly proliferating “post-truth” mentality do not abandon truth; those appeals rationalize available forms of truth conducive to the legitimation of authoritarian power. They do so, the article maintains, by simultaneously undermining opportunities for pluralistic deliberation over conditions of truth itself and promoting extra-deliberative versions of truth (based on biological supremacy, historical destiny, or cultural heritage). In supporting these claims, the analysis shows how the spread of particular forms of truth (not the simple loss of it) can Erode democracies from within and, concomitantly, how authoritarian regimes may be invested in a regime of truth as much as any other sociopolitical system.
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