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ISU Professor Emeritus James Aho publishes “Far-Right Fantasy: Sociology of American Politics and Religion and Politics”

March 28, 2016

Head shot of James Aho.

POCATELLO – Idaho State University sociology Professor Emeritus James Aho’s latest book, “Far-Right Fantasy: A Sociology of American Religion and Politics,” has been released by the world’s largest academic publisher, Routledge.

While at ISU, Aho authored three books on the contemporary American far-right movement. The first two were based on extensive field research and face-to-face interviews and correspondence with scores of activists living the greater Idaho area.

“Far-Right Fantasy “ shifts focus away from individual activists to their belief systems, allowing them to speak fro themselves in their own words. It analyzes the knowledge claims made by leading figures in the movement by examining what Aho calls their “library of infamy”: their Internet blogs, books and pamphlets, their audio-taped “sermonars” and radio talk show commentary.

It reviews what social scientists consider the reason why radical patriots believe as they do. It illustrates the seriousness of their intent by citing examples of extremist politics that include the fantasy of “sovereign citizenship,” plans to establish racially-pure townships, attempts to nullify so-called “unconstitutional” federal laws, talk of secession, paramilitary training exercises, armed intimidation of opponents and politically-motivated assault and murder.

Aho said that the book argues that on close view far-rightists are largely indistinguishable from their less ideologically driven neighbors educationally, socially and psychologically.

They get into the movement in the same way that others become peace activities or radical environmentalists, namely, through their ties with classmates, friends, fellow workers, churchgoers and family members, he said. Their views are given an impression of plausibility by being repeatedly corroborated within closed systems of communication.

Although the book is not preachy, Aho said, it does try to challenge readers morally by submitting the far-right fantasy to a formal ideology critique. It does this by showing how many of the reforms it recommends contradict its professed goal, which is to protect and enhance middle-class interests. The reforms it recommends include a marketplace free of government regulations, draconian immigration restrictions on all but Christians, and end to the IRS and the Federal Reserve Bank, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, anti-union “right-to-work” laws, endorsement of the biblical justification for debt slavery and the privatization of schools, the Post Office and the commons.

“Far-Right Fantasy” has received positive pre-publication reviews. Sociologist Peter Kivisto writes that the most “disturbing aspect of (Aho’s) account” is its demonstration that the far-right fantasy “has percolated into mainstream conservatism.” Well-known social philosopher Charles Guignon describes the books as “a delightful read as well as a profoundly informative works of scholarship.” Noted expert on religiously-motivated terrorism, Mark Juergensmeyer, says that the book “is as gripping as it is unsettling, a must read.”

“Far-Right Fantasy” is available as an e-book or in paperback from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or can be ordered from bookstores.