Revolution and Witchcraft: The Code of Ideology in Unsettled Times by Gordon C. Chang Review

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Author Gordon C. Chang takes readers on an academic journey to discover the powerful influence ideas and specifically “idea systems” have on people utilizing three powerful historical periods as examples in the book “Revolution and Witchcraft: The Code of Ideology in Unsettled Times”. 


The Synopsis

Ideas influence people.  In particular, extremely well-developed sets of ideas shape individuals, groups, and societies in far-reaching ways.  This book establishes these “idea systems” as an academic concept.  Through three intense episodes of manipulation and mayhem connected to idea systems—Europe’s witch hunts, the Mao Zedong-era “revolutions,” and the early campaign of the U.S. War on Terror—this book charts the cognitive and informational matrices that seize control of people’s mentalities and behaviors across societies.  Through these, the author reaches two conclusions.  The first, that we are all vulnerable to the dominating influence of our own matrices of ideas and to those woven by others in the social system.  The second, that even the most masterful manipulators of idea programs may lose control of the outcomes of programmatic manipulation.  Amongst this analysis, sixty-plus central conceptual terminologies are provided for readers to analyze multiform idea systems that exist across space, time, and cultural contexts.

This is an open access book.

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The Review

I will be honest with you all and say this was one of the most profound, thought-provoking, and educational reads I’ve had the honor of reading. The author’s brilliance shines through every page, giving readers a glimpse into the scientific and philosophical findings of the author’s research that clearly showcases the various systems at work here in regard to how ideas impact people’s thoughts and viewpoints. While this is definitely a book for those looking to push themselves intellectually and philosophically, the author does a great job of writing in a way that allows all readers to get lost in the narrative the author developed. 

For me, it was the balance of historical accuracy and the sheer volume of detail the author provided that made this such a compelling read. The way author was able to showcase both the circumstances that allow these ideas to congregate together and inform how people behave or act and the means by which those who implement these ideas can quickly lose control over a situation. One of the best examples came in the examination of the Salem Witch Trials, which highlighted the combination of religious fervor in small-time settlements with the mistrust and politics that guided those in the town to launch this coordinated attack to get people to believe in the emergence of witches and demonic forces possessing people they all knew. The tragedy of so many people’s lives being lost to this idea system not only showcases the author’s theory and research perfectly but showcases how ideas like that can take a life of their own, spiraling out of control until it reaches a fever pitch. 

The Verdict

Enlightening, insightful, and thought-provoking, author Gordon C. Chang’s “Revolution and Witchcraft: The Code of Ideology in Unsettled Times” is a must-read nonfiction and educational book on sociological and psychological impacts of ideas and idea systems. The attention to detail, from graphs and terminology to in-depth discussions of the events that brought these theories to life throughout history, will create compelling education and fascinating conversations that will drive readers to pick up this book over and over again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Gordon C. Chang is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Western Illinois University, USA. He has taught political and cultural sociology classes at both Western Illinois University and University of California, Davis. His works in discourse analysis have appeared in PragmaticsDiscourse and Society, and the Journal of Language and Politics.

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