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Witness to the American Apocalypse? A Study of 21st Century "Doomsday" Prepping

Mills, Michael F. (2017) Witness to the American Apocalypse? A Study of 21st Century "Doomsday" Prepping. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.60441) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:60441)

Language: English

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This thesis addresses the phenomenon of 21st century "doomsday" prepping. Prepping is a primarily American phenomenon centred on storing food, water, and weapons for the purpose of surviving future crisis or social collapse. Growing rapidly post-2007/8, it is the successor to the right-wing American survivalist movement that flourished (and then disappeared) in the late-20th century. This thesis engages with a lack of scholarly knowledge on prepping, which has resulted in this phenomenon being understood through media-driven stereotypes and theories of older survivalist activity. Such understandings suggest that prepping is apocalyptic, millenarian, politically-extreme, and a product of the United States' fringe right-wing militia culture. Drawing on research that involved 200 online surveys responses, ethnography and interviews with 39 American preppers, and attendance at three prominent prepping conventions, the thesis challenges such dominant ideas. It shows prepping to be a distinct, more moderate wave of American survivalist activity. The thesis establishes that preppers typically do not prepare for an "apocalypse", nor do they think in millenarian terms. Preppers instead use their preparations as precautionary protection against temporary social collapse and job loss. The thesis also reveals that prepping is not as politically-extreme as is often speculated. Rather than militia ideology, prepping intermingles with waves of right-wing "Tea Party" discontent, as well as widespread frustration at the dysfunctional and post-political state of American democracy. Additionally this work reveals that, as far as preppers retreat from political and community life, their withdrawal is symptomatic of wider currents of American individualist values, and processes of civic decline. It is thus argued that prepping must be understood as a product of "mainstream" American society. It is concluded that prepping should be principally explained as a product of: late modern capitalism's effects on democracy, secure employment, and collective sympathies; contemporary media's impact on disaster-related fears; and the American Right's promotion of political anxiety and individualistic thinking.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.60441
Additional information: The author of this thesis has requested that it be held under closed access. We are sorry but we will not be able to give you access or pass on any requests for access. 04/05/22
Uncontrolled keywords: Survivalism; Prepping; Risk; Late Modernity; Apocalypse; Disaster; Criminology; Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2017 12:00 UTC
Last Modified: 04 May 2022 07:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Mills, Michael F..

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