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A conspiracy is the secret collaboration of several people to the detriment of others. The term has a negative connotation . It is generally not used to describe a group's self.


Conspiracy is a loan translation of the Latin paralexem - compound coniuratio , which arose from the prefix con (German: as much as together, with- ) and the noun iuratio (German oath , swearing in ). The original meaning was "the connection of people by oath to something bad or what is considered evil, especially against others", a connection similar to an oath of allegiance , but in connection with, for example, an intrigue or the goal of a revolt , mutiny or coup .

On the other hand, the secret conspiracy is the “ cooperation of several people with a uniform objective and deliberate elimination of outside or public insight” in order to gain an advantage for oneself or clients at the expense of third parties, for example agent activity or secret service activities . The connection of conspiracy and conspiracy (as well as the totality of the people involved) is then called a conspiracy .

Because of the usual secrecy of a conspiracy that already Machiavelli ( 1469 - 1527 ) in his treatise Discorsi of a conspiracy deemed necessary, a originated change in meaning of the term conspiracy that includes the conspiracy usually. This is reinforced because conspiracy in English is connotative conspiracy and the back translation of this false friend mentally leads to conspiracy.


There have always been conspiracies; they are considered anthropological constants. Examples of political conspiracies range from the ancient Catiline conspiracy in 63 BC. And the plot of some senators that 44 BC. This led to the murder of Gaius Iulius Caesar , through the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici in late medieval Florence to the Watergate affair in 1972, when members of the American government abused their powers to fight the opposition with illegal means and then covered it up.

The American political scientist Daniel Pipes differentiates between local conspiracies such as the Iran-Contra affair , whose actors pursued temporally and spatially limited goals, and world conspiracies: as such, he defines radically utopian ideologies that conquer the world and change the “ premises of human existence” wanted: fascism , Leninism and Islamist fundamentalism .

Conspiracies have also long been the subject of thought. The Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli dedicated a chapter of his Discorsi from 1513–1519 to this phenomenon . Machiavelli defines that the goal of conspiracies is either revenge or freedom or power. He insists that most of the conspiracies will be exposed. Therefore, it takes particularly great cleverness or special luck to carry out a successful conspiracy, especially since the risk of detection still persists afterwards. “As soon as the number of those who know about it exceeds three or four”, one cannot protect oneself against one of them contributing to the discovery of the joint venture through malice or carelessness.

Legal classification

The law of the Anglo-Saxon legal system knows the criminal offense of conspiracy ( conspiracy or common design ). This is a model that is not shared in this form by other European legal traditions. In German law, for example, conspiracy has ceased to be a criminal offense since 1968 (previously Section 128 of the Criminal Code ). Meanwhile, other facts such as membership in a criminal or terrorist organization are used. In addition, according to Section 30, Paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code (“ attempt to participate ”), the agreement to commit complicity in specifically outlined serious crimes (so-called crimes , i.e. acts with a minimum imprisonment of one year) is punishable.

Problems of the term

Conspiracy is problematic as a term charged with value: in the vast majority of cases, its use implies a moral or legal distancing from the project described in this way. The self-designation of the “ conspiracy of equals ”, which the French early socialist Gracchus Babeuf chose for his secret society in 1795, or the honorable memory of the Hitler bomber Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and the other “conspirators of July 20 ” are exceptions. For a neutral use of the term is impossible, because if you hold a procedure for illegal or illegitimate, is a matter of perspective: So many refer to the machinations of the CIA conspiracies, while others tend to only the normal and not necessarily reprehensible actions of intelligence agencies see . It is also unclear to what extent the actions of the conspirators must be deliberate and to what extent they are necessarily aware of the essential consequences. For example, some critics describe the discrimination of certain groups of people, for example in sexism and racism, as a conspiracy, although they are often the unintended result of attitudes and convictions.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Joseph Kehrein: Onomatic dictionary. H. Ritter, 1853, p. 642 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  2. ^ Friedrich Ludwig Carl Weigand: Dictionary of German synonyms. Kupferberg, 1843, p. 1003 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  3. Bodo Hechelhammer (Ed.): Definitions of the "Organization Gehlen" and the early Federal Intelligence Service ( Memento of the original from February 10, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Federal Intelligence Service, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-943549-03-4 . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Joseph Kehrein: Onomatic dictionary. H. Ritter, 1853, p. 642 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  5. Karl Hepfer: Conspiracy Theories. transcript Verlag, 2015, ISBN 978-3-8394-3102-3 , p. 97 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  6. Dieter Groh : The Conspiracy Theory Temptation or: Why do bad things happen to good people? In .: the same: anthropological dimensions of history . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1992, p. 303.
  7. ^ Daniel Pipes: Conspiracy. The fascination and power of the secret . Gerling Akademie Verlag, Munich 1998, p. 44.
  8. Karl Hepfer: Conspiracy Theories. A Philosophical Critique of Unreason , transcript, Bielefeld 2015, p. 97 f.
  9. Maria Kaiafa-Gbandi, Towards a new approach of organized crime in the EU - New challenges for human rights (PDF; 126 kB), Zeitschrift für Internationale Strafrechtsdogmatik online, 2007, 137 (138).
  10. ^ Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law
  11. So the formulation of Gerhard Ritter : The foreign policy hopes of the conspirators of July 20, 1944. In: Merkur 3, Heft 21 (1949), pp. 1121–1138 ( online , accessed on May 24, 2016).
  12. ^ Peter Knight: Making Sense of Conspiracy Theories . In: the same (ed.): Conspiracy Theories in American History. To Encyclopedia . ABC Clio, Santa Barbara, Denver and London 2003, Vol. 1, p. 15.
  13. ^ Peter Knight: Making Sense of Conspiracy Theories . In: the same (ed.): Conspiracy Theories in American History. To Encyclopedia . ABC Clio, Santa Barbara, Denver and London 2003, Vol. 1, pp. 15 f.

Web links

Wiktionary: Conspiracy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations