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Growing Enthused – Achilles (Fetish and Blake)

The Problem with Fetish

Yesterday I spent some time researching into Sloterdijk, and making connections towards productive theories on economy and value. Re-reading parts of David Graeber’s provocative and enlightening Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams, with careful attention to its last chapter helped focus me on the precise notions of imaginary relations, in particular the different meanings of “fetish”. David there makes clear the problem that Marxists have in explaining real African fetishes (they do not necessarily occlude human relations as Marxist theories require), as well as the difficulties anthropologists have with the concept of “magic” (relativist tendencies strain to explain its nature in terms other than simply that of false beliefs). There is actually a dearth of anthropological literature on magic, which is somewhat surprising. David wants to suggest that societal “magic” with its emphasis upon human agency, and a built-in skepticism for results possible, may actually provide clues for the nature of political power.  It occurs to me that somewhere in the triangle of fetishes: Marx’s commodity fetish, Freud sexual fetish, and the African fetish of bound agreements, may lie important criticisms of Western concepts of the individual, politics and desire, the possibility for a language of desire that is simply missing from the discourse. I briefly discussed Sloterdijk with David, who has as of yet had very little contact with his ideas, but who in person struck him as a genuinely creative mind (a substantive compliment). Excitingly, David is well into the writing of a new book, no doubt something to watch for. I have some difficulties with his writing style which often makes an uncomfortable compromise between the depth of his ideas and the need to draw them out into an almost conversational and much recapitulated plainness-in-sight, perhaps a product of his field (what he is saying is simply much more exciting then how he says it); but his particular synthesis of anthropological knowledge, anarchist criticisms and prescriptions, and sensitivity toward a need for just, radical conceptual change makes him a voice to be heard. One of the rare intellectuals who seems to love and like human beings, people, even more than his own ideas.

Blakean Rage and Revolution

In making my rounds I also had some contact with Emile Fromet de Rosnay at the University of Victoria, and who has promised himself Sloterdijk’s Zorn und Zeit, though it remains in the cue. He is focused on notions of Rage as they form a natural compliment to Melancholia, an interesting pair. I am unsure of how Sloterdijk would handle this as it is his position that the repression of rightful anger that leads to the excessive economy of eros and lack. Emile made the enlightening suggestion that Blakean rage may be good to look at. Somehow this struck me as quite significant, and the figure of Los/Orc from the Four Zoas came to my mind (a favorite work), the heated creative fusion of new things, which can be born out in revolutionary rage. Indeed there must be an artistic aspect to this analysis of Achillean economics, as I already suggested in regards to Achilles’s new use of language in the forming of his complaint and withdrawl. Orc, who is meant to embody the pure Revolutionary spirit, the name possibly an anagram for Cor, heart, may reflect well Sloterdijk’s concept of thymotic rage.

And Los repented that he had chaind Orc upon the mountain
And Enitharmons tears prevaild parental love returnd
Tho terrible his dread of that infernal chain They rose
At midnight hasting to their much beloved care
Nine days they traveld thro the Gloom of Entuthon Benithon
Los taking Enitharmon by the hand led her along
The dismal vales & up to the iron mountains top where Orc
Howld in the furious wind he thought to give to Enitharmon
Her son in tenfold joy & to compensate for her tears
Even if his own death resulted so much pity him paind

But when they came to the dark rock & to the spectrous cave
Lo the young limbs had strucken root into the rock & strong
Fibres had from the Chain of Jealousy inwove themselves
In a swift vegetation round the rock & round the Cave
And over the immortal limbs of the terrible fiery boy
In vain they strove now to unchain. In vain with bitter tears
To melt the chain of Jealousy. not Enitharmons death
Nor the Consummation of Los could ever melt the chain
Nor unroot the infernal fibres from their rocky bed
Nor all Urthonas strength nor all the power of Luvahs Bulls
Tho they each morning drag the unwilling Sun out of the deep
Could uproot the infernal chain. for it had taken root

Into the iron rock & grew a chain beneath the Earth
Even to the Center wrapping round the Center & the limbs
Of Orc entering with fibres. became one with him a living Chain
Sustained by the Demons life. Despair & Terror & Woe & Rage

Inwrap the Parents in cold clouds as they bend howling over
The terrible boy till fainting by his side the Parents fell

(The Fifth Night, FSZ-62.11 -63.6)

 

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One response to “Growing Enthused – Achilles (Fetish and Blake)

  1. Emile Fromet de Rosnay December 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Quite interesting that, as a Blakean (in my youth), I ended up reading Sloterdijk AND Graeber whom you reference here (and that you have a favourite work from Blake). But Sloterdijk and Graeber are quite famous now. Still, in connection with Blake?
    I eventually received Zorn und Zeit, but was a slightly disappointed. There are some problems with his Eurocentric approach, his dismissal of postcolonialism (no mention of ongoing and neocolonialism), and his hard position RE the welfare state. I would want to problematize his lack of nuance regarding the latter, and analyze the similarities that his thought (and that of Nietzsche and Blake) might share with neolibralism. Nevertheless, this comes from a position of admiration. As Blake said, “Opposition is true friendship”. Stated otherwise, only thought that is of some force is worth attacking.

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