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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strange and terrible masterpiece,
Canett's 'Crowds and Power' is... well... not like other books.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Canetti's 'incorrect' in a myriad of ways. His interpretations of phenomena - the paranoid despot, delirium tremens, and a wide scattering of origin myths, amongst others - are highly idiosyncratic, to say the least. No doubt many, and many more plausible, interpretations could be advanced of literally every claim he makes.
I read this book in the course of writing up a PhD in design, and my brain was filled with Bruno Latour, Nigel Thrift, and others. Which is, no doubt in large part, why I found Crowds and Power such an extraordinary book. It goes for grand theory in a way it's become unfashionable, maybe even untenable, to pursue. But Canett's not interested in, say, naturalising capitalism, universalising Enlightenment mores, purging the social of the 'technological' and the 'natural', or any of the stock-in-trade tendencies to the sweeping gesture that have taken such vicious flak of late.
Whether Canetti's tossing out aphorisms like 'the mouth is the prototype of all prisons' or claiming that trade emerges from the patterns of grasp-and-release of our tree-dwelling prehuman ancestors, his peculiar vision disturbs assumptions, and - without fail - in ways that make for uncomfortable reading. Canetti's highly individual history of the human race is a dark and bloody one, stripped of every last vestige of kindness. The closest contemporary comparison I can think of is the work of some of the so-called speculative realist philosophers, Reza Negarestani, Ray Brassier, their forebear Nick Land perhaps; maybe some of the new ecological thinking sketched out by, say, Timothy Morton, as well.
Great stuff. Read it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Dense and heavy going..... but ultimately worth it...,
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Dense and heavy going..... but ultimately worth it... Best read in conjunction with Auto-da-fe. A true and very authentic thinker's book
5.0 out of 5 stars Power makes mad,
Canetti bypasses the known greats and reworked mythologies of the late 20thC greats (Marx, Freud, Nietzsche) to add his name to theoretical folly.
The language is sweet, flowing and precise unlike two of the three, unless you delve into the Notes from Exile or Short Accounts of Psycho-analysis.
Canetti makes some grand claims about national identities at the beginning when he talks about bodies and trees. At first they appear as caricatures, but after interviewing a friend who runs a major S&M club - he affirmed national stereotypes without having read this novel. This is where Canetti begins to make sense.
Despotic power in its guises arises from primeval forces, the desire to avenge the past and rain down the slings and arrows onto those climbing up behind. Power is necessarily paranoid within this paradigm. It rests upon being beaten, the humiliation of command which affects the body, transforming it into an outer projection. This allows the person to propel themselves forward and reach the higher echelons of power to re-enact the same scenarios. He talks about the wounds needing to be avenged to sustain a notion of the body.
Canetti travels across the world to bring the themes together from myths, stories and written accounts. The detail is breathtaking. It was the basis for psycho-social re rereading of the allure of fascism by Klaus Theweleit in "Male Fantasies".
This book like Foucault is a stupendous achievement in painting huge brush strokes to provide a picture outside of the iron prison of class/superman/unfolding drives/genetic paradigms of academia.
It languishes neglected, no longer in the spotlight as academia chases its tail in fast spinning circles, producing nothing of note for the last 30/40/50/60 years. Perhaps a friendly tap on the shoulder and a copy of Crowds and Power wrapped around the stick can help to light up a new paradigm.
Until then this is worth reading in preparation for that event you will launch forward.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely important historically,
But alas neglected these days. Canetti's thesis about the genesis and abuse of autocratic power in different cultures and historical times is a fitting repost to a century of power hungry maniacs although it reaches much deeper into the very structure of the urge to rule and the behaviours of the ruled. If you haven't read this book you simply have no education. It is one of the most original works of all time.
1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great seller,
This review is from: Crowds and Power (Paperback)
The book arrived, ten days early, second hand as initially agreed. The pages are a little yellowed, but totally readable, and the binding is also in good nick(no pages falling out). The book was well wrapped for the postage, in cardboard and tape, before being placed in an envelope. The seller included a full set of contact details, were anything not in order. I would be happy to deal with this seller again as everything arrived as agreed, or better, at the time of purchase.
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Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti (Paperback - 30 Aug 1973)
Used & New from: £0.01