Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts inspired by recent reading

The widespread, largely unexamined*, notion that witch trials were (and continue to be) the products of "mass hysteria" is both a convenient bit of patriarchal propaganda and an utterly perverse choice of words.

The notion, again unexamined*, that at least I had about medieval and later religious persecution (the Inquisitions, etc.), i.e. that it was solely related to dogmatic issues, is another convenient piece of propaganda. The heretics didn't just differ over religious dogma; they were political and social radicals, and were persecuted as such.

The idea of "progress" is even more fucked than I thought it was. There might be more on this in upcoming posts, but if you look at the state of any political, social, and/or economic struggle at, say, two hundred year intervals for the past thousand years, the nature and site of the struggle will change, to be sure, but there is no sign whatsoever of anything approaching linear progress; some things will be "better," some "worse," for whatever definition of those words from whatever perspective, but the overall narrative is not one of progression; rather, it is one of oppression, revolution, and counterrevolution.

Power is very good at sowing the seeds of its own destruction, but I sure wish it was better at reaping that particular crop.

*By I think most people, myself included.


spacequest2 said...

caliban and the witch is something else. i finished it a couple months back. i can't remember now how i ever ended up ordering a copy, but glad i did. the thing that struck me, other than the way an peasant insurrection has been recast as either just the abuses of the church or the witch trials being chalked up to mass hysteria and fear of the plague, is the way women's bodies, especially the reproductive capacity and knowledge of women's bodies were enclosed on and criminalized.

Richard said...

yeah, Caliban is great...

btw, good idea, this post; I should do more posts like this myself, but I always allow myself to get sidetracked into thinking I need to develop the thoughts into massive essays... which then don't get written, naturally.

Ethan said...

Caliban is indeed wonderful, I'm thinking possibly essential, though I'm only like 30 pages in. I've got it from the library, but I'm thinking it'll probably be a buy-when-I-have-the-chance book.

spacequest2, one observation Federici makes that really made things click for me was when she compared the body for women to the factory for men as the site of oppression.

Richard, yeah, actually that same problem is what made me decide to just up and post this. I think I will be writing more about this stuff in coming days and weeks, but if I don't at least I got this down. It's also part of why I started posting quotes without commentary.