Archives de Tag: Magie

As Stephen Wilson points out in The Magical Universe (2000), the people who prac­ticed these rituals were mostly poor people who struggled to survive, always trying to stave off disaster and wishing therefore “to placate, cajole, and even manipulate these controlling
forces … to keep away harm and evil, and to procure the good which consisted of fertility, well-being, health, and life” (p. xviii). But in the eyes of the new capitalist class, this anarchic, molecular conception of the diffusion of power in the world was anathema. Aiming at controlling nature, the capitalist organization of work must refuse unpredictability implicit in the practice of magic, and the possibility of establishing a privileged relation with the natural elements, as well as the belief in the existence of powers available only to particular individuals, and thus not easily generalized and exploitable. Magic was also an obstacle to the rationalization of the work process, and a threat to the establishment of the principle of individual responsibility. Above all, magic seemed a form of refusal of work, of insubordination, and an instrument of grassroots resistance to power. The world had to be “disenchanted” in order to be dominated.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 173-174

Thus, a variety of practices were designed to appropriate the secrets of nature and bend its powers to the human will. From palmistry to divination, from the use of charms to sympathetic healing,magic opened a vast number of possibilities. There was magic designed to win card games, to play unknown instruments, to become invisible, to win somebody’s love, to gain immunity in war, to make children sleep (Thomas 1971; Wilson 2000),
Eradicating these practices was a necessary condition for the capitalist rationaliza­tion of work, since magic appeared as an illicit form of power and an instrument to obtain what one wanted without work, that is, a refusal of work in action. “Magic kills industry”,
lamented Francis Bacon, admitting that nothing repelled him so much as the assumption that one could obtain results with a few idle expedients, rather than with the sweat of one’s brow (Bacon 1870: 381),
Magic, moreover, rested upon a qualitative conception of space and time that pre­cluded a regularization of the labor process. How could the new entrepreneurs impose regular work patterns on a proletariat anchored in the belief that there are lucky and
unlucky days, that is, days on which one can travel and others on which one should not move from home, days on which to marry and others on which every enterprise should be cautiously avoided? Equally incompatible with the capitalist work-discipline was a
conception of the cosmos that attributed special powers to the individual: the magnetic look, the power to make oneself invisible, to leave one’s body, to chain the will of oth­ers by magical incantations.
It would not be fruitful to investigate whether these powers were real or imagi­nary. It can be said that all precapitalist societies have believed in them and, in recent times, we have witnessed a revaluation of practices that, at the time we refer to, would have been condemned as witchcraft. Let us mention the growing interest in parapsychology and biofeedback practices that are increasingly applied even by mainstream medicine. The revival of magical beliefs is possible today because it no longers represents a social threat. The mechanization of the body is so constitutive of the individual that, at least in industrial countries, giving a space to the belief in occult forces does not jeopardize the regularity of social behavior.
However, this was not an option for the 17th-century ruling class which, in this initial and experimental phase of capitalist development, had not yet achieved the social control necessary to neutralize the practice of magic, nor could they functionally integrate­ magic into the organizatlon of SOCial life. From their vlewpoint It hardly mattered whether the powers that people claimed to have, or aspired to have, were real or not, for
the very existence of magical beliefS was a source of social insubordinatlon.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 142-143