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A Natural History of Crowds, Rulers and Survivors: Elias Canetti as a Political Thinker

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Abstract:

The article stresses the anti-normative thrust in Elias Canetti's thought by focusing on his genealogy of power. The scenario that Canetti opens up in both his major work, Crowds and Power, and his collections of notes, featuring mostly crowds, rulers and survivors, is a terrifying set-up in which things 'happen' (killings, huge gatherings of crowds, piling up of corpses, etc.) though there is no rational and accountable agency to explain them. His denial of the existence of a rational agency operating in history produces the most daring theoretical innovation to be found in his work, that is to say, the blurring of the human sphere into the sphere of animality, in which such normative concepts as innocence and responsibility are of no use. Canetti goes so far as to build a case for a moral life in which such human artefacts as 'moral facts' no longer identify with 'normative facts'.

Keywords: Elias Canetti; Hitler; agency; crowds; natural history; nomativity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Universit┬┤ degli Studi di Bologna, Via Zamboni 38, 40126 Bologna, Italy., Email: farneti@philo.unibo.it

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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