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from Magic & Images

From Magic & Images (David Levi-Strauss)

Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss advanced the most complete modern sociological theory of magic, and they concluded that, in order to be magical, an act or belief must be common to the whole of a society. Magic is essentially traditional and social-if most people in the society don’t believe it, it won’t work. “We held,” wrote Mauss in his General Theory of Magic, “that sacred things, involved in sacrifice, did not constitute a system of propagated illusions, but were social, consequently real.” This lays the groundwork for thinking about the relation of magic to technology and media today.

The book I’m writing now, Images & Belief, is an inquiry into how and why we believe photographic images, technical images, the way we do, and how this credulity allows us to be manipulated by images. Seeing is believing, but something changed with the invention of technical images to make us more subject to this equation. And I believe something changed again with September 11th-the most “imaged” event in history-to solidify and deepen these effects.

All events are nowadays aimed at the television screen, the cinema screen, the photograph, in order to be translated into a state of things. In this way, however, every action simultaneously loses its historical character and turns into a magic ritual and an endlessly repeatable movement.

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Categories: magic
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