Liminality and the unreal class of the image-making craft: An Essay on Political Alchemy
Inspired by Presocratic thought and, especially, by Plato’s philosophy, this paper proposes a genealogy of alchemy, focusing on the conditions conducive to the artificial creation of social relations, leadership structures, and even regimes, and on the practices applied in such creation. The paper argues that communist theory and practice can be analyzed as the proposition, and attempted realization, of a genuinely alchemical transformative operation. Using the perspective of rites of passage and liminality, developed in social anthropology, and Plato’s ideas on imitation and image-making, emphasis will be placed on the middle phase of the transformation process, where the phase of flux or liminality might give way to rule by the estranged outsider, or the Trickster. The paper makes use of pictures from Jung’s Alchemy and Agricola’s Metallurgy, and of their peculiar language, including expressions such as “alien power”, “being on watch”, “godcooking” and “god-devouring”, in order to bring the almost forgotten logic of an ancient transformation technique closer to contemporary readers: techniques that were put to effective use in the politics of the twentieth century.
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