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Marcel Mauss and the magical agents of our time

journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 20:25 authored by Irene Skovgaard Smith, Alison Hirst
This article revisits Marcel Mauss’s theory of magic in the context of contemporary capitalism. Mauss saw magic as the art of transforming, socially accomplished via processes of differentiation that endow specialised agents, and their symbolic acts, with an ambiguous and unstable potentiality to do the extraordinary. Applying Mauss’s conception, we argue that significant figures of late capitalism, such as leaders, consultants and entrepreneurs, are set apart and socially constituted as magical agents with supernormal powers to solve unfathomable problems, ‘create value’ and make things happen. Based on collective beliefs and expectations, they are infused with a transformative social efficacy that further entrenches dominant neoliberal values and practices. The article contributes to highlighting the continued sociological relevance of Mauss’s theory of magic and his insistence on the importance of symbolic thought and action in the constitution of the social.

History

Refereed

  • Yes

Publication title

Journal of Classical Sociology

ISSN

1741-2897

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Editors

Simon Susen, Bryan S Turner

File version

  • Accepted version

Language

  • eng

Legacy posted date

2023-01-27

Legacy creation date

2023-01-27

Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Faculty of Business & Law

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