Cosmogony and Second Nature in State-Socialist Revolutions

Martin Holbraad (University College London)
Cosmogony and Second Nature in State-Socialist Revolutions

A point of departure for getting an anthropological handle on revolutions is to treat them as cosmogonic events. Big Bang-like, the characteristically violent effervescence of revolution is meant to bring about a new world of sorts. Revolutions that are successful in gaining the reins of state power, however, are soon confronted with the problem of ‘routinization’, as Weber called it: the initial act of total change is institutionalised as a totalizing condition – an unbudgable ‘regime’ of state-power that can only be endured as a kind of political ‘second nature’. Entering into critical dialogue with accounts of the October Revolution and its aftermath in the USSR, in this talk I draw on my own ethnographic material from Cuba to argue that, far from contradictory, this duality of action vs condition marks out the coordinates within which lives in such state-socialist revolutionary societies are lived. The ‘ideals’ of revolutionary action and its ‘realities’ as a routinized condition, in other words, are themselves intricately compared, correlated and calibrated in the course of living in such a society, so that their constantly negotiated imbrication becomes constitutive of state-socialist revolution as a form of life.

November 7, 4:15pm | Advokatenweg 36 | 06114 Halle  | www.eth.mpg.de

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