The gravity of Eros in the contemporary: an introduction

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Szakolczai, Árpád
Horvath, Agnes
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The question of Eros, understood in the broader sense of passionate devotion, takes us back to classical philosophical anthropology, the very foundations of social and political analysis, and in particular the work of Plato, which argues that imitation and not rationality is the moving force of social and political life. For Plato rationality, or reliance on the powers of reason, is not an anthropological constant, rather a capacity to be acquired and developed in order to resist the overwhelming powers of mimetic processes, particularly strong in ‘in between’ situations (on metaxy, see Voegelin, 1978). Historically, an ignorance of the role of imitation in politics resulted in the reduction of rationality to a tool in the instrumental furthering of imitative processes in order to promote particular political agendas; the central problem with contemporary media-driven politics. This special section argues that the imitative and multiplicative aspects of modern politics can be understood through analyzing the way in which subjugation to Eros, both in the narrow sense of ‘sexual’ pleasures (Foucault, 1986) and the broader sense of blind, unconditional, passionate devotion, is a main consequence of socially disruptive situations. Plato’s analysis of Eros as a force that deprives one of one’s faculties of distinction and judgement, thus allowing a potentially overwhelming capacity for imitative receptivity to take hold and to drive attempts to possess qualities and constitute identities, but that can at the same time shake up, turn around and elevate, will be our main methodological guiding tool. The overwhelming dominance of Eros in the contemporary world is well known by everybody – at least as far as the signs and symptoms go. We live in a world that has become totally penetrated and impregnated by Eros, in both private and public. The conviction that sex is the ultimate goal of human life was given its solemn, authoritative justification by the thinking of Freud. While the problematisation of Freud is also part of the contemporary intellectual landscape (see Dufresne, 2003; Esterson, 1993; Forrester, 1996; Webster, 2005),1 the damage was done; and, apart from deconstructing Freud, one should also explore better ways of thinking about the force of sexual love and passionate devotion. The papers in this Special section suggest a return to Ancient Greece, and in particular the thinking of Plato.
Eros , Philosophy , Sociology , Politics , Rationality , Sexuality
Arpad Szakolczai and Agnes Horvath (2013) 'The Gravity of Eros in the Contemporary: An Introduction '. History of The Human Sciences, 26 (1).
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The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in History of the Human Sciences Vol 26/Issue 1, 2013 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © Arpad Szakolczai and Agnes Horvath