A reading of Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness throughFascist and Aberrant Leadership Abstract. In this piece, we puzzle about the social logic of leadership through the lens of the movie Triangle of Sadness (2022), directed by the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund. We flesh out a distinction between two modes of leadership, which we call, respectively, fascist and aberrant, and elaborate on how these are seen at work in the film. Phenomena of leadership, we suggest, illustrate the workings of social logic ex vivo, and offer exquisite examples of how intensities intervene in social interaction, giving rise to the tensive states in which the local protagonists of interaction are caught.
Keywords: social theory, social interaction, social logic, social intensities, leadership
We notice that, in a relationship between two people, the external form is rarely an adequate expression of its inner intensity. This inadequacy results from the fact that the inner relations develop continuously, while the external relations develop in a spasmodic fashion.
A Keynote Address at the Urban Creativity Conference, Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art, Lund, Sweden.
May 17, 2019, 3pm
This talk interrogates the nature of the urban public domain by specifically attending the intensities and the phases it generates. A comprehensive view on the phenomenon of publicness, it is suggested, is required to attend its ecological facet – more precisely, as it will be seen, its multi-layered ecology – but also to explain its intrinsic vital qualities. The latter hints to the phenomenon of intensity. After reviewing the main features of publicness (“what is specifically public in public space?”), a broader picture of the public domain can be sketched that includes the processes of mediation. But whereas mediation suggests a ‘continuist’ take, a discontinuities can likewise be detected in the public domain. Coining from physics, the latter could as well be called ‘phase transitions’. How are phase transitions correlated to the intensive moments of publicness? This is the pivotal question for discussion.
“He who has attained to only some degree of freedom of mind cannot feel other than a wanderer on the earth – though not as a traveller to a final destination: for this destination does not exist. But he will watch and observe and keep his eyes open to see what is really going on in the world; for this reason he may not let his heart adhere too firmly to any individual thing; within him too there must be something wandering that takes pleasure in change and transience. Such a man will, to be sure, experience bad nights, when he is tired and finds the gate of the town that should offer him rest closed against him; perhaps in addition the desert will, as in the Orient, reach right up to the gate, beasts of prey howl now farther off, now closer to, a strong wind arise, robbers depart with his beasts of burden. Then dreadful night may sink down upon the desert like a second desert, and his heart grow weary of wandering. When the morning sun then rises, burning like a god of wrath, and the gate of the town opens to him, perhaps he will behold in the faces of those who dwell there even more desert, dirt, deception, insecurity than lie outside the gate – and the day will be almost worse than the night. Thus it may be that the wanderer shall fare; but then, as recompense, there will come the joyful mornings of other days and climes, when he shall see, even before the light has broken, the Muses come dancing by him in the mist of the mountains, when afterwards, if he relaxes quietly beneath the trees in the equanimity of his soul at morning, good and bright things will be thrown down to him from their tops and leafy hiding-places, the gifts of all those free spirits who are at home in mountain, wood and solitude and who, like him, are, in their now joyful, now thoughtful way, wanderers and philosophers. Born out of the mysteries of dawn, they ponder on how, between the tenth and the twelfth stroke of the clock, the day could present a face so pure, so light-filled, so cheerful and transfigured: – they seek the philosophy of the morning.”
A un primo sguardo, onore e dignità sembrano opporsi come l’arcaico e il moderno. In questo senso, la missione che il pensiero moderno, “democratico”, si auto-attribuisce è di sconfiggere e superare una regolazione sociale di tipo aristocratico. L’onore viene così considerato da un’ampia gamma di pensatori moderni come retaggio di forme tribali, particolariste ed elitarie di interazione sociale, a cui viene contrapposta una nuova forma morale universalista e democratica, quella della dignità. Tale, in breve, è il sogno kantiano che Rawls (2000: 328) ha denominato “aristocrazia di tutti”. Ma, come la stessa espressione paradossale lascia intravedere, il rapporto tra onore e dignità è estremamente più complesso di una semplice antitesi.