Elias Canetti and the counter-image of resistance

Thesis Eleven August 2011 vol. 106 no. 1 73-87



The attempt by Arnason and Roberts to interpret Canetti’s work in the context of social theory is taken here as the point of departure to investigate Canetti’s view on the phenomenon of resistance. Resistance is explored in the context of Canetti’s reflection on power and transformation. Further, it is argued that through his substantive concern for crowds (but also for packs, or small bands), an epistemological challenge emerges for social theory. Canetti gives us some precious insights on phenomena of ambiguous multiplicity, which are neither simple sums of separate individuals nor an ontologized Durkheimian collective. Not only this, he resolutely ventures towards the contingency at the foundation of social order, the ‘just-thisness’ of power, revealing its non-symbolic basis in gestures that impart affects. It is at this level that resistance can be best understood as a movement of liberation from the grip of power.

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