The Epistemological Obstacles to Understanding Social Movements

A really fascinating post on Lenin’s Tomb, saved here because I’ll want to come back to this for a second and probably third reading:

One of the most interesting theories of reification came from Gaston Bachelard who, in his Psychoanalysis of Fire, proposed that there sometimes exist “epistemological obstacles” built into the phenomena themselves, which can make it difficult to apprehend them properly and which permit an unscientific or incorrect apprehension of them to shape the experience of them. Fire was such a phenomenon, inasmuch as its materiality inclines one to view it as a substance or, perhaps, as some sort of spirit. The palpable experience of fire as an ‘object’ includes of course the appearance and the physical sensations it gives rise to when ‘touched’. And once these qualities have been fixed by a certain symbolisation, once we’ve said that fire is in fact a definite thing – a substance, or an animistic entity – these sensations are experienced as palpable confirmations of the symbolisation. And so it might be with the concept of ‘social movements’. The palpable experience of the social movement, then – the familiar displays of ‘worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment’ above all – can appear as confirmations of the category, so that there only remains the task of working out what essence, historical subjectivity or functional relation coheres all of the various and contradictory manifestations that are attributable to social movements.

http://www.leninology.co.uk/2016/08/can-corbyn-build-social-movement.html

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