File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 404

Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 12:43:38 -0500
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] The down-side of storytellers

Conrad wrote:

>I haven't read Clastres directly, only commentary on his work.  But
>for me, the speculation outlined above isn't demonstrable.  It's a
>vast leap from the tribal shaman to a priest caste, and the idea that
>an organized priest caste preceded and initiated the development of
>the "state" rather than growing as one factor in an agriculture-based
>concentration of resources -- where's the evidence for that?

I, too, haven't read Clastres directly, and my familiarity with his 
work is predominantly through Deleuze and Guattari's work, which of 
course puts its own spin on Clastres'.  It is not my understanding, 
however, that he argues that an organized priest caste _precedes_ the 
development of the State.  Rather, his theory is that at least one 
mechanism for the development of the state is an organized migration 
from tribal society under the leadership of a shaman who promises to 
lead the people to a "land of no evil".   The subsequent development 
of the priestly caste is an integral result of the development of the 
new society established at the final resting-place of the migration. 
Of course, the shaman couldn't succeed in his "bluff" if the people 
were not already susceptible to being led away, because of troubles 
and dissatisfactions within their own tribal culture.

>Nor can
>I think of sources -- perhaps there are some -- for the idea that the
>idea of heaven or other utopias originated on the tribal shamanic
>level, that shamans became "leaders," or that shamans (be they
>prehistoric or present-day) simply make up stories  -- a la Karl Rove
>or the Swift Boat Veterans -- to hoodwink their people.  Shamans are
>integral with their tribe and would generally find themselves tossed
>over a cliff if they pulled this kind of stuff -- primitive people
>are not necessarily stupid people.

But Conrad, this kind of successful "hoodwinking" happens all the 
time in "civilized societies" as well.  To call it "hoodwinking", or 
to postulate that it is only possible due to some extra-ordinary 
"stupidity", is neither correct nor gains one any understanding. 
The Germans were not "hoodwinked" by Hitler; they desired him; and 
thousands of Russians still weep for their Father Stalin.  The 
interesting question is (I think), what makes us susceptible to these 
kinds of utopian, messianic longings and aspirations which cause us 
to repeatedly and eagerly enslave ourselves.

A relevant brief discussion of "messianic" migrations among the 
Tupi-Guarani Indians at

which is from the book "Shamanism=A0by Mariko Namba Walter and Eva Jane 
Neumann Fridman.


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