Pier Paolo Portinaro

Thanatology and History. Canetti’s War Masses and Revolutionary Masses

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With Crowds and Power, quite an eccentric work for its time, Elias Canetti proposed a social archaeology inspired by the events which did shape the experiences and the collective imagination of the people of his generation. Looking at the Viennese cultural context which had a strong impact on the development of the essay, the article presents the concepts which constitute its theoretical framework and then focuses on the role that, according to Canetti, crowds did play during war and revolutionary events. The analytical perspective adopted in the article allows to reveal the fruitfulness of a hermeneutic that lays bare the aporias of an era characterised by the polarisation of archaic imperatives.


  • Crowds
  • Command
  • Pack
  • Revolution


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