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demophobia (and aggregation)

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One more thing, for now, from the Perry Anderson article about Brazil:

The ferocity of the ensuing campaigns against Lula could not have been sustained, however, without a sympathetic audience. That lay in the country’s traditional middle classes, principally but not exclusively based in the big cities, above all São Paulo. The reason for the hostility within this stratum was not loss of power, which it had never possessed, but of status. Not only was the president now an uneducated ex-worker whose poor grammar was legend, but under his rule maids and guards and handymen, riff-raff of any kind, were acquiring consumer goods hitherto the preserve of the educated, and getting above themselves in daily life. To a good many in the middle class, all this grated acutely: the rise of trade unionists and servants meant they were coming down in the world. The result has been an acute outbreak of ‘demophobia’, as the columnist Elio Gaspari, a spirited critic, has dubbed it. Together, the blending of political chagrin among owners and editors with social resentment among readers made for an often bizarrely vitriolic brew of anti-Lulismo, at odds with any objective sense of class interest. (italics mine…)

Demophobia might well be one word for what this aggregate fiction idea that I keep banging on about might take up, address, attempt to moderate, etc…. I am guessing what the critic mentioned above is talking about is specifically the fear of masses of the poor. But one wonders if there isn’t a fear of number in general, an anxiety addressed by the conventional form of the novel (and its off-shoots) by what I am starting to call protagonism, the focalization of the novel through a single character, the engagement with background groups and masses but only in a restrained, self-immunizing sort of way…

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in aggregate, americas, anxiety

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Ads,

    I used to comment with regularity but have been quiet for a while — anyway, just have a question with regards to the aggregate as its something I’ve been working on lately in a different context. Have you thought about Dante’s characters in the Commedia as a precursor or reference point to the dynamic of a singular character in relation to a generic crowd? The souls his protagonist meets–mostly I’m referencing Purgatorio, though Inferno does it too, and Paradiso to a lesser extent–hold a strange middle ground between a realist sense of historical and personal specificity and an allegorical tendency toward emblematicness and genericness. They hold authority as characters both relating to their real historical persons and their status as representatives of the sinner-group in which they are placed. The point of which to me is to say, despite what you describe as a self-immunizing role, singular characters are not elevated above the crowd only to distinguish a kind of humanist individuality, but also serve as lenses through which the crowd comes into focus. No? Curious to hear what you think, always have admired the work of this blog.
    Cheers,
    w

    w

    March 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm

  2. I am brazilian and demophobia is specifically linked to the fact that the brazilian ‘middle class’ no longer corresponds to15% of the population, but now it is something like 30 or 35% of the population: In other words, it is quite like the disdain of the old money for the newly-rich, except that it has a sort of racial element to it. People that no longer feel so special now that more people have more than near-zero money.

    Breno Kummel

    December 29, 2011 at 7:38 pm


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