Saturday, March 21, 2009

Redemption and Utopia | Elective affinity | The Spunk Library

The following is an essay based upon Redemption and Utopia of Michael Lowy published originally under the title Redemption et Utopie in 1988 by Presses Universitaires de France...

Lowy and elective affinity

Lowy's book deals with the interaction of two trends of thought in the work of the writers with whom he is concerned: 19th century libertarian Romantic anarchism and the Jewish messianic tradition. The concept he chooses in order to illumine the nature of this interaction is that of "elective affinity," the attraction and merging of distinct forces or phenomena. Lowy traces this idea back to Hippocrates, describes its relevance to medieval alchemy,its importance in the work of writers such as Swedenborg, and ascribes its first modern explicit formulation to Swedish chemist Tarbem Olof Bergman (1775). In Lowy's exposition there are four phases involved in the elective affinity relationship between two forces or objects:

1) a passive or potential correspondence;
2) election - the beginning of the interaction;
3) coming together,partial or total fusion (or symbiotic relationship);
4) the emergence of a new form that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Lowy relates that sociologist Max Weber consciously used the concept of elective affinity, but that he neglected the fourth and vital aspect, the emergence of a new form.

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