Current Relevance of "The Magical World"


  • Simone Capozzi University of Roma Tre



Crisis of Presence, Fragility of the subject, Presence, Self-consciousness


The catastrophic changes of a globalised planet have transformed the relationships between human beings, nature and technology. The interconnectedness of environmental, economic and identity crises exposes us to the perception of an ungovernable, precarious and out-of-control world. Within this framework, reading Ernesto De Martino’s The Magical World (1948) can be an invigorating experience: by proposing a prehistory of subjectivity in three acts (anguish, crisis and redemption), the historical drama of the magic world presents us with a phenomenology of the crisis that affects human communities when the horizons of signification narrow and the domesticity of the world are lost. The impasse is overcome through recourse to the mythical-ritual device and the continuous process of humanisation and stabilisation of the real, which, infusing ‘domesticity’ into reality, at the same time transforms ritual actors from passive succubi of uncontrollable forces and phenomena into active subjects, builders of meaning at the centre of a world that makes sense. An authentic book of the year zero, despite or perhaps because of the contradictions that animate it, the Magical World can still profoundly speak to us.