Trying to Get Immanence Out of a (Philosopher’s) Stone: Archetypes, Sociobiology, & Harry Potter, And What They Have To Do With The UK Riots
[This is too late in the game to do anyone much good, I realize, but I feel that I still ought to put in my two cents regarding the August riots in the UK. I wrote this during my breaks at work when I was on 12-hour shifts, so all that I had time to do when I got home was to read blog entries about the riots; nobody hailed the end of them, so I (amusingly) did not realize they were over until the 23rd, after reading the Wiki page. To my credit, at least, I successfully predicted its outcome (though I feel silly in saying that); I will therefore leave the tense unaltered. In order to make my linking of Harry Potter to the Tottenham riots seem less farfetched, I recommend readers to first peruse this.]
There are a number of popular (i.e. non-academic) intellectual movements whose objective is to find an immanent basis for the meaning of signifiers. One such example is Jungian archetypes, which states that various symbols are innate in the human mind, and thus that symbols are “universally recognizable.” As well, the sociobiology of Desmond Morris seeks to ground social phenomena in biological instinct (once again, innate), e.g. he ascribes the tradition of women coloring their lips red to the fact that when a woman becomes aroused, her lips become engorged with blood, appearing fuller and redder; thus lipstick is a display of availability for mating, just as is the peacock displaying its feathers. A third, more contemporary instance of this tendency can be found in the Harry Potter series. In Hogwarts, students of witchcraft & wizardry are taught combinations of signifiers (e.g. a “swish & flick” of one’s wand combined with the words “Wingardium Leviosa” pronounced in a specific way) which are somehow inherently connected to their magical function. There is no talk of ‘inventing’ spells; presumably experimental wizards merely spout out Latin-sounding words in hopes that they’ll bring a result connected to their etymology. This essay will outline the three views described above; show how meaning is in fact not immanent, but for the most part purely arbitrary; and show how this immanent treatment of signifiers resonates within the UK riots, perhaps to the point of precluding any significant cultural change.