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Myth and Ideology

Edited By Cyril Levitt and Sabine Sander

This posthumously published work by Lawrence Krader surveys the study of myths from ancient times (in classical Greece and Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Akkad, Sumer, China), in the Biblical traditions, of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia, and from Northeastern and Central Asia. It also covers the various approaches to the study of myth in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and the Romantic movement in the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century; it discusses evolutionist, structuralist, hermeneutic, and linguistic approaches. The book covers on the one hand the treatment of myth from the inside, that is from the experience of those committed to the myth, and on the other the perspective of those ethnologists, philosophers and other students of myth who are outsiders. Krader takes up the theme of esoteric and exoteric myths as he rejects some of the assumptions and approaches to the study of myth from the past while singling out others for approval and inclusion in his general theory of myth. The book includes a discussion of myth in science and in infinitesimal mathematics. It also considers the relationship between myth and ideology in the twentieth century in relation to politics and power. It both incorporates and broadens Krader’s theory of nature as a manifold consisting of different orders of space-time which he developed in his magnum opus Noetics: The Science of Thinking and Knowing.

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1 Durkheim and His School: Alcheringa, or Dreamtime

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Emile Durkheim in his theory of collective representations exercised a strong influence on the study of myth at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; his importance in this area of study was enhanced by his concrete investigation of mythic phenomena in his work, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. His influence was immediately present in the research of his collaborators. His chief ideas and those of his school, insofar as they are relevant to the study of myth, are the following: Durkheim began with the proposition that social facts are things in the same sense that the facts of physics and of physiology are things. Representations are of two kinds, individual and collective; the society has for its substratum the ensemble of individuals associated with it; the individual representations are the products of actions and reactions exchanged between the nervous elements, but are not inherent in these elements; the collective representations are the expressions of actions and reactions exchanged between the elementary forms of the society: among the chief of these are the elementary forms of the religious life.1

He proposed the causal link between the way in which a society is organized and the categories of space and time. The categories, he has been understood to have said, originate in the social organization. Thus, if the given society has four divisions, or directions, as categories of space, it is because the society has four ←61 | 62→divisions, such as clans or classes of people; he...

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