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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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3 The Force of Myth in Our Own Time: Myth in Ideology. Sorel, Pareto, Weber, Mannheim


The writings, studies and considerations of a general sort on the subject of myth took a sharply new turn at the beginning of the twentieth century, without replacing the older treatments, which continued without interruption; each side ignored the other. The new studies treated myth neither as history nor as narrative nor as sacred nor as ancient nor as fable. Georges Sorel1 wrote, “Myths have to be conceived as instruments for influencing the present; any discussion of means of applying them materially to history is senseless.” Sorel, one of the first to take up myth in relation to the realities of the present, saw in them a means for orienting and shaping political movements and the actions thereof.

In Matériaux d’une théorie du prolétariat he opposed myth and ideology, relating ideology to propaganda. Ideologies, according to Sorel, are the translation of the myths in abstract form. Myths have a motive power in society; he claimed that the Utopianists, such as Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, are unserious, for they had no myths with a power of this kind. The proletarian myth of the general strike is, on the contrary, serious. The myths act not as propaganda, but as a direct social force.2 There he wrote that myths express the strongest inclinations of a people, party or class. Myths are judged as a means of acting on the present; what is important is their power over those who hold them; the knowledge of what the myths...

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