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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, February 18, 2013

EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS

So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.
The first maketh men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation.-- Thomas Hobbes, LEVIATHAN, Chapter 13.



 It is interesting, however, that Propp's summation of his two protagonist-types also turns on a distinction between a protagonist who makes a grand gesture based in "courage"-- that of the seeker following a villain who's seized someone else-- and the survival-instincts of a "victimized hero," whose principal virtue is one of "endurance."-- COMIC HERO VS. COMIC DEMIHERO.


In THE NARRATIVE DEATH-DRIVE PART 2 I formulated the joint idea of "concrete goal-affects" and "abstract goal-affects," which were affects located within the personas of fictional characters, with whom audiences are meant to identify.  I asserted that the former affects were "directed toward the goal of gain or the goal of safety," that is, to the desire to achieve a specific real-world effect, while the latter were more oriented on the faculty of *esteem,* which the Greeks called *thymos.*  I noted that "neither the logic of the desire for gain nor the desire for safety seems to govern the operations of *thymos.* 

The more I think about Hobbes' "three principal causes of quarrel," however, the more I come to believe that these three might be subsumed into two.  The aggressor who wants to build up his store of goods by robbing his neighbor is in a sense following the same concrete instinct as the victim who fights back, trying to protect what he already has.  The same parallel applies to the paradigm asserted by Propp: an antagonist who simply seizes a victim often (if not always) seeks to satisfy some concrete end, just as the "victimized hero" who endures in order to eventually win free wants to satisfy a similar concrete end.  One might therefore see Hobbes' categories of "gain" and "safety" subsumed into one concrete goal-affect, which I will term "acquisition" after Bataille's use of the term.

"Glory," in contrast to both "gain" and "safety"-- the main manifestations of acquisition-- lacks the practicality of the concrete affects, so that its overriding category is that of expenditure, also covered in the above essay. 

This dichotomy compares favorably with the Schopenhauer-influenced dichotomy formulated in HERO VS. VILLAIN, MONSTER VS. VICTIM PART 3:


In WORLD AS WILL AND REPRESENTATION, Schopenhauer distinguishes between "intuitive" and "abstract" representations: humans share "intuitive representations" with other animals, in that they are based in the body's "percepts." But humans alone have the power to conceive "abstract representations," for humans alone can base representations in "concepts." 


Keeping in mind that I revised Schopenhauer's terms above into terms I found more pleasing-- i.e., "intellectual will" as the principle underlying abstract concepts, and "instinctive will" as the principle underlying concrete percepts-- I will further extend the parallels thus:

Acquisition= the totality of concrete goal-affects, which represent "instinctive will"
Expenditure= the totality of abstract goal-affects, which represent "intellectual will"

Both categories in turn have their positive and negative manifestations.  Following Hobbes' examples, the thief who seeks to acquire property not his own is usually (though not always) a negative force in fictional stories, while the property-owner seeking to defend his goods is usually (though not always) a positive force in fictional stories.  I've gone into detail elsewhere as to why the "persona-types" I've termed "the monster" and "the demihero" stand as representations of the instinctive will.  Both of these personas, then, are dominantly subsumed by the concept of acquisition.

In contrast, most of what I write about the "intellectual will" personas of "the hero" and "the villain" in HERO PT 3 and elsewhere suggests an emphasis on the motive of "glory" for both.  This is clearer with regard to the hero, who sometimes shares the motives of the demihero "writ large" as it were, than with the villain.  However, I maintain that even though we see the villain undertaking acts of "acquisition," the true villain incarnates intellectual transgression.  I wrote in D IS FOR DEMIHERO PT 3: 

Even the mundane crooks as portrayed in these [Batman] stories want more than simple survivial. Typically they desire wealth, which may be seen as establishing a form of willed control over their environment. This will to control often manifests in the crooks forming their own society counter to that of honest citizens. Unlike monsters, who are most often seen as forces gone out of control, villains seek to exercise total control, be it of city-neighborhoods or the entire world.
More on expenditure and acquisiton when I again examine the concepts of "work and play."


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