Marcel Mauss and the magical agents of our time

Skovgaard-Smith, Irene ORCID: and Hirst, Alison (2024) Marcel Mauss and the magical agents of our time. Journal of Classical Sociology, 24 (2). pp. 171-185. ISSN 1741-2897

[thumbnail of Skovgaard-Smith and Hirst 2023 Author accepted manuscript]
PDF (Skovgaard-Smith and Hirst 2023 Author accepted manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (356kB) | Preview


This article revisits Marcel Mauss’s theory of magic in the context of contemporary capitalism. Mauss saw magic as the art of transforming, socially accomplished via processes of differentiation that endow specialised agents, and their symbolic acts, with an ambiguous and unstable potentiality to do the extraordinary. Applying Mauss’s conception, we argue that significant figures of late capitalism, such as leaders, consultants and entrepreneurs, are set apart and socially constituted as magical agents with supernormal powers to solve unfathomable problems, ‘create value’ and make things happen. Based on collective beliefs and expectations, they are infused with a transformative social efficacy that further entrenches dominant neoliberal values and practices. The article contributes to highlighting the continued sociological relevance of Mauss's theory of magic and his insistence on the importance of symbolic thought and action in the constitution of the social.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: figures of capitalism,magic,magical efficacy,mana workers,marcel mauss,symbolic action
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Employment Systems and Institutions
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2023 10:31
Last Modified: 07 May 2024 16:31
DOI: 10.1177/1468795X231151797


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item