venerdì 5 settembre 2014

Obsolete Capitalism: The eternal charlatan (Pt. V - The Birth of Digital Populism)

The eternal charlatan

Perhaps more than anywhere else, the eighteenth-century is still alive in Italy, and with it the charlatan or mountebank character; this was indeed the characteristic type of that period. Only in Italy, at any rate, does one still encounter really well-preserved specimens of this kind. Cipolla’s whole appearance had much in common with this historic type; his very clothes helped to conjure up the features of this traditional figure, for example his blatantly and fantastically foppish air. The first aspect we are to enquire upon briefly is the historical context in which Thomas Mann places the pictorial cliché of Cipolla. The stage magician of the Era of Consensus is nothing else but the direct descendant of the popular phenomenon of the charlatan, w hose clever-talker attitude had already been described by Niccolò Machiavelli:

At last a certain quack doctor – for many such can every day be seen here – promised his father to make him well. And since those who promise benefit are always believed…

Poorly-deployed pretentiousness and the virtuosity typical of an upside-down carnival were spotted by both Alberto Toscano - who saw in Grillo the deeds of the infamous Braggadocio - and Saul Newman, who paralleled the lively spectacle of the raucous clown from Genova to that of the Pope of Fools, namely Victor Hugo’s repugnant Quasimodo. (...)

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