Brighenti, Andrea and Castelli, Alessandro (2008) Foundations: Dogville to Manderlay. Massa : Transeuropa, pp. 121-138.
In Plato’s Timaeus, the Demiurge is referred to as he who has initially ‘fashioned and shaped’ the world. In doing so, the Demiurge is guided by the most benign intentions: he wants to build a world that is as good as possible. But, in spite of those best aims, the world remains imperfect because of the intrinsic flaws of brute matter (hyle). In the idealist philosophical view, the myth of the Demiurge is taken to stage the unsettled tension between immaterial ideas – deemed to be metaphysical and superior – and matter – deemed to be limited and inferior: the tension between models to imitate and the practical application of thosemodels to reality. In the 19th and 20th century, such myth finds its translation into Simmel’s ‘conflict of modern culture’: it is the conflict between life and forms, or, in current sociological terminology, between agency and structure. All the way through, the underlying question remains the same: can humans shape their own world as if they were Demiurges? Which humans can? What are the limitations intrinsic to the brute matter of the social?
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