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History of Shit by Dominique Laporte.

9780262621601

Title: History of Shit.
Author: Dominique Laporte.
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, history, politics, linguistics, economics, sociology.
Country: France.
Language: French.
Publication Date: 1978.
Summary: The book uses an idiosyncratic method of historical genealogy to show how the development of sanitation techniques in Western Europe affected the formation of modern notions of individuality. Laporte examines this influence through the historical processes of urbanization, the apotheosis of nationalism, practices of capitalist exchange, and linguistic reform.

My rating: 8/10.
My review:


♥ It is apparent that socialization is regularly subverted by the politics of waste. To touch, even lightly, on the relationship of a subject to his shit, is to modify not only that subject’s relationship to the totality of his body, but his very relationship to the world and to those representations that he constructs of his situation is society.

♥ Power in its naked state is revolting, as are all those things tied to a vile and earthly trade (money, blood, sex). Why do the hard links that shackle the subjects of Western institutions to a centralist power perform so flawlessly? Why do they impede all fantasies of abolishing the State and serve instead to prolong its grip? Because the State is understood as pure and inviolable, as capable of purifying the most repulsive things - even money - through the touch of its divine hand.

♥ The privé, the disgusting place where one’s little business is stealthily carried out while one rub’s one’s hands, becomes literally the place of primitive accumulation. It is the home of that small heap of shit which the subject tends to, maintains, even cherishes. The State, on the other hand, is the Grand Collector, the tax guzzler, the cloaca maxima that reigns over all that shit, channeling and purifying it, delegating a special corporation to collect it, hiding its places of business from sight. The State devises fines for proprietors who transgress laws ordering them to settle their affairs behind closed doors - those who, by letting the shit fly out their window onto the street, might confirm the suspicion that “all this does not smell very good.”

♥ While business is conducted, the State looks elsewhere; it is disinclined to dirty itself with either the blood of Christ or the shit of commerce.

♥ Pontius Pilate - that consummate Prophet of Roman Law - only became one by washing his hands in the basin of the State. Thus cleansed, he attached himself to the power of its pure order and the reign of its law that he both uttered and ushered in. This is the real reason the Christian West regards him as a stain on its memory: his act came too close to exposing power’s latent image, to developing the negative of the State - the rotted reverse of the golden coin embossed with a vestal virgin. Moreover, as a ministerial representative of the conquering State, he was not in a position to administer purity. When dipping into the law, he could only bathe himself, not baptize others.

♥ ...even bloodstained or filthy money betrays nothing and stands for everything.

♥ The ideal hygienist dream quite clearly contains a compulsive need to eradicate human smell and the “olfactory animal” that man had once been. Civilization despises odor and will oust it with increased ferocity as power strives to close the gap between itself and divine purity. This ferocity reaches its peak when imperialism punishes color. Smells have no place in the constitutive triad of civilization: hygiene, order, and beauty. In the empire of hygiene and order, odor will always be suspect. Even when exquisite, it will hint at hidden filth submerged in excessive perfume, its very sweetness redolent of intoxication and vice.
Tags: 1970s - non-fiction, 20th century - non-fiction, 3rd-person narrative non-fiction, business and finance, french - non-fiction, history, linguistics, my favourite books, non-fiction, philosophy, politics, sociology, translated
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