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Harry Potter as Religion
by Tom Whyman / Jan. 17, 2019

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Whyman, T. (2019, January 17). Harry Potter as Religion. Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/posts/harry-potter-as-24038639

[...] no religious truth actually is essentially, eternally true. Rather, as Marx's great influence Ludwig Feuerbach was pointing out in the 1840s: they are a particular ossification of the values of the society from which they have emerged – human truths, obscured by being placed in the mouth of God. This ossification makes it difficult for people to think critically about them – it gives the ideas of some other society, perhaps one from way back in the ancient past, a peculiar power over us, an alien force. We might not want to throw all these ideas away wholesale – but we need to bring them back down to earth, where we can really think about them for ourselves.

if Harry Potter becomes a new state religion. this is great

by Tom Whyman 5 years, 5 months ago

[...] no religious truth actually is essentially, eternally true. Rather, as Marx's great influence Ludwig Feuerbach was pointing out in the 1840s: they are a particular ossification of the values of the society from which they have emerged – human truths, obscured by being placed in the mouth of God. This ossification makes it difficult for people to think critically about them – it gives the ideas of some other society, perhaps one from way back in the ancient past, a peculiar power over us, an alien force. We might not want to throw all these ideas away wholesale – but we need to bring them back down to earth, where we can really think about them for ourselves.

if Harry Potter becomes a new state religion. this is great

by Tom Whyman 5 years, 5 months ago

[...] whence, after all, have the ideas of J.K. Rowling and her books emerged? From middle-class Britain – and not just any era in the history of middle-class Britain. Harry Potter is, irreducibly, a product of the End of History years: after the fall of the Soviet Union, and before the 2007-08 financial crash (the last book in the regular series was published in July 2007, two months before the collapse of Northern Rock). Years of smug certainty, where a vague progressivism and myths of meritocracy were allowed to conceal the still-entrenched injustices that the ruling class would weaponise once everything started to go wrong. Certain members of Rowling's generation – herself, of course, very much included – benefited immensely from this order, and their politics is now largely defined by their inability to recognise why it failed.

In fact: there is no principle that defines the wizarding world of Harry Potter more clearly than that of meritocracy. In the series, wizards constitute a ruling class, membership of which is precisely defined by merit – you're either magical, so you deserve to be a member of the wizarding class (no matter how evil you are), or you're not and thus you don't. The thrill of Harry Potter is not that of fighting evil wizards – it's that of being inducted to the ruling classes: from the comically dull, petty-bourgeois world of the Dursleys that Harry grew up in, to the Eton/Oxford substitute of Hogwarts, where every strange ritual seems alive with meaning. At age 11, the wizard child discovers something about themselves – that essentially, inherently, they are deserving, that they, unlike all the Muggles, have merit. That the whole of the magical world belongs to them.

But of course, this 'merit' – much like the merit which ostensibly fuels mobility in our own world – is suspiciously heritable: magic often runs in 'great wizarding families' (although these families can technically produce non-magical 'squibs') – often, magical merit looks like nothing other than having gone to the right school. [...]

so good!

by Tom Whyman 5 years, 5 months ago

[...] whence, after all, have the ideas of J.K. Rowling and her books emerged? From middle-class Britain – and not just any era in the history of middle-class Britain. Harry Potter is, irreducibly, a product of the End of History years: after the fall of the Soviet Union, and before the 2007-08 financial crash (the last book in the regular series was published in July 2007, two months before the collapse of Northern Rock). Years of smug certainty, where a vague progressivism and myths of meritocracy were allowed to conceal the still-entrenched injustices that the ruling class would weaponise once everything started to go wrong. Certain members of Rowling's generation – herself, of course, very much included – benefited immensely from this order, and their politics is now largely defined by their inability to recognise why it failed.

In fact: there is no principle that defines the wizarding world of Harry Potter more clearly than that of meritocracy. In the series, wizards constitute a ruling class, membership of which is precisely defined by merit – you're either magical, so you deserve to be a member of the wizarding class (no matter how evil you are), or you're not and thus you don't. The thrill of Harry Potter is not that of fighting evil wizards – it's that of being inducted to the ruling classes: from the comically dull, petty-bourgeois world of the Dursleys that Harry grew up in, to the Eton/Oxford substitute of Hogwarts, where every strange ritual seems alive with meaning. At age 11, the wizard child discovers something about themselves – that essentially, inherently, they are deserving, that they, unlike all the Muggles, have merit. That the whole of the magical world belongs to them.

But of course, this 'merit' – much like the merit which ostensibly fuels mobility in our own world – is suspiciously heritable: magic often runs in 'great wizarding families' (although these families can technically produce non-magical 'squibs') – often, magical merit looks like nothing other than having gone to the right school. [...]

so good!

by Tom Whyman 5 years, 5 months ago