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Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic Paperback – September 12, 1983

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 598 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (September 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394716345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394716343
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #833,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By B. Falk on May 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this splendid, daunting, almost wicked book, Daniel O'Keefe gives us a work of unmatched scope and highly animated
scholarship about how magic operates in human societies and how it has colored history and culture from the Stone Age to the present. Drawing on
an enormous body of knowledge-sociology, anthropology, philosophy, religion, history, psychologyhe explains how magic works; describes the different categories
(medical, black, ceremonial, religious, occult, paranormal, and magical cults and sects); and demonstrates the way in which all magic, whether it be Egyptian theurgy,
Zande witchcraft, Western astrology, or the current rash of cults, is a means of the individual's defense against social pressures: against the socializing force of religion,
against collective morality-a challenge, through history, to all official versions of reality.
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Format: Paperback
I think that this is a very useful read for those who have a deep interest in magic as a social force; regardless of whether they advocate for or against magic. O'Keefe's great contribution to the discussion is that he makes and supports an overwhelming statement as to the deep rooted effect the belief in magic exercises in shaping our total culture. Where I felt he came up short is in trying to establish the idea that magic is a force that emerges from religion. I would question this notion that one has any such need to establish a 'cause and effect' relationship between the two ideas in the first place. This imposes an unnecessary dichotomy between two terms, which in reality represent the same underlying social forces. That said, he isn't the first person to do that, and any work that considers of the cultural effects of how magic is thought about in a collective sense would be required to acknowledge the effects of this prestablished dichotomy as well. In contemplating magic's deep permeation of our culture, especially as an organizing principle of society and the individual, we should be equally inclusive of our notions of religion and science in the same context. The general perception seems to have preferred to distort these forces as having an antagonistic relationship when a more clear picture might show that magic, science or religion are not static symbols and each of these have nourished the development of the others. We may ultimately be led to the conclusion that these categories all possess reciprocal and shaping effects on each other and that there is ultimately no clear, objective line of demarcation between one and the others. Any such distinctions are purely subjective and arbitrary. Nor can we suggest that any one of these represents the roots of either of the others.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an interdisciplinary-anthropological work on magic, this book is certainly unique in its scope and coverage. I'm not familiar with any other text quite like it - aside from much more focused academic studies - so it's difficult to find points of comparison. However, as a comprehensive foundational model for the role of magic in society, it's a great start. I might nitpick on theory, but this is a fine piece of scholarship.
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