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Vol. 3 No. 1 (2023): Contingency, Unpredictability and Law in Psychic and Collective Development

For an anthropology of permanent risk: Madness and crisis of civilization in Ernesto De Martino's research

April 8, 2023


My contribution intends to present an analysis of the relationships that exist between the anthropology of Ernesto De Martino and some of the most important currents of psychology and psychopathology of the twentieth century. De Martino's anthropology is characterized by total attention to the problem of the risk of slipping into mental pathology, which corresponds to “naturalization”. The crisis can affect both the individual (the "presence") and an entire civilization and is a constant element of human experience, because we find it in the most primitive and rudimentary forms of life, as well as in opulent societies such as that of the Contemporary West. In the contribution we follow the evolution of the concept of "crisis" starting from De Martino's writings dedicated to the primitive world, to then move on to the works in which he analyzes the religious magical institutions of the popular world of Southern Italy. In the last part of the essay, however, the declination of the concept of crisis applied to European bourgeois society is analysed. Over time the reference to some important authors of psychopathological science (Janet, Freud, Jaspers) remains constant. With my contribution I want to try to demonstrate how, from De Martino's, or of losing the cultural references of civilization.