A Hauntology of the Witch’s Re-Enchantment

James, Sophie and Cronin, James and Patterson, Anthony (2022) A Hauntology of the Witch’s Re-Enchantment. In: Enchantment In The History Of Capitalism: Work-in-Progress Programme 22-23, 2023-02-23, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/enchantment-in-the-history-of-capitalism-work-in-progress-2022-2023-tickets-450828278517.

Full text not available from this repository.


Although the living present remains entrenched in a deep sense of ‘capitalist realism’ (Fisher, 2009) whereby it is largely impossible to envisage a liveable reality without capitalism, an eerie filtrate of long forgotten and alternative belief systems, abandoned ideologies, and foreclosed fantasies linger as a ghostly structure of feeling; a collective sense that what once ‘was’ perhaps might be again. The culture industries have long poached upon this gnawing backward-lookingness and engaged in a form of “cultural necrophilia” whereby historic wonders, dramas, and curiosities – such as ‘the witch’ – are resuscitated, repackaged, and remarketed to re-enchant consumption and perpetuate consumer capitalism in the present (Ahlberg et al., 2021; Brown, 2001; Belk et al., 202l). In this paper, we interpret recurring periods of cultural fascination with the ancient pre-capitalist figure of the witch as illustrative of a market project of commodifying “generations of ghosts, which is to say about certain others who are not present, nor presently living, either to us, in us, or outside us” (Derrida, 2006: xviii). The witch – as one of these ‘ghosts’ – is never entirely present (if she ever was) though continually ‘haunts’ the present with reminders that once upon a time, long before the rational market-fundamentalist hegemony of modern secular life displaced all alternatives, there were genuinely different modes of living available to us based upon magical thinking and enchantment. By adapting Derrida’s work on hauntology, we discuss how ghosts such as the witch have been – and continue to be – reconfigured by agents of capital to afford consumers the opportunity “to recover a sense of magic, myth, specialness… in other words, (re-)enchantment” (Hartmann and Brunk, 2019: 675; Ritzer, 1999); while remaining placated with shallow consumptive pleasures and commercial simulacra of what moderno-capitalist rationalism has effaced. Through discussing market actors’ appropriation of the witch over approximately a 500-year period, we reveal how Derridean ghosts are used to engender forms of enchantment and re-enchantment that are simultaneously oppositional to the contemporary rationalised world and the totalistic cynical realism it engenders, yet also corroborative of that world’s hyper-consumerist and performative practices. From early modernity when the witch was invoked by mercantile classes to excite, galvanise, and monetise the persecution of those perceived to be a threat to inchoate capitalism; through to advanced modernity when the witch functioned as a libidinally thrilling aesthetic for burlesque dancers and other workers of the night-time economy; through to the late modern age of commodifiable online and offline neopagan leisure practices; we trace the market’s predatory reliance on ghosts for its own projects of enchantment. Reference List Ahlberg O, Hietanen J and Soila T (2021) The haunting specter of retro consumption. Marketing Theory 21(2): 157–175. Belk R, Weijo H and Kozinets R V (2021) Enchantment and perpetual desire: Theorizing disenchanted enchantment and technology adoption. Marketing theory 21(1): 25–52. Brown S (2001) The Retromarketing Revolution: l’imagination au pouvoir. International Journal of Management Reviews 3(4): 303–320. Derrida J (2006) Specters of Marx translated by Kamuf P. London and New York: Routledge. Fisher M (2009) Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? London, UK: Zero Books. Hartmann B J and Brunk K H (2019) Nostalgia Marketing and (re-)enchantment. International Journal of Research in Marketing 36(4): 669–686. Ritzer G (1999) Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Item Type:
Contribution to Conference (Other)
Journal or Publication Title:
Enchantment In The History Of Capitalism: Work-in-Progress Programme 22-23
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
11 Nov 2022 10:20
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 05:50