Archiv für Februar 2009

Der Mythos vom „orientalischen Despotismus“

Die europäische Mythos von der „orientalischen Despotie“ entstand in der Zeit der Aufklärung:

The fantasy of Oriental despotism seems to be ruled by the maximum distance in relation to our European reality, yet at the same time strangely close. It is geographically far removed, and its features, as different as possible from those of our own society, seem to be permeated with an uncanny quality (…)
Those features are remarkably obstinate and inflexible through a great number of discourses and over a considerable span of time: subjects who abase themselves before a despot, the sole possessor of all political power; their total compliance with the despot’s whimsical will a their utter deindividualization (…) a political order which functions without any attempt at legitimacy, without the regard for the will or welfare of the people (…) the unfathomable structure of the despot’s court, with the seraglio at its centre, displaying a highly codified hierarchy of viziers, janissaries, mutes, dwarves, eunuchs, and countless despot’s wives; and last but not least, the immense sexual lust, the supposed boundless jouissance at the core of this institution, the despot’s endless copulation with an endless number of women. This world seems to be politically insane, rationally untenable, economically catastrophic, morally outrageous, monstrous in any human terms presenting an image of infamy and degradation, the very negative of our own society.
To be sure, it is obvious that this fantasy, elaborated down to the smallest detail, does not correspond to any Asian reality. It is easy to expose the unreliability of sources, the use of highly dubious hearsay, the blatant partiality and prejudice of the authors, their meticulous reports on things which they, by their own account could not possibly have witnessed (…)


Mit der Warnung vor dem drohenden Despotismus konnten die verschiedenen politischen Strömungen ihre jeweiligen Gegner diffamieren:

The despotic fantasy served as an ideological weapon at the time of the Enlightenment, a handy weapon to strike the opponent, a warning and a constant inner peril. The rising bourgeoisie could denounce the proponents of the old order as riddled with the despotic disease, bearers of an irrational privilege and perpetuators of slavery. The aristocracy could present democratic demands as an extension of despotic levelling, soulless deindividualization, loss of rank and distinction.

Auch heute noch erfreut sich dieses Konzept großer Beliebtheit und ist keineswegs verschwunden:

One may think that the fantasy of despotism, displayed in such a bare and naive form at the time of the Enlightenment, at the dawn of our fundamental social and subjective structures, is obsolete today, in so far as we have access to better information which restrains and curbs the fantasy. This is obviously not so. New impersonations easily spring up, from the more extreme cases of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Gaddafi’s Libya and Khomeini’s Iran to the general persistent depiction of the Arabs, ‚Muslim fundamentalism‘, the bizarre habits of the Japanese, and so on, the still unfathomable Oriental Other.

Aus: Mladen Dolar Introduction to: The Sultan’s Court. European Fantasies of the East (Alain Grosrichard).