Enclosures’ terrifying fragility

video_button_white_dred.gifHere is a short clip from Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God, a 1972 film set in the mid-16th Century, and telling the story of Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), ‘the wrath of god’ who, consumed with visions of conquering all of South America, leads his own army down a river battling with starvation, Indians, nature and each other. The character shown in this clip is the “emperor to be” of the not-yet conquered land. He is seen here leaving the latrine on the raft just seconds before sitting at a table, making a pompous pronouncement about him taking owneship of the surrounding land, and then signing a dirty piece of paper, the evident proof of his newly acquired property. I love this clip! It captures a moment of the institutionalisation of enclosures, and reveals it so damned fragile and almost fortuitos, a fragility underlined by Aguirre’s subtle comment to the emperor-to-be. Yes we know of course, behind this fragility of the moment of acquisition, there is the long social process that keeps acquisition in its place and turn it into a continuous precondition to capital. The characters of the film are not lucky however, and will all perish doomed by their own obsessions.

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