Flying Against the Arrow

An Intellectual in Ceausescu's Romania
$55.00 / €46.95 / £40.00
Publication date: 
262 pages

Provides a panoramic view of civilization and is written in a lively and informative style that will have wide-ranging appeal. Containing a wealth of facts, Hankiss’ landmark study is based on the central role fear and anxiety have played as the organizing motives of human existence and social life.

Hankiss argues that existential security has been a major factor in the generation of civilizations, perhaps even more important than mainsteam theories of culture offered by Kant, Freud and Foucault. Hankiss covers a plethora of subjects by which he explains that, in order to mitigate fear, human beings and communities have surrounded themselves – not only with the walls of their houses and cities, with instruments and weapons, laws and institutions, but also – with the protective spheres of symbols: myths and religions, values and belief systems, ideas and scientific theories, moral and practical rules of behaviour, and a wide range of everyday rituals and trivialities. Hankiss pays particular attention to the role of symbols and symbolic systems in contemporary societies.

Fears and Symbols is an encyclopedic study that will be of interest not only across all levels of study, covering many disciplines – cultural studies, sociology, cultural anthropology, comparative religion, cultural and social history – but will also appeal to the general reader.

"There is a feeling unpleasant to the writer; namely that what is said darkens the capricious richness of life. That I used this to be the way in which I describe myself is beyond question, and yet, if the meaning is well enough expressed, the immediate body of my already shattered life is not quite there… All that cannot become intelligence is condemned to perish, which is unfair. No increase of intelligence can be achieved without a preliminary mutation in the refining of sensibility. To talk endlessly about what you have thought is vain and deceiving… When you do not believe in miracles you are likely to have a distorted vision of what a miracle is: you believe that a miracle is something which does not happen. On the contrary, what is characteristic of a miracle is its presence.”
“This is indeed a unique writing in Romanian culture, mainly owing to its quality as a moral and intellectual Bildungsroman, in effect unprecedented to this date. An exciting book, extremely inquisitive, sparkingly elegant and always freshingly invigorating.”