Financial Capitalism, Or Legalized Usury

In the framework of financial capitalism, speculative markets dominate the economy. Finance, which in the preceding phase of capitalism was connected to production and was functional to its development, becomes autonomous and becomes an end in itself, subjugating production itself and, in general, what has been called the “real economy” (in order to distinguish it from the purely fictitious and fetishistic economy characteristic of finance).

Through the possibility of the creatio ex nihilo of money, the practice of integral speculation in the financial sphere has been encouraged; a practice which, to frame it conceptually, can be qualified as the trade of money self-referentially established as an end in itself and emancipated from any productive purpose.

An emblematic example, among the many available, is the modus operandi of the stateless financier and liberal-progressive herald of the Open Society, George Soros. In 1992, he perpetrated a speculative attack on the Italian lira and the British pound sterling, thanks to which he earned, in a single night, an immense fortune. Specifically, he borrowed ten billion pounds sterling and converted them into German marks. He waited until the pound depreciated on the markets by 15% and, at that moment, he resold the marks and obtained in exchange almost twelve billion pounds. In this way he was able to pay back the ten billion he had borrowed, with interest, and keep the rest, with a profit of about two billion pounds sterling.

What Soros did can be taken as a “textbook” example of this financial speculation which, in short, consists in “gambling” and making profits by “playing” with the difference in prices in time and space of financial instruments, commodities and currencies, without providing any added value. For speculation on the economy and on society to become hegemonic, the monopoly of currency and the complete freedom of capital are indispensable conditions. And it is with this result in mind that financial capitalism developed, especially after the end of the Bretton Woods agreements and through successive processes of financial deregulation.

Speculation, as a consubstantial element of the financial system of the “banksters” and Wall Street (or rather, “War Street”), confirms Keynes’ thesis; in his opinion, if it is not regulated, financialized capitalism is the closest thing to a casino. To be precise, it is a truly sui generis gambling house, based on a very simple rule: if it comes up heads, the banks win; if it comes up tails, the taxpayers lose. Or, to put it with the title of Sheldon Emry’s book, Billions for Bankers, Debts for the People (2017).

Some investors can easily earn formidable amounts of money in a very short time, but the majority of the population loses and the productive economy falls into ruin. This is what Susan Strange stated in her study, Casino Capitalism (1997): “For the great difference between an ordinary casino which you can go into or stay away from, and the global casino of high finance, is that in the latter all of us are involuntarily engaged in the day’s play” (p.2).

The Keynesian definition of Casino Capitalism is also convincing because, in the liberal-financial order, the objective is not to reduce risk as much as possible but, in a diametrically opposed way, it is consciously assumed, since it is the element that makes it possible to obtain enormous profits, while “generously” leaving it to others to always lose. On the other hand, the prevalence of short-term speculative activity on the financial markets—mainly in the field of automated securities trading—has exponentially increased the social irresponsibility of investments.

Such endemic irresponsibility is also due to the fact that the speculative casino of neo-capitalism is governed, in its own way, by a rigorous logic or, to paraphrase the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it manifests itself as a madness endowed with its own method, which can be condensed as follows: the more you risk, the more you stand to gain or lose. And as it corresponds to its aim of maximizing profit, exceeding all possible limits, speculative finance ventures into ever more acrobatic and risky operations, often taking advantage of savers’ deposits to create money and generate profits. This is, for example, the logic-logic of hedge funds, which speculate by borrowing money.

The mechanics of speculative finance also sets in motion a paradox worthy of note: savers, despite not wishing to take risks, entrust their savings to a bank which, au contraire, can use this wealth—without their knowledge, in fact—to embark on risky speculative operations. Among other things, it can be inferred from this that the asymmetries essential to the capitalist financial mode of valorization are also of a cognitive order: the financial institutions and the large speculation agencies have at their disposal a volume of information inaccessible to small and medium-sized investors, let alone ordinary savers.

It goes without saying that the constellation of the banking system, the financial order and the dynamics of speculation constitute—by their very essence and not by accident—an immense amplifier of social inequalities. And this is based on the very structure of financial logic, since money makes possible multiple opportunities to generate more money (Marxianly, D-D1-D2) and, therefore, whoever has more can get richer.

For this reason, the Occupy Wall Street protests, beginning in 2011, while presenting a peculiar aesthetic of impotence, had an irrefutable foundation: thanks to financial capitalism, the majority of the planet’s inhabitants have been literally expropriated of the fruits of their labor and their land by a borderless plutocratic elite minority. In technical terms, it is usually defined as “financial deepening”: a locution that indicates, on the one hand, the widespread capillary penetration of financial markets in all spheres of the world of life and, on the other, the strategy of mass impoverishment or, more precisely, the redistribution of income from the bottom up (conceived, therefore, as an essential moment of the class struggle redefined as the univocal massacre of the dominated by the dominant).

This philosophical-political thesis is corroborated by the data. It is enough to consider the fact that around 1980 (before the massive turbo-capitalist financialization), the richest nation in the world had a wealth equivalent to 88 times that of the poorest country. Well, with the arrival of the new Millennium, the disparity has risen to 270 times. It should be added that the world’s 1,000 richest individuals have a net worth slightly less than twice the total wealth of the 2.5 billion poorest people.

To bring up another relevant fact, the salaries of the top managers of large companies, in 1980, amounted on average to 40 times the average gross salary of the worker; with the new Millennium they have grown to represent between 350 to 400 times this reference. The Marxian thesis of the “centralization of capital,” enunciated in the first book of Das Kapital, seems to adhere to factual reality, especially if one considers that the dominant turbo-capitalist, liquid and post-bourgeois class currently numbers around ten million people on a planet populated by more than eight billion inhabitants.

On the other hand, it is generally known that the Western financial market is dominated by three American giants, Black Rock (which manages more than 10 trillion dollars), Vanguard (which manages about 7 trillion dollars) and State Street (which controls about 4 trillion dollars).

These globocratic giants, moreover, not only confirm the Marxist thesis of the centralization of capital but, at the same time, demonstrate how this also generates, without interruption, a consequent political centralization—the power of these financial institutions is such that they become a political force capable of placing themselves above the states and conditioning them, very often turning them into mere executors of their economic will. In fact, if the banking and financial giants revoke the confidence of the states that do not follow their economic prescriptions—usually oriented in a liberal-progressive, deregulatory and imperialist direction—then the price of their Public Debt securities will plummet. And, in this way, governments will be forced de facto to offer higher yields so that investors will decide to finance their Debt.

The fabula docet is that, thanks to the centralization of capital and the oligopolistic concentration of currency, the lords sans frontières of cosmopolitan finance exercise a practically autocratic power even over the United States and, a fortiori, over the economy of the most financially fragile countries.

It is in this same context that the way the Rating Agencies operate must be interpreted, as they reflect in their maximum expression the hypocrisy of the capitalist order and its intrinsically undemocratic essence. Rating Agencies, such as Moody’s, Fitch and S&P Global Ratings, evaluate the reliability of securities and represent, so to speak, the “barometers” of global finance. In other words, they judge whether companies and banks, public entities and states (all treated indiscriminately and with no possible escape), are in a position to pay their debts.

Leaving aside the fact that the evaluation criteria used by the Rating Agencies seem decidedly opaque and often discretionary, and that, moreover, they sometimes give rise to gross miscalculations in the attribution of their ratings (for example, they incomprehensibly assigned the famous “3 A’s” to companies such as Lehmann Brothers and Enron), their inescapable politicization must not be overlooked—i.e., the fact that, with their judgments, they are able to strongly mediatize even national states, threatening or punishing them if they dare to deviate from the neoliberal canon. The spread is the measure of a country’s credibility when it comes to paying its Debt; and so the Rating Agencies are in a position to attack states by downgrading their rating, as they do with any other company. Some have rightly coined the formula “Spread Dictatorship.” The very fact that these Rating Agencies are American makes them decidedly not very neutral with respect to the interests of US finance, not to mention, ultimately, the “incestuous” link with their clients. In short, rather than the generic finance-capitalism theorized by Luciano Gallino, we are faced with the Dictatorship of Cosmopolitan Usury as the culmination of capitalism itself.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: La Roulette in the Casino, from Monte-Carlo, by Sem; color lithograph, printed ca. 1910.

On Eating Insects, or Disgusting Globalization

For some time now, the EU has been pushing for Europeans to willingly accept larvae and insects, worms and flies in their diet—the gastronomically correct single dish, a variant of the politically correct single thought. This is a decisive moment in the deconstruction of European identities, starting from the table.

It can be affirmed that the entomophagic gesture is not only not part of the table traditions of the European peoples, but has historically almost always been the object of social repugnance. The reasons must be identified in the symbolic sphere. To tell the truth, from a purely material point of view, there are no reasons that prevent eating insects, larvae or crickets. In a “technical” sense, they are perfectly “edible.”

In terms of nutritional properties, for example, insect meat, which is very rich in micronutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids), is equivalent to red meat and poultry. And, as Harris reminds us in Good to Eat (2011), one hundred grams of African termites contain 610 calories, 38 grams of protein and 46 grams of fat. Furthermore, Franz Bodenheimer, in his study Insects as Human Food (1950), documented the existence of human “insectivores” on all major continents.

Even in terms of environmental impact, the reasons for eating insects would be “acceptable”: the “feed conversion ratio,” which establishes how many kilograms of feed are needed to produce 1 kilo of meat, is 10:1 for cattle, while for insects it is 1:1. Therefore, from ecological parameters, the advantage would be appreciable.

The same objection according to which insects, being covered by a hard substance, chitin, could be difficult for man to digest, would not be convincing: for the same reason one should not eat shrimps or some other shellfish. Even the argument that insects should not be eaten because they could transmit diseases falls apart easily, if one considers that, without proper care, also sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens can transmit them, and that, above all, through cooking and proper “cooking” (roasting, frying, baking, etc.) the problem can be solved in one case as well as in the others. In short, as paradoxical as it may seem, insects are not “dirtier” or more “infectious” than many of the animals we usually eat.

Why, then, has there always existed in Europe a deep-rooted suspicion, usually deriving in repugnance, towards entomophagy? Harris’s materialism in his Good to Eat (Op. cit.) and, in particular, his theory of “residual utility” may provide a possible hermeneutical key. In his view, it does not seem appropriate to eat those animals that are most useful when alive. This is the case, for example, of the cow in India. But also the dog of Westerners, used to carry out functions of companionship and vigilance. However, animals that are counterproductive to raise, such as the pig for Jews and Muslims, are not eaten either. If the animal not consumed does not even produce utility, then it becomes an “abomination” (as we have just said, this is the case with the pig for Jews and Muslims, unlike the cow for Indians, which, on the contrary, is considered “sacred” for its utility).

Following Harris’s reasoning, entomophagy is not among the tastes of Europeans because the advantage to be gained from the capture and preparation of insects is decidedly limited compared to that of large mammals or fish. In accordance with his theory of the “maximum profitability of food research,” Harris explains that hunters or gatherers were only interested in species that allowed them to obtain the maximum caloric return in relation to the time spent foraging. For this reason, in the tropical forest, where few large animals are found, entomophagy is profitable, in contrast to what historically occurs in Europe, where goats and sheep, pigs and poultry, fish and cows abound.

This would be another reason—Harris concludes—why entomophagy is alien to the customs rooted in the history of the Old Continent. It should be added that, not being part of European food consumption habits, insects and larvae become strictly useless and also cause harmful effects: they destroy crops (think of locusts, traditionally understood as “divine punishment”), eat our food, sting us, bite and prick. And this tidy sum of causes brings as a consequence that, even, they come to be perceived as more “abominable” than the pig can be for Muslims and Jews. In the syntax of Lévi-Strauss, they are not “good for thinking” and, moreover, only generate bad thoughts.

So why does the EU insist on making us eat something that is outside our culture, using insistent advertising campaigns and such tenacious propaganda?

We propose two interpretations, reciprocally innervated. On the one hand, there is the Social Question: from the point of view of the dominant groups (the turbo-capitalist power elite), worms and larvae, crickets and insects of various kinds could guarantee the possibility of having food at low cost for the increasingly precarious masses, offering them this resource, however fragile, to alleviate hunger. And this, for the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, from a paternalistic perspective, could prove to be of vital importance, in order to contain the explosion of conflicts and antagonisms difficult to tame that would derive from new and possible waves of hunger in the pole of the losers (hunger, as we know, is historically the first vector of insurrections).

On the other hand, there is the Identity Question: the spread of entomophagy, directed from above and ingeniously presented as a fashion spontaneously generated from below, seems to represent the non plus ultra of the processes of disidentification at the table and, if you will, also the fundamental moment of the dynamics of that deconstruction of identities and cultures, of traditions and tastes that is functional to the unlimited expansion of the commodity form and its expressive functions. The memory of the macabre coprophagous banquet staged in Pasolini’s Saló (1975) is once again prophetically instructive.

The disidentification of gastronomy strongly contributes to the more general disidentification of man in the time of his technical reproducibility, which I have dealt with extensively in Difendere chi siamo. Le ragioni dell’identità italiana (Ed. 2020).

Capitalist production gradually deprives local communities of their crop varieties, which are the result of their own intelligence developed over time to solve the problem of hunger, and replaces them with varieties dictated by the market order. It thus deconstructs food sovereignty and imposes forms of consumption that promote the industrialization of agriculture, instead of the protection of local producers and biodiversity, of traditions and typical products. The result is an accelerated degradation of the environment, a planetary homologation, a barbarization of public life, an increasingly marked asymmetry in the access to resources between the Center and the Periphery of the world.

The topic was pioneered by Jack Goody in his Cooking, Cuisine and Class (2017), where he devotes ample space to the epochal change implemented on food production after the Industrial Revolution. The genesis of an “industrial cuisine” has produced an irreversible impact on the culinary style at a global level: the progressive mechanization of production processes and the continuous technological development—explains Goody—have determined a homologation of the food diet, which has initially focused only on the West, to then proceed to run across, in cascade, the rest of the planet.

In this sense, “food de-sovereignization” does not only mean the cosmopolitization of food production and consumption, more and more detached from territories and nations, identities and cultures; it also alludes to the growing subtraction of control over food and its production from local communities and peoples.

This contributes to the loss of the relational and communal function of food and gastronomy, which is redefined as a succession of mere unstable forms for perennially isolated individuals in perpetual movement. And, at the same time, the cultural and symbolic value of the different dishes is annihilated in the name of their purely nutritional character.

“Modern man,” wrote Heidegger, “no longer needs any symbol (Sinnbild),” since everything is reabsorbed in the power of production as the only source of meaning (hence the theologomenon “the market demands it of us”). The level of enticity survives only as a background of production and traffic and, for this very reason, “all possibility and all need for a symbol disappears.” The pantoclastic fanaticism of the freemarket economy accepts no symbols other than the icons of merchandise, of gadgets and, in general, of any tautological reference to the entropic order of the civilization of markets.

From this derives the gray monotony of the indistinct, which is presented as a consumerist homologation of identities and, in turn, as the planetary triumph of the single thought as the only admitted thought. The different, who does not accept to disidentify himself and become homogeneous to the other of himself, is declared sic et simpliciter illegitimate and dangerous, violent and terrorist.

This is the essential characteristic of technocapitalism as coercion to the equal. In Heidegger’s words, “the im-posed (Gestell) puts everything with a view to the equal (das Gleiche) of the orderable, so that it constantly re-presents itself in the same way in the Equal of orderability.” In this sense, das Gleiche, “the equal” or, better still, “the homologated,” is the uniform, the disidentified, the quantitative indistinct which, serially substitutable, figures as the only profile admitted by the unlimitedly self-empowered will to power. By virtue of the processes of technocapitalist “uprooting” (Entwurzelung) and planetary homologation, everything becomes serially indistinct and usable: nothing is itself anymore, when everything is interchangeable in the form of the universal equivalent proper to alienation without borders.

Liberal-globalist nihilism first neutralizes cultures and identities (the moment of Disidentification). Then, once they have lost the capacity to resist through neutralization, it includes the disidentified in the model of global market homologation: and redefines them according to consumer micro-identities, produced ad hoc to be functional to the New World Order (moment of homologated Re-identification). This is what I have called “Neutralizing Inclusion.”

From this derives the image of the current tribe of the last men, confined in the borderless techno-space of the cosmopolis in integral reification: a single uprooted multitude, a single vision of the world, a single deculturalized culture, a single forward-looking perspective, a single falsely plural mass monologue. And, therefore, a single uniform and alienated way of eating. And also repugnant. To paraphrase Chairman Mao, Globalization is not “a gala dinner,” either.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Grangers vs Hoppers, cartoon by Henry Worrall, ca. 1874-1875.

The Crisis of 2007: The Great Financial Capitalist Swindle

Despite the seismic crisis of 2007, a question persists that is likely to remain unanswered. Colin Crouch condensed it in the title of his 2011 book, The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism: why did neoliberalism re-emerge stronger from the 2007 crisis, from which in fact it might have been expected to emerge, at the very least, weakened?

One plausible answer could be the following: the turbo-financial elites managed to make the crisis, for which they were mainly (if not exclusively) responsible, appear to have been caused by the inefficiencies of the public sector and by the Debt of the States. On this basis, by skillfully manipulating the consensus of public opinion, through the ever-zealous work performed by the intellectual clergy, the aforementioned elites managed to make the State itself—and, therefore, the Public—pay for the crisis: that is, they “generously” made wage-earners and pensioners pay for it, as if they had really been responsible for the failure of the financial system.

In this way, the capitalist system, with its asymmetrical social relationship based on bonds of Lordship and Servitude, has not limited itself to generating the poor as it has always done, but, evidently with the crisis, it forced them to subsidize the rich themselves through an authentic and genuine Economy of Swindle. Through it, it triggered concrete transfers of property and power to those who, from above, kept their resources intact and are in a position to manage credit. There is no image that clarifies the situation better than the one used by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook to title their study, The Winner-Take-All Society.

Incidentally, the fabula docet is that to assert—as the hedonistic singers of the free market paroxysmally do—that in the long run the economic system produces its own equilibrium constitutes a false position, since—as Hegel already pointed out—even the plague ceases at a given moment, but in the meantime hundreds of thousands are its victims. In addition to this argument in support of the need for political regulation of the wild beast of the market, Hegel mobilized another one: liberals make a profession of faith in individualism, but they are precisely the first to sacrifice the welfare of the individual on the altar of market power and economic equilibrium. They forget that it is not the market, as an abstract entity, but only the individual, as a particularity, who represents an end and who is the holder of rights.

In the context of the 2007 crisis, “Save the banks” was the new and indecent slogan repeated by the elites and, above all, by their politicians and intellectuals of reference. As if it were a new Aztec religion fed by human sacrifices, in the name of liberalism the resolution of all problems could wait, but the solemn call to help the banks in difficulties became the new categorical imperative to be obeyed immediately. And this was also thanks to the new imaginary spread urbi et orbi; an imaginary for which, basically, it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (fiat profitus, pereat mundus).

According to a well-established practice that is fully inscribed in the modus operandi of ideology, the masters of discourse and of the media circus chose to invert reality; and attributed the responsibility for the crisis of private finances to the State, thus laying the necessary foundations to make it possible to attack it head-on and plunder it without restraint.

The storytelling, concocted by the anesthetists of consensus and by the administrators of the superstructures after 2007, can be summarized as follows: it was the increase of the Public Debt that caused the crisis, so it is fair and necessary to claim against the State. On the other hand, the cataclysms of speculative finance and fictitious capital should not be the subject of debate, almost as if they had never happened. Moreover, the “Public Debt theorem” proves to be functional to the neoliberal processes of de-sovereignization of the national State and the contextual simultaneous transfer of sovereignty from the State (and politics) to the banking system (and the economy). In the words of Mario Draghi, maximum exponent of the global class and protagonist—as president of the ECB—of the maneuvers referred to above, “a country loses sovereignty when the level of the Debt is such that any decision passes through the scrutiny of the markets, that is, of actors who do not vote but determine the processes.”

This situation, surrealistic to say the least, was on the other hand the palpable proof, as Dardot and Laval have suggested in Guerra alla democrazia, that in the framework of neoliberalism every obstacle becomes an opportunity, every collective tragedy a triumph for the ruling elite. The financial crisis was ridden to direct the offensive against the State and against wages, against the public and, in short, against the subaltern classes that live off their own labor.

This is also the quid proprium of the neoliberal order: to ensure that the Lords of Big Business enjoy the benefits of globalization without charge, often taking advantage of a tax system that tends to zero, where the losers of globalization—the “glebalized”—are the only ones who pay the bill on behalf of all, through the iniquitous transfer of the entire tax burden onto the shoulders of poor families and the impoverished middle classes. Neoliberalism, the supreme phase of the hegemony of the ruling classes and of the new spirit of capitalism, thus presents itself also in the form of a fanatical faith and a fundamentalist religion of the capitalist economy; a faith by virtue of which—in the triumph of a credo quia absurdum deprived of transcendence—the market is always right on principle, even when it is flagrantly wrong.

The fanatical faith of economic fundamentalism, coessential to the neoliberal order, is based on an ideological naturalization of mercantile exchange, elevated to the condition of an aprioric endowment of the human mind (a natural-eternal forma mentis) and, at the same time, to a natural relational practice among individuals, conceived in turn as free-trading atoms. If, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith already posed free exchange as a quid proprium of human nature (“no one has ever seen a dog make with another dog a deliberate and fair exchange of one bone for another bone”), Milton Friedman goes further. And he ventures to extend the activity of free exchange to the very foundation of human relations: “economic activity is by no means the only area of human life in which a complex and sophisticated structure arises as an unintended consequence of the cooperation of a large number of individuals, each pursuing his own interests.”

In this sense, the formula—among those preferred by neo-liberal discourse—”working to sustain the Public Debt” means, no more and no less, than working to pay usurious interests to the financial markets, depriving the real economy of those scarce residues of wealth that the financial markets have not yet managed to “dematerialize” and make their own. The States, deprived of their sovereign currency, are forced to pay very high interests for the loans obtained in the financial markets and this determines the uninterrupted growth of the Public Debt. This, and certainly not the excessive cost of the welfare State, is the real cause of the Public Debt, whose calculated increase is intended to annihilate, in perfect neo-liberal style, the residues of welfarism and public spending, favoring the complete privatization of the world of life.

Strictly speaking, what has been said above is hardly refutable proof of Ezra Pound’s assertion that “a nation that does not want to get into debt makes usurers rage,” as well as of the vital need for nationalization of the banks in order to reduce the public debt and free itself from the auri sacra fames of the financial markets. The case of Japan remains exemplary. It has a sovereign currency and, despite having a fairly high Public Debt, is not subject to the rapacious attacks of financial speculation. In fact, on the one hand, Japan is guaranteed by its own Central Bank, which acts as “lender of last resort” and, on the other hand, 95% of the Japanese Public Debt is in the hands of the Japanese and not of speculators.

From this also follows the governmental character of the crisis: to govern by means of a crisis—one of the cornerstones of the neoliberal raison—means to manage it as a weapon for the benefit of the ruling classes who live off capital and against the dominated classes who live off labor. In effect, there is no crisis that is not exploited by capital and its servile governments to accelerate and intensify the transformation of the economy for the benefit of the dominant classes, sweeping away all still existing limits and, therefore, specifically and gradually weakening the sphere of the Public and the State.

If neoliberalism not only does not implode but strengthens, even after the continuous catastrophes it generates, it is also, because it continually manages to change the world (in the capitalist sense, of course), adapting it to the demands of the market, and exercising (also in this case in a capitalist way, that is, for the benefit of the ruling class) the hegemony theorized by Gramsci: from the Cato Institute to the Heritage Foundation, from the Adam Smith Institute to the Institute of Economic Affairs, from the Mont Pelerin Society to the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, capitalism triumphs also thanks to its cultural hegemony, that is, through the domination combined with the consensus it manages to impose on all those who, truly, should have every interest in rebelling against it.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: le Naufrage (Shipwreck), by Joseph Vernet; painted in 1772.

Gastronomically Correct: McDonald’s and Globalization of the Table

Gastronomic identity is declared in the plural, since there are many traditions at the table and each one exists in the constant nexus of mixture and hybridization with the others. Each identity exists, in itself, as a never definitive result of a process by which it intertwines or—to remain in the field of culinary metaphors—mixes with the others.

It is true that in the past, if we were to venture into the “archeology of taste,” this rich cultural plurality linked to food traditions tended, in some cases, to degenerate into forms of culinary nationalism, whereby each people considered itself to be the bearer of a sort of eno-gastronomic primacy. In this regard, some have coined the category of “gastronomic nationalism,” although in truth, even if cuisine is fundamental for drawing the political and cultural boundaries of national identities, culinary traditions never existed, originally, in a national form, being instead regional inheritances, as Mintz has shown. In any case, gastronationalist policies have also manifested themselves because of the tendency of States to use the recognition of their own food heritage as an instrument for their own politics, for their own recognition in the international arena and in the sphere of what is usually defined as “gastro-diplomacy,” thus alluding to the practice that takes advantage of the relational nature of food and seeks to consolidate and strengthen ties at the political level.

In the apotheosis of a sort of “boria delle nazioni,” as Giambattista Vico’s New Science might have labeled it, the English thought they were superior because of their roast beef, the French because of their grande cuisine—Camembert, in particular, became a Gallic “national myth”—or the Italians because of their variety, unique in the world. Very often, this plurality encouraged a fruitful desire to experience and know what was different, and thus an intercultural dialogue mediated by the food heritage of each people.

In this sense, Mennell’s study of the gastronomic difference between the English and the French, an emblem of the diversity of the two peoples, is still essential. Montanari, for his part, ventured to support the suggestive thesis according to which the identity of Italy was born at the table long before the political unification of the country took place. Moreover, Ortensio Lando, in his Commentario delle più notabili e mostruose e cose d’Italia ed altri luoghi (1548), describes with an abundance of particularities and details the gastronomic and oenological specialties of the various Italian cities and regions. And the most famous Italian cook of the 15th century, Maestro Martino, listed in his recipe book Romanesco cabbage and Bolognese cake, Florentine eggs and so many other local specialties that, in fact, were forging the Italian identity at the table.

Coherent with its ideology, global-capitalist de-imbolization finds in the suppression of enogastronomic identities and in the removal of their historical roots a fundamental moment of its own. Even the table is overwhelmed by the processes of post-identitarian and homologous redefinition essential to the rhythm of turbo-capitalist globalization.

For this reason, very often we witness the substitution of the foods in which the spirit of the peoples and of the civilization of which we are the children—red meats, cheeses, wines, local and village foods— with substitutes created ad hoc. and, more precisely, by food produced by faceless and rootless multinationals, the same ones that regularly finance the operators and agencies that “scientifically” decide what is healthy and what is not, prolonging the hegemonic connection between capitalist market and the techno-scientific system.

In this way, within the framework of the new and “indigestible” gastronomically correct order, tastes tend to become increasingly horizontal on a planetary scale, annihilating the plurality and enogastronomic richness in which the identities of peoples are rooted: if the current trend is not counteracted, a single homologated way of eating, deprived of variety and diversity, will be created, or, if preferred, a global sentire idem which will be presented as the gastronomic variant of mass consensus. Foods historically rooted in the identity heritage and traditional roots of peoples—there is, in fact, a genius gustus as well as a genius loci—will be replaced by foods without identity and without culture, integrally desymbolized, the same in all corners of the planet, as is already happening in part. This allows us to maintain that the gastronomically correct is the dietetic variant of the politically correct, just as the “single dish” becomes the equivalent of the single thought. The dominant economic order produces, in its own image and likeness, the corresponding symbolic and gastronomic orders.

Their common denominator is the destruction of the plurality of cultures, sacrificed on the altar of the monotheism of the market and the model of the individualized and homologated consumer, submissive to that “big cart” which is the successor of the Orwellian Big Brother. The pedagogues of globalism and the architects of neocapitalism, with an unprecedented dietary paternalism founded on the order of medical-scientific discourse, seek to reeducate peoples and individuals in the new gastronomically correct program, that is, in the new globalized menu that, composed of approved foods, often incompatible with the identities of the people, is presented by the administrators of the consensus as optimal for the environment and health, unlike traditional dishes, ostracized as “harmful” in all respects.

This supports, also on the food level, the thesis of the “Marxian-Engelsian” Manifesto: Capital “has stamped a cosmopolitan imprint on the production and consumption of all nations,” pushing them towards that homologation which is the negation of internationalist pluralism. Food de-sovereignization, directed in the name of gastronomically correct globalism and multinational interests, is piloted by the cynical stateless lords of profit-making, thanks also to the use of specific biological tools, such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, as well as recourse to the practices of genetic engineering. Thus, exempli gratia, one can explain the use of “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs), which genetically contaminate natural species, sabotage conventional agriculture and deprive peoples of their food sovereignty. They thus force them to depend on multinationals, which supply them with patented seeds and substances, protecting in the abstract, at the level of ideological propaganda, the health of all and, in concrete terms, the profit of a few.

According to what has been explained above, food has historically always been a fundamental cultural and, specifically, intercultural vehicle, revealing itself as the simplest and most immediate way of decoding the language of another culture, in order to enter into contact with it and its customs. The elimination of local food specificities is, for this very reason, consistent with the ongoing disintegration of any authentically intercultural relationship, replaced by the monoculturalism of consumption: the historical multiplicity of tastes rooted in tradition is replaced by the unity of ahistorical and aprospective tastes of the globalized menu. After the limitation of “what can be said and thought” through the imposition of the new politically correct symbolic order, the new regulation of “what can be eaten and drunk” is now imposed, more and more furiously, according to the hegemonic global-elitist order of the neoliberal oligarchic bloc.

If in the past, cuisine also determined cultural identities, today, especially since 1989, it tends to cancel them out. Traditional foods rooted in the history of peoples are more and more frequently replaced—because they are no longer considered “suitable”—by those delocalized and “global fusion” foods that, devoid of identity and history, give rise to an artificial and nomadic diet, uprooted and culturally vacuous, that homogenizes both palates and heads; a diet that, however—the strategists of consensus assure us—respects the environment and health.

With the unsurpassed immediate power of the image, a scene from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò (1975)—a film conceived ad hoc to be horrible and obscene, just as horrible and obscene is the consumer civilization it photographs—can be worth more than any articulate conceptual description. The scene is set in one of the most macabre “infernal circles” of which the film is composed and which, in turn, is meant to be an allegory of consumer civilization and its errors: the inmates of the Villa dei Suporti are condemned to eat excrement.

The coprophagic act thus becomes the very symbol of the market society, which daily condemns its docile and unconscious ergostuli to eat the shit connected to the commodity form, a simple and apparently banal object, which nevertheless crystallizes in itself all the contradictions of capitalist society, beginning with the one linked to the antithesis between use-value and exchange-value. Dragging Pasolini “beyond Pasolini,” that macabre and scandalous scene seems to find its further confirmation in the new gastronomically correct tendencies of the global market society that, without any violence other than the glamour of manipulation, forces its own servants to the coprophagic gesture.

Food in the age of global-capitalism is usually managed by multinationals and offshore companies, which manipulate taste and control the abandonment of everything that is plural and not modeled ex profeso by the new uprooted and flexible lifestyle. In this context, McDonald’s (the unsurpassable paradigm of “non-place,” called into question by Marc Augé—and one might also add, of “non-food”) represents the quintessential figure of gastronomic globalization and of the culinary imperialism of the single plate triumphant after 1989: a single way of eating and thinking about food, of distributing and presenting it, of producing it and organizing work, naturalizing a gesture and its conditions of opportunity in something as evident and obvious as the air we breathe.

But McDonald’s itself embodies the profound meaning of globalization also from another point of view, identified by Ritzer and expressed in his consideration that “it has become more important than the United States of America itself.” McDonald’s, in fact, represents the overwhelming power of supranational capital, today—by power and specific strength, by recognition and by attractive capacity—above the traditional national powers which, precisely for this reason, are unable to govern it and, not infrequently, are strongly conditioned by it.

That the well-known globalist fast food represents the figure par excellence of capitalist globalization seems to be supported, moreover, by the fact that the two yellow arches that form the stylized “M” of its logo are today, in all probability, more famous and better known than the Christian cross, the Islamic crescent and the American flag itself. Universal merchandising is confirmed, even iconographically, as the great religion of our present in terms of diffusion, number of proselytes and ability to conquer souls even before bodies. That is why the yellow McDonald’s arches, no less than the contoured Coca-Cola bottle, represent the symbol of globalization as “bad universalism” and, at the same time, the privileged target of gastronomic anti-imperialism.

As Marco D’Eramo emphasizes, biting into a McDonald’s hamburger may, at first glance, seem an obvious and natural gesture. With its standardized flavors, its mustard and ketchup, its pickles and onions, the same from Seattle to Singapore, from Genoa to Madrid, served in the same way and by waiters dressed in identical uniforms, the hamburger seems always and everywhere the same, almost as if, anywhere in the world and at any time, it were ready to materialize at the customer’s request; almost as if it were the natural way of eating and, for that very reason, it generated everywhere identification and a sense of familiarity.

Like the table Marx wrote about in the opening sections of Capital, the McDonald’s hamburger also now appears as an obvious and trivial object that, however, if analyzed from the point of view of “exchange value” and sociality, of the division of labor and the standardization of the way of eating, is revealing of the whole volume of meanings and contradictions that innervate the capitalist mode of production in the era of neoliberal globalization.

In this regard, the advertising slogan chosen by McDonald’s in Italy a few years ago deserves some consideration, albeit telegraphic: “It only happens at McDonald’s.” The formula promised a unique and unrepeatable experience, which is still offered, always the same as itself, in all McDonald’s around the world. Moreover, it augurs an out-of-the-ordinary experience that, in fact, coincides in everything and for everything with the increasingly widespread standardized experience of food consumption in this time of gastro-anomic globalization.

It would be quite right to identify the McDonald’s hamburger as the very effigy of globalization from any perspective from which it is observed: whether it be that of the homologation of knowledge and flavors, or that of the capitalist rationalization of the way of managing production and the social organization of labor, McDonald’s perfectly embodies the new spirit of capitalism, its combined disposition of uniformity and alienation, of reification and exploitation which, instead of receding in the name of dreams of better freedoms, become as vast as the space of the world, becoming the image of reified and low-cost happiness.

Proof of this is that, a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first McDonald’s fast-food restaurant opened in East Germany, in Plauen, where the first mass demonstration against the communist government had taken place. Such an event, on a symbolic level even before the material one, marked with strong impact the sudden transition from real socialism to capitalist globalism, from communism to consumerism.

Two typical examples of flexible globalization are intertwined in the McDonald’s diet. On the one hand, we have the presence of standardized foods, without cultural roots and accessible to all. And on the other hand, the flexible organization: a) of very fast dishes, consumed at the most diverse times of the day, b) of places conceived as non-lieux, as mere uninhabitable passing points, and c) of workers, subject to contracts with a very high rate of flexibility and low qualification.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

1968 and 1989: The Two Fundamental Dates of Turbo-Capitalism

Capitalism dialectically overcomes the antagonistic demands of the proletariat (class struggle, spirit of splitting, partisan organizations, revolutionary passion); and it does so by anesthetizing its consciousness in a consumerist sense, but also by “economizing” the conflict (since the 1970s, the proletariat fights for higher wages and not for overcoming the mode of production, thus metabolizing the ideology of capital as an ineluctable horizon). Simultaneously, capitalism overcomes the bourgeois “unhappy consciousness.” In fact, this also represents, no less than the vindicatory and potentially revolutionary antagonism of the proletariat, a contradiction within capitalism; and this above all, if we consider that the bourgeoisie: a) presents its own universalist vocation which can lead it—as in the case of Marx—to contest the historical capitalist world in which it is still the dominant class; and b) has a non-marketable valuational and ethical sphere and, therefore, ultimately incompatible with the processes of omni-mercantilization proper to absolute capitalism.

The bourgeoisie is, consequently, incompatible with absolute capitalism, just as the latter is, by its essence, irreconcilable with the bourgeois class, both on the immaterial plane (unhappy consciousness) and on the material plane (properties of the middle classes). In reality, turbo-capital presupposes the happy unconsciousness of the resilient, post-bourgeois and post-proletarian consumers, and the destruction of the material bases of the very existence of the bourgeois middle class by the work of the auri sacra fames of cosmopolitan finance and its cynical managers. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in their dialectical conflictuality, had developed within the framework of eticity in the Hegelian sense; that is, in the real and symbolic space of the solid and solidary “roots” of community life, linked to the family and the school, to the trade union and the sovereign national State.

By making the world of life precarious, mobilizing, uprooting and completely commercializing it, absolute-totalitarian capitalism provokes the “dejectification,” the annihilation of the sittlich element. It deconstructs any residual community other than the intrinsically anti-communitarian one of the ephemeral do ut des of the market. It neutralizes the family and the unions, the school and the sovereign national state. And it produces the open space of the world reduced to a market and inhabited only by uprooted and homologated consumers, without proletarian antagonistic consciousness and without bourgeois unhappy consciousness.

The post-traditional society, according to Giddens’ expression, becomes a deregulated market, in whose borderless spaces social classes dissolve in the false interclassism of “homologated consumers,” who have as many rights as they can buy. The 1968 ideology—confusing the struggle against the bourgeoisie with the struggle against capitalism—acts as a symbolic order of reference for the new absolute-totalitarian capitalism, itself 1968-ist in its struggle against any legacy of bourgeois ethical life and in its anarcho-deregulating essence. For this reason, as Michéa suggests, since 1968, the Left has been transformed into “a simple political machine destined to culturally legitimize, in the name of progress and modernization, all the forward escapades of liberal civilization.”

With 1968 came the divorce between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. The latter, from ascetic and disciplinary (i.e., bourgeois), became permissive and transgressive (i.e., post-bourgeois), along the inclined plane that leads from the rebel to the narcissist and from the revolution to the new age. The formal subsumption of the adversarial couple under capital is verified: Right and Left advance more and more towards the horizon of capital, mutually accepted as natural-eternal destiny. De-anticized and precarious, society becomes a simple consumer society, a planetary “system of needs” (Hegel) and an unlimited “commercial society” (Adam Smith); a cosmopolitan market populated no longer by citizens of nation states and by fathers and mothers, but only by competitors; competitors who, in the absence of any community spirit, relate only on the basis of the principles theorized by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations—the omni-lateral dependence of necessity and acquisitive egoism—in relation to the brewer, the butcher and the baker. Following the Hegel of Elements of the Philosophy of Right, a society stripped of the elements of “eticity” (Sittlichkeit) decays into a mere and competitive “system of needs” (System der Bedürfnisse); that is, a simple place of mercantile exchange, governed by the “unsociable sociability” of conflictual atoms that relate only to compete and exchange goods, according to what Alain Caillé has called the axiomatique de l’intérêt.

On the side of intellectual production, the “unhappy consciousness” has dissolved. And, in place of the dialectical class of the bourgeoisie, a global class has taken over that is no longer bourgeois but ultra-capitalist, inclined to frivolously accept the “polytheism of values” and consumerist lifestyles within the “iron cage” of the idolatrous monotheism of the market. It is what, in Historia y conciencia del precariado, we have called the new post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist “financial aristocracy;” it is, in short, a class that, bearer of postmodern happy unconsciousness, lives in a parasitic and usurocratic manner, exploiting the slave labor of the dominated class.

For its part, the dominated class (so far not “per se”) coincides with the aforementioned precariat, dynamic fusion of the old bourgeois middle class and the old proletarian working class. The dissolution of the alliance between the unhappy bourgeois consciousness and the struggles for the recognition of menial labor is dialectically reversed in the passive acceptance of the capitalist world frame as irreversible horizon, making its own the “sad passion” of resilience. The planetarized market society of capitalism absolutus no longer knows any social resistance (it lacks a class that contradicts its project), nor political opposition (Right, Left and Center share the same ultra-capitalist vision of the world), nor philosophical delegitimization (with rare exceptions, intellectuals, devoid of “unhappy consciousness,” are today “organic”—in the Gramscian sense—to the system in force, to its relativistic nihilism and its competitive individualism).

The proletariat was dominated but not subdued. In fact, it had its own conceptual maps, largely coinciding with those of the Left in its various historical figures, capable of unmasking class domination and proposing paths of emancipation that would lead to making the cosmos transcend capitalist morphology. On the contrary, the precariat (national-popular servant) is both dominated and subjugated. And it is so to the extent that, in addition to suffering material domination (id est, exploitation and its economic-political organization), it also endures the immaterial and ideological, guided by the same maps provided by the dominant plutocratic groups. In them, the figure of the conflict—now only apparent—between Right and Left plays a role of primary importance. In short, if in dialectical capitalism the Right was theoretically the part of the master and the Left was primarily that of the servant; in turbo-capitalism Right and Left are equally the parts through which the dominion of the master is legitimized. The servant is now represented neither politically nor culturally; i.e., he is dominated in politics and culture as well as in economics.

According to the maps of domination outlined above, “progress” is the name that the pedagogues of the new mental order of culmination of power relations assign to everything that favors the dominant pole. On the contrary, “return” (or “regression”) is the infamous qualification with which the order of the dominant discourse delegitimizes any figure of the limit or, even simply, of non-alignment with respect to the omni- enveloping advance of the commodity form and the reification of the world of life.
According to what we have explained in Minima mercatalia and in Glebalizzazione, 1968 and 1989 mark, successively, two nodal stages of the evolutionary dialectic of capitalism in its transit from the dialectical phase to the absolute. It is from 1960 onwards that we witness the mise en forme of the diverse but equally expressive processes of the Zeitgeist of the new spirit of capitalism: (a) of the eclipse of the unhappy bourgeois consciousness; (b) of the neutralization of the anti-capitalist utopia of the proletariat, now “economicized;” and (c ) of the new anti-bourgeois and ultra-capitalist physiognomy of a new Left which, abandoning Marx and Lenin, has gradually become a “radical mass party” and accepting the reasons of the new order of power relations, which has finally ended up reabsorbing it. The hodierna speculative phase is ultra-capitalist precisely because it is anti-bourgeois first (1968) and post-bourgeois later (1989).

Beyond the irreducible prismatic heterogeneity of the events that have characterized 1968 on a planetary scale, we believe—following in the wake of Preve and of what we have examined in more detail in Minima mercatalia and in Il futuro è nostro—that it is possible to identify a common expressive function. Illusorily hailed as a revolutionary process of opposition to the capitalist structure, 1968 asks to be interpreted, in a diametrically opposed way, as the foundational myth of post-bourgeois and post-proletarian absolute-totalitarian capitalism; and more precisely as the decisive transit point from the dialectical to the speculative phase. The latter is characterized by the eclipse of the two instances (as well as of their alliance) of the anti-capitalist struggle of the servant and of the unhappy conscience of the bourgeoisie and, as a whole, by the substitution of the patriarchal and authoritarian dialectical capitalism for citizen-subjects, by the current turbo-capitalism of the new liberal-libertarian power for consumers with total deregulation (the gauchiste capitalism of the “forbidden to forbid” and of the plus ultra). Exemplum sui generis of the “color revolution,” 1968 was a decisive moment of emancipation not from capitalism, but for capitalism. This was aimed at overcoming the oppositional dichotomy between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and certainly not in the direction of the “sun of the future” of a post-capitalist society governed by relations between equally free individuals, but in the direction of an individualistic liberalization of consumption and customs; and this in the framework of a new capitalism no longer inhabited by bourgeois and proletarians, with their “eticity,” with their non-marketable values and their possible emancipatory anti-capitalism, but only by post-identitarian and Robinsonian consumers, colonized by a commodity form that has now become the new raison du monde.

Since the 1960s, the Left fought against the foundations of modern bourgeois civilization, without realizing that this battle was the same one waged by the new capitalism and its aspiration for the creation of a post-bourgeois space for the unlimited free circulation of commodities, of marketized persons and of the deregulated flows of liquid-financial capital: the struggle against the bourgeois world not only did not coincide with the struggle against capitalism, but finally ended up being identified with the struggle for capitalism itself or, rectius, for its definitive empowerment through the overcoming of the contradictions inherent to the dialectical phase and, therefore, for the transition to the new post-bourgeois and post-proletarian turbo-capitalism, beyond Right and Left.

With 1989, the movement of “naturalization” of capital could be considered complete (capitalismus sive natura): capitalism becomes “speculative,” as humanity sees itself reflected in the speculum of the totalitarian world of commodities. And so it is, more and more, induced to conceive it as the only possible world, in a total desertification of the imaginary. Capitalism then comes to correspond to its own “concept” (Begriff) after having gone through and overcome its own being-other-of-itself with the antithetical-dialectical phase.

As we tried to show in detail in Glebalizzazione, the annus horribilis of 1989 coincided with the epochal date of the imposition of capitalismus sive natura, that is, of economic fanaticism and planetary classism ideologically hypostasized in inescapable destiny or in nature already forever given, neither criticizable nor transformable: there is no alternative. It is the moment of the definitive dissolution of the bourgeoisie-proletariat and Right-Left dichotomies, according to the dynamics initiated in 1968 and culminated in 1989. The subsumption of the Left under capital, which with 1968 was formal and coexisted with fragments of a Left not yet integrated, was transformed into a real subsumption as of 1989, when the Left was completely reabsorbed within the horizon of meaning of capitalism and its progressive neoliberalism. It lives it as a natural and eternal horizon, producing an endless series of anthropological profiles worthy of the “last man” described by Nietzsche and classifiable under the headings of “disenchantment,” “repentance” and “conversion.”

Along with bourgeois culture, the very contradictory presence of the Soviet Union marked a limit for capital. And, as such, it had to be overcome. The Soviet Union and the Weltdualismus it made possible (cuius regio, eius oeconomia) constituted, in fact, a real and symbolic frontier for the market economy: they signaled that this was not the only possible world, nor the only one that really existed. On the other hand, the famous “thirty glorious years” of the West, from 1945 to 1975, with almost full employment and relative prosperity, from which even the less well-off classes benefited in part, were not the gift of a still munificent capitalism with a human face. Rather, they were the necessary effect of the pressure exerted by the reality beyond the Berlin Wall, an alternative model of social justice and existence. The communism implanted behind the “Curtain” was the very image of a possible alternative, or also of the real existence of the Left—albeit in a place other than the West—and the possibility of thinking and being otherwise. With 1989, the total subsumption of the Right and the Left under capital was consummated: both, from that moment on, integrally metabolized capitalism as an ineluctable destiny and the “struggle” between the two parties was fought, from then on, in the form of competition to become worthy of implementing the mere management—sometimes to the Right, sometimes to the Left—of the reforms decided by the global class and by the mercantilist order.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

The Neo-Liberal Managerial State and NGOs

The “managerialization” of the State, imposed with arrogance after 1989, in fact corresponds to its neutralization or, more precisely, to its subsumption under the economic moment that led to the materialization of Foucault’s prophecy: “one must govern for the market, instead of governing because of the market.”

The inversion of the traditional power relationship ended up causing the transition from the market under State sovereignty to the State under market sovereignty: in complete liberal cosmopolitanism, the State is now a mere executor of market sovereignty.

Ceremonially celebrated by the new post-Gramscian Left and by its program (more and more clearly coinciding with that of the liberal elite), the abolition of the primacy of the State has contributed to liberate not the dominated classes, but the “wild beast” of the market.

In the era of the State with limited or dissolved sovereignty, the prerogative of superiorem non recognoscens is acquired in a stable and direct manner by the globalist elite of the neofeudal lord, which exercises it through organizations reflecting its interests—from the ECB to the IMF. The planetary economic has conquered the status of a power that does not recognize anything as superior.

The aforementioned private and supranational entities annihilate any possibility of addressing with public resources the dramatic and pressing social issues linked to labor, unemployment, growing misery and the erosion of social rights.

In the absence of the eticizing power of the State, the liberal-libertarian plutocratic elites openly preach and quietly practice, in their own interest, wage moderations, control of public accounts and, naturally, the sanctioning of eventual non-compliance. At the same time, they can recover everything they had lost through class conflicts, id est everything positive that in the Novecento—the century of labor and social conquests, and not only of “political tragedies” and genocidal totalitarianisms—the workers’ movement had managed to achieve: from the entry of law into the workplace to the formation of trade unions, from free education for all to the foundations of the welfare state.

Moreover, classist economic fanaticism can easily use the ideologies of the past, linked to ignominiously failed political projects, as a negative symbolic resource to legitimize itself. It can now present itself as preferable to any previous political experience, or liquidate a priori any project of world regeneration and any utopian-transforming passion, immediately assimilated with the tragedies of the twentieth century.

The proclamation of the End of History was raised, since 1992, as the ideological compendium of the world today entirely, subsumed under capital. Emblem of the destinalist philosophy of the capitalist progress of history, it succeeded in installing in the general mentality the need to adapt to the new power relations. And all this, moreover, with the awareness—cynical or euphoric, as the case may be—of having reached the end of the Western historical adventure, completed with the universal freedom of the planetary market and with humanity reduced to the condition of solitary consumer atoms, with an abstractly unlimited will to power and concretely coextensive with respect to the available exchange value.

Functional for the general alignment with the imperative of ne varietur, the postmodern demystification of the great meta-narratives proceeded hand-in-hand with the imposition of a single grand narrative permitted and ideologically naturalized in a single perspective admitted as true: the worn-out storytelling and the abusive liberal vulgate of the destinalist End of History in the post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist framework, inaugurated with the fall of the Wall and with the real cosmopolitization of the capitalist nexus of force.

Suffice it to recall here, as a concrete example drawn from our present, the role of the so-called “Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGOs). These, together with multinational and deterritorialized companies, have challenged the predominance of States. Behind the philanthropy with which these organizations claim to act (human rights, democracy, saving lives, etc.) is hidden the naked private interest of transnational capital.

Non-Governmental Organizations, in reality, claim from below and from “civil society” the “conquests of civilization,” the “rights” and the “values” established from above by the masters of the levelling globalism that “per sé fuoro” (Inferno, III, v. 39), the new financial conquerors and the custodians of the great business of the supranational market under the hegemony of private capitalist speculation.

Such conquests, rights and values are, consequently, always and only those of the competitive global class, ideologically smuggled as “universal”: demolition of borders, overthrow of rogue states (i.e., of all governments not aligned with the unipolar and American-centric New World Order), encouragement of migratory flows for the benefit of corporate cosmopolitanism, de-sovereignization, deconstruction of the pillars of bourgeois and proletarian ethic (family, trade unions, labor protection, etc.).

From this perspective, under the humanitarian veneer of NGOs, we discover the Trojan Horse of global capitalism, the tableau de bord of the cosmopolitan elite, with its ruthless fundamental rule (business is business) and its assault on the sovereignty of States.

If they are not analyzed according to the scheme imposed by the hegemony of the financial aristocracy, Non-Governmental Organizations reveal themselves as a powerful means to circumvent and undermine the sovereignty of States, and to implement point by point the globalist plan of the ruling class, in search of the definitive liberalization of the political regulation of sovereign national States as the last strongholds of democracies.

The clash between Non-Governmental Organizations and the laws of national States does not hide, as the masters of the discourse keep repeating, the struggle between the philanthropy of “love for humanity” and inhuman authoritarianism; on the contrary, we find the war between the private dimension of the profit of transnational groups and the public dimension of the sovereign States under their siege.

Specifically, for those who venture beyond the glassy theater of ideologies and assert the volonté de savoir of Foucauldian memory, on the horizon of globalization as the new scenario of the cosmopoliticized conflict between master and servant, Non-Governmental Organizations appear as the ideal instruments for the imposition of a political agenda matured outside any democratic process and exclusively protective of the concrete interests of the hegemonic class.

The latter, by the way, using the diligent work of the anesthetists of the spectacle, defames as “sovereigntist”—the umpteenth fraudulent category coined by the neo-language of the markets—anyone who does not definitively say goodbye to the concept of national sovereignty. A bastion of the defense of democracies developed within state spaces still resistant to the New World Order (which is post-democratic to the same extent that it is post-national), the objective is that the very notion of national sovereignty be ideologically degraded to an instrument of aggression and oppression, of intolerance and xenophobia.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Corrupt Legislation, mural by Elihu Vedder, in the Lobby to Main Reading Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.; painted in 1896.

Remembering Who We Are: Identity and Tradition to Resist Globalism

In the time of the “night of the world,” visions of being installed in a naive realism and flooded with high ideological doses, which dissolve the possible in the existing, prevail as the only horizon. The imposed ontology, the one functional to the dominant class, is centered on the untransformability of the order of things and, at the same time, on the primacy of the technical act, which instrumentalizes entities with a view to the infinite increase of the will to power.

As we have tried to show in Idealismo o barbarie, the first revolution consists in the change of the ontological frame of reference and, specifically, in the variation of the coefficient of inevitability. To the mystique of necessity and the absolutism of the given reality, that is to say the two ontological principles on which the hegemony of the dominant pole is founded (according to the theorem of there is no alternative), it is necessary to oppose an ontology of historical possibility. The latter must be based on a conception of being not as an unmodifiable datum, but as history and possibility, therefore capable of transformation through the process of collectively organized subjective praxis.

In conformity with the subject-objective ontology theorized by classical German idealism, the Object, far from being res separata to which the Subject must adapt (adaequatio rei et intellectus), is always mediated by the Subject itself: fatum non datur. With Hegelian syntax, it is necessary to think die Substanz als Subjekt (“Substance as Subject”), being as mediated by subjective doing. Consistent with these general ontological foundations, reality is a process in act—with Hegel, Wirklichkeit and not Realität—and does not coincide with that which simply “is”: rather, it is the sum of that which “is,” that which “has been,” and that which, from that which exists and that which has already been, “could be.” Thus, in what we would call with Marx the present “realm of strange beings to which man is subjugated,” to act means to rely on the free decision to realize the unfinished possibilities of history itself, transforming the past into a reservoir of virtualities that can be implemented through the concrete encounter between anticipatory decision and transformative praxis: in Heidegger’s words in Being and Time, “the decision, which returns upon itself and is self-transmitted, then becomes the repetition of a transferred possibility of existence,” revitalized and placed in tension with the present in which it finds itself.

The repetition of the past, therefore, is not the ritual celebration of that which no longer exists, nor the sterile seduction exercised by a past that is believed to be able to return as it was. It is, on the contrary, the active gesture of transmitting and recalling the possibilities preserved in that which has been and which can incubate multiple possibilities for the future: die Wiederholung ist die ausdrückliche Überlieferung, das heiBt der Rückgang in Möglichkeiten des dagewesenen Daseins, “repetition is the explicit transmission, that is, the return to the possibilities of being-there-that-has-been-there”. Again, with Heidegger’s syntax, Dasein (“being-there”)—both of the individual and of peoples—is a synthesis of the three dimensions: of the future of the project, of the present of the decision and of the past of the origin. And, turning now to Hegel, it is the bearer of historical consciousness and of the consciousness of contradiction as the root of being.

Even if it is different and, at times, incommensurable with respect to that of Being and Time, the subjectivity questioned by Hegel in the pages of the Phenomenology of Spirit has in common with the former the historical temporality in its tri-articulation, assumed as the very foundation of being in the world of man. The Hegelian Subject is, by its essence, the bearer of a progressive historical consciousness. It gradually conquers the historical consciousness of itself as a unitary subject, which objectifies itself in temporality according to increasingly rational forms. Such forms are, in turn, conceived in their authentic subject-objective nature of historical products, and not of given and presupposed suchness.

The conception of Substance as Subject, defined in the Phenomenology of Spirit, implies that Totality is given as the movement of its own development and that the Concept is resolved in the dynamic that makes it become truly itself; with the Phenomenology, “it is Spirit itself that moves: he is the Subject of the movement (er ist das Subjekt der Bewegung) and, at the same time, the movement itself, that is, the Substance through which the Subject passes,” which therefore exists indispensably in the dimension of time and of becoming, that is, of its history. That is precisely why the Spirit is time or, as Hegel specifies, erscheint der Geist notwendig in der Zeit, “the Spirit necessarily manifests itself in time,” as processual self-consciousness and as a series of practical objectivations.

Beyond the obvious differences, both the Dasein of Being and Time and the communitarian Subject of the Phenomenology of Spirit are equally “discharged” by the logic of the flexibilization of coessential identities to the new spirit of the de-anticized and absolute system of needs. The homo instabilis, co-originary with respect to the new made-precarious anthropological profile, cannot decide freely since, more and more ostensibly, he appears as an external and directed pawn, considered in the same way as all other commodities on demand. It does not have, Hegelianly, historical consciousness and communitarian eticity, nor, Heideggerianly, projective temporality and remembrance. It cannot enjoy a free ek-static projectuality directed to the future, condemned as it is to the precarious life that, by its essence, denies the very foundation of ek-sistence as a claimed transcendence of the present to reach desired futures.

Finally, the postmodern homo instabilis is deprived of mnestic memory and of his own historical roots. The absolute mobility to which he is condemned renders him uprooted and deterritorialized, projected in the pure ahistorical and aprospective immanence of the eternal flexible present, of which he is a nomadic and unstable inhabitant. One of the fundamental bases of Dasein, whether individual or collective, is thus deconstructed.

The “global I” of homo instabilis, deprived of memory and tradition, is therefore mutilated of soul, if we take for granted, as St. Augustine affirms in his Confessions, that sedis animi est in memoria. At the same time, the sphere of prospective and the mnestic dimension is dissolved, that is, the capacity to recall tradition and to draw inspiration from it in a projective key (“the self is memory,” Hegel reminded us). Only the mens instans survives, as Leibniz called it, the “instantaneous mind” incapable of remembering and projecting, of thinking and imagining, entirely absorbed in the reified immanence of calculation and know-how. The construction of the identities of individuals and communities is always based on the stratification of experiences, on their sedimentation in the form of memory. There is no cultural identity in the absence of historical memory. Uprooted man is deprived of historical consciousness and lives, with a necessary false consciousness, the time of flexible accumulation as a natural and eternal destiny. “The ahistoricity of consciousness is the messenger of a static state of reality,” as Adorno pointed out.

The humanism of classical civilization, expressed, for example, in Cicero’s Brutus (§ 257), is denied by techno-nihilistic barbarism: non quantum quisque prosit, sed quanti quisque sit poderandum est.

It is a question, mutatis mutandis, of the same distinction established by Kant, in the Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), between price and dignity: that which has a price—Kant explains—can be exchanged for its equivalent, while that which has no price, having no equivalent, is that which possesses only dignity.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: The Painter’s Studio, by James Digman Wingfield; painted in 1856.

Why Does Capitalism Now Prefer the Left?

The old bourgeois capitalism, in the dialectical phase, preferred the culture of the Right, with its nationalism, its disciplinary authoritarianism, its patriarchy, its alliance with the altar and its values, at that time functional to the reproduction of the mode of production.

Today, the post-bourgeois turbo-capital of globalization, of the free market and free desire, in the absolute-totalitarian phase, prefers the culture of the Left, with its celebration of anthropological deregulation and of the unlimited openness of the imaginary and of real borders, with its dogmatics of the de-sovereignization of the States and the falsely rebellious deconstruction of the old bourgeois norms. Therein lies—in Preve’s words—the “profound affinity between leftist culture and the fact of globalization.”

Right-wing capitalism, of nationalism, discipline, patriarchy, religion and compulsory military service, gives way to the new leftist capitalism—that is, to progressive neoliberalism—of cosmopolitanism, consumerist permissiveness, post-family individualism and ERASMUS as the new “compulsory military service” for the education of the new generations in the values of precariousness and nomadism, of openness and deregulated enjoyment.

The order of the hegemonic discourse managed by the heralds of the culture of the champagne-Left, on the one hand, celebrates globalization as a natural and intrinsically good reality. On the other hand, with a symmetrical movement, it delegitimizes as dangerous ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions; everything that in various ways calls it into question. However, as Preve has suggested, it would be enough to “gesturally reorient” the gaze to gain a different perspective, from below and for those from below. Instead of “globalization,” we should speak of American-centric capitalist imperialism without borders. And instead of ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions, we should speak of legitimate national and cultural resistance to the falsely humanitarian violence of capitalist globalization of misery and homologation.

It is what Nancy Fraser has called “progressive neoliberalism,” synthesizing well the honeymoon between the class fanaticism of the market economy and the liberal-libertarian instances of the “artistic critique” of the new Left referent in struggle against any figure of tradition and limit, of community and identity, of people and transcendence. The 1960s substitution of the Marxian revolutionary, who fights against capital, for the Nietzschean hooligan rebel, who transvalues the old bourgeois values, provokes this inclined plane that leads to the paradoxical present condition: “the right to reefer” and the “surrogate womb” are conceived by the neo-Left as more important and emancipatory than any act of transformation of the world, or of taking a stand against the neoliberal exploitation of labor, colonial exterminations and imperialist wars hypocritically presented as “peace missions.”

Herein lies the deception of “civil rights,” a noble title used entirely improperly by progressive neoliberalism to: a) divert attention from the social issue and labor rights; and b) lead the Left and the dominated classes to the assumption of neoliberal points of view, for which the only struggles worth fighting are those for the individualistic liberalization of customs and consumption (we repeat, “civil rights” liberal Newspeak calls them), along with the necessary export, by missile, of those rights to areas of the planet not yet subsumed under the free market and its progressive neoliberalism.

Particularly in philosophy, the relativistic and anti-metaphysical nihilism of postmodernist “weak thought” is presented idealiter as the pinnacle of anti-conformism, when in reality it is the ideal Weltanschauung to justify the foundationless society of the liberal-nihilistic globalization of the relativistic fundamentalism of the commodity form. The individualistic liberalization of lifestyles is based on the philosophy of postmodern relativism, thanks to which values and “the immutable”—to say it with Emanuele Severino—are dissolved, and everything becomes “relative,” that is, in exclusive relation to the desires of consumption of the desiring subject.

Nihilistic relativism and anti-veritative utilitarianism are the ideal forma mentis for the liberal-market cosmos, since they imply that all representations can be equally useful, as long as they do not conflict with the market and, in this way, favor it. The postmodernist Left finds its clearest expression in the philosophical work of Richard Rorty—convinced that leftist thought is based on the “ironic” deconstruction of absolutes and metaphysical foundations—and in the apparently very different thought of Slavoj Žižek, a bizarre example of “postmodern Marxism” that, in addition to transforming Marx and Hegel into trash phenomena, ends up delegitimizing resistance to Atlanticist globalization as totalitarian and terrorist.

Gianni Vattimo’s “weak thought” itself, regardless of its ultimate objectives in an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sense—otherwise in contradiction with its basic philosophical presuppositions—owes its success not least to its high degree of compatibility with the new liquid and post-metaphysical structure of capitalism. Theorizing the “weakening” of the fundamental metaphysical and truthful structures, Vattimo outlined, back in the 1980s of the “short century,” the new ideological frame of reference of absolute-totalitarian commercialism, effectively confirming Jameson’s thesis about the nature of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism.

Turbo-capitalist society is no longer based on supposed transcendent truths (Christian religion) or on correspondence with human nature (Greek philosophy). It is based, on the contrary, solely on the verification of the correct capitalist reproduction actually given. For this reason, the turbo-capitalism of the global market society expresses itself economically in utilitarianism and philosophically in relativistic nihilism. As foreshadowed by Preve and as we ourselves emphasized in Difendere chi siamo (2020), the turbo-capitalist society needs homines vacui and post-identitarians, consumers without identity and without critical spirit. And it is the leftism of sinistrash that zealously produces the ideal anthropological profile for capitalist globalization, the postmodern and “open-minded” homo neoliberalis, that is, “empty” of all content and ready to receive whatever the production system wants from time to time to “fill” it with.

In fact, post-metaphysical turbo-capitalism knows no moral, religious or anthropological limits to oppose to the integral advent of exchange value as the only accepted value: the ideal subject of turbo-capitalism—homo neoliberalis—is, then, the left-wing individual, engaged in rainbow battles for the whims of consumption and disinterested in social battles for work and against imperialism; in a word, he is the post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist Nietzschean Superman, bearer of an unlimited will of consumerist power, economically right-wing, culturally left-wing and politically center-wing. It is, to stay in the lexicon of philosophy, the realization of the “protagoric man,” whose subject—understood as a desiring individual is—πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον—”measure of all things.” Thus, politics itself becomes, for the new Left, a struggle against all the limits that in various ways hinder the realization of the subjective desires of that protagoric man.

Moreover, the Left oriented individual is the ideal subject of turbo-capital, since tendentially—let us think mainly of the generation of 1968ers—he is a figure disappointed by the proletarian and communist “illusions.” And, eo ipso, he provides a depressive psychological basis in the name of “disenchantment” (Entzauberung); almost as if he were an ideal “figure” of the Phenomenology of Spirit, historicist disenchantment; that is to say, the loss of faith in the advent of the redeemed society is dialectically invested in the acceptance—depressive or euphoric—of the planetary reification of the neoliberal order. The post-modern can rightly be understood as the fundamental figure of the rationalization of disenchantment and reconciliation with the nihilism of capital elevated to the only possible world, with the addition of the definitive decline of belief in emancipatory “grand narratives.”

For this reason, the liberal new Left also presents itself as a “postmodern Left,” the guardian of relativistic nihilism and the disenchantment of the end of faith in the great narratives of overcoming capitalism: the “strong thought,” veritative and still radically metaphysical of Hegel and Marx, is abandoned by the new Left in favor of the “weak thought” of a Nietzsche reinterpreted in a postmodern key as a sulphurous “hammerer” of values and of the very idea of truth, and as a theorist of the Superman with an unlimited consumerist will to power.

As for relativistic nihilism, which the neo-Nietzschean Left celebrates as “emancipatory” with respect to the metaphysical and veritative pretensions of the Absolutes, this is precisely the foundation of capitalist disempowerment, which turns everything relative to the nihil of the commodity form and, neutralizing the very idea of truth, annihilates the basis of the critique of falsehood and of the insurrection against injustice. Nihilism does not lead to the emancipation of the multiplicity of lifestyles, as Vattimo believes, but rather leads to the disenchanted acceptance of the steel cage of techno-capitalism, within which differences proliferate in the very act with which they are reduced to articulations of the commodity form. From this point of view, Foucault also tends to be “normalized” and assimilated by the neo-Left, which has elevated him to the category of postmodern critic of the inevitable nexus between truth and authoritarian power. And, thus, they make liberation coincide with the abandonment of any pretension to truth.

As for disenchantment, it coincides with the profile of the “last man” thematized by Nietzsche. Der lezte Mensch, “the last man,” becomes aware of the “death of God” and the impossibility of the redemption in which he had also believed, and reconciles himself with meaninglessness, judging it as an irredeemable destiny. This anthropological and cultural profile finds timely confirmation in the existential adventure of the “generation of 1968” and of Lyotard himself, the theorist of the Postmodern Condition. He lost his original faith in socialism (he was a militant of the Marxist group Socialisme ou Barbarie) and reconverted to capitalist nihilism, lived as an inescapable steel cage but with consented spaces of individual freedom (in a rigorously alienated and marketized form, ça va sans dire). For all these reasons, postmodernism remains a philosophy of the rationalization of disenchantment and, at the same time, of the conversion to the acceptance of techno-capitalist nihilism understood as an emancipatory opportunity.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Cut with the Kitchen Knife, collage by Hannah Höch (1889-1978); created in 1919.

End of the Right and the Left: Triumph of Turbo-Capitalism

Following the “adventures of dialectics,” as Merleau-Ponty called them, the transition to turbo-capitalism (or absolute-totalitarian capitalism) can be interpreted as the historical transition from a form of capitalism characterized by the presence of two classes (the bourgeois and the proletarian) to an unprecedented form of “post-class” capitalism, which is no longer distinguished by the existence of classes in the strict sense (as subjectivity in se and per se) and, at the same time, is characterized by generating maximum inequality. This evolutionary process has also determined the profound reason for the obsolescence of the Right-Left dichotomy, “two now useless words.”

By “post-classist” capitalism, i.e., literally “classless,” we should not understand a mode of production devoid of individual and collective differences of knowledge, power, income and consumption. In fact, these differences increase exponentially in the context of neoliberal cosmopolitization (whose mot d’ordre is precisely the slogan “Inequality”). But not forming, in se and per se, “classes” as conscious subjectivities and bearers of cultural and ideal differences. For as “classes,” in se and per se, neither the national-popular Servant nor the global-elitist Lord can be taken into consideration. Paradoxical as it may seem, just when (Berlin, 1989) capital begins to become more classist than ever and to give rise to more radical inequalities than those previously experienced, classes understood as groups endowed with “in-se-ness” and “per-se-ness” become eclipsed.

More concretely, the proletarians do not cease to exist, and even grow in number, because of the increasingly asymmetrical concentration of capital. But they no longer possess the antagonistic “class consciousness” and, strictly speaking, the proletariat itself becomes a “precariat,” condemned to flexibility and nomadism, to mobility and the breaking of all solid ties, according to the new systemic needs of turbo-capitalism. The bourgeois class, for its part, loses its unhappy consciousness and, along with it, also its material condition of existence. It becomes proletarianized and, since 1989, gradually plunges into the abyss of precariousness.

While the capitalist system, in its dialectical phase, was characterized by the division into two classes and two opposing political areas, it was, ab intrinseco, fragile. It was, in fact, crisscrossed by contradictions and conflict, as manifested in unhappy bourgeois consciousness, in proletarian struggles for the recognition of labor, in future-centric utopias of world reorganization, and last but not least, in the “redemptive” program of the Left (whether socialist-reformist, or communist-revolutionary). Hegelianly, capital found itself in its own being-other-of-itself, in its own self-estrangement which it had to dialectically “overcome” in order to be able to fully coincide with itself in the form of overcoming its own negation.

Capital, like the Substance about which Hegel writes, coincides with the movement of self-position and with the process of becoming other-of-itself-with-itself. It is, therefore, self-constitutive equality after the division. To say it again with Hegel, it is the becoming equal to itself from its own being-other. Its essence is not the abstract Selbständigkeit, immobile equality with oneself, but “becoming equal to oneself”: identity “with oneself” is not given, but is achieved as a result of the process. For this reason, like the Spirit theorized by Hegel, Capital can also be understood as das Aufheben des seines Andersseyn, “overcoming one’s own being other.” By developing according to the rhythm of its own Begriff, that is to say—following the Science of Logic—as an ontological reality in dialectical development, capitalism produces an overcoming of both the antagonistic classes, and of the Right-Left dichotomy and, in perspective, of any other dialectical element capable of threatening its reproduction.

In specie, this process, along the slope that runs from 1968 to 1989 and from there to the present, develops—as Costanzo Preve has shown—subsuming under capital the whole sphere of antagonisms and contestations, both from the Right (in primis cultural traditionalism and the protests of the petty bourgeoisie against proletarianization), and—above all—from the Left, whether democratic, socialist or communist (Keynesian reformism, redistributive practices, welfarism, revolutionary praxis, utopia of egalitarian reorganization of society). Right and Left are dialectically “overcome” (aufgehoben), in the Hegelian sense. And they are transformed into abstractly opposed and concretely interchangeable parts of capitalist reproduction. They appear as poles which, alternating in the management of the status quo, deny the alternative. And they deceive the masses about the existence of a plurality that, in reality, has already been resolved forever in the predetermined triumph of the articulated single party of turbo-capitalism.

For this reason, the overcoming of the adversarial Right-Left pair should be understood neither as the simple result of a “betrayal” by the leaders of the Left, nor as a subtle contemporary attempt by the radical Right to infiltrate the “world of the good guys.” It is, on the contrary, a process in actu coessential to the dialectical logic of capital development; and in synthesis, the inability to correctly interpret the real context, constitutes the error of the still generous and naive hermeneutic attempts of the old surviving Marxism; still guided by the illusory pretension of superimposing on turbo-capitalism the schemes of the previous dialectical framework now dissolved, thus falling into the theater of the absurd; a theater of the absurd on whose stage the conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continues to be represented, and consequently, the Left can be “re-founded” through a return to the unjustly forgotten past—when the naked truth is that the really existing conflict, today, is that between “above” and “below,” between “the top” of the financial oligarchy and “the bottom” of the middle classes and the workers, more and more reduced to misery.

The Left cannot re-founded itself mainly for two reasons: a) the historical framework has mutated (which, therefore, requires new philosophical-political paradigms that understand and operatively contest capitalist globalization and progressive neoliberalism); b) it harbors from its origin in a part of itself—as Jean-Claude Michéa has shown—a double fundamental vulnus: 1) the conception of progress as a necessary break with traditions and with preceding ties, i.e., the decisive element that will unfailingly lead it to adhere to the rhythm of neoliberal progress; and 2) the enlightenment individualism inherited from the Enlightenment, which necessarily leads to neoliberal competitive monadology. The defense of individual value against the society of the Ancien Règime is inverted in capitalist individualism and its monadological anthropology, just as the overthrow of traditions en bloc generates the integration of the individual no longer in the egalitarian community, but in the global market of consumer goods.

The foundation of absolute-totalitarian capitalism, in the socio-economic context, is no longer the division between the bourgeoisie on the Right and the proletariat on the Left. And it is not even, politically, the antithesis between Right and Left. The new fundamentum of global-capitalism is the non-classist and omni-homologizing generalization of the commodity form in all spheres of the symbolic and the real. Precisely because it is absolute and totalitarian, capitalism overcomes and resolves—in the capitalist sense, it is understood—the divisions that threaten in various ways its reproduction. For this reason, turbo-capitalism is neither bourgeois nor proletarian. Nor is it right-wing or left-wing. In fact, it has overcome and resolved these antitheses, valid and operative in its previous dialectical phase.

With the advent of turbo-capitalism, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are “surpassed” and “dissolved”—not “in se” and “per se,” as Hegel would say—into a new postmodern plebs of individualized and resilient consumers, who consume commodities with stupid euphoria and endure with disenchanted resignation the world subsumed under capital; that is, a world increasingly ecologically uninhabitable and anthropologically dehumanized. Hence the society of Narcissus, the postmodern god of selfies, of “self-portraits” of sad people who immortalize themselves smiling.

Similarly, Right and Left are “overcome” and “dissolved” in a bipolar homogeneity, articulated according to the now treacherous alternation without alternative of a neoliberal Right dyed in pink and a neoliberal Left dyed in blue. They do not fight for a different and perhaps opposing idea of reality, based on different orders of values and on their irreconcilable Weltanschauungen. On the contrary, they compete to realize the same idea of reality, the one sovereignly decided by the market and the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, with respect to which they now play the role of simple butlers, albeit with livery of a different color. At the top, on the control bridge, there is a new post-bourgeois and post-proletarian class, which is neither Right nor Left, neither bourgeois nor proletarian. It is the class of the cosmopolitan financial patriciate which, more precisely, is of the Right in the economy (competitiveness without frontiers and integral commodification of the world), of the Center in politics (alternation without alternative of the center-right and the center-left, equally neoliberal), and of the Left in culture (openness, anthropological deregulation and progressivism as philosophie du plus jamais ça).

In short, the transit towards the new figure of absolute-totalitarian capitalism develops along a trajectory that has accompanied us from 1968 to the new Millennium, crossing the epochemachend date of 1989. In fact, from 1968 until today, capitalism has dialectically “overcome” (aufgehoben) the contradiction which it itself had provoked in the antithetical-dialectical phase, represented by the double nexus of opposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and between Right and Left. Thus, absolute-totalitarian capitalism of today is characterized on the one hand, by the eclipse of the symbiotic link between the two instances of the bourgeois “unhappy consciousness” and the proletarian “struggles for the recognition of servile labor;” and on the other, by the elimination of the polarity between Right and Left, now converted into the two wings of the neoliberal eagle. Turbo-capital has “overcome” those antitheses, proper to the moment of the “immense power of the negative” (that is, of the being-other-of-itself), and has “subsumed” them under itself, reconquering its own identity with-itself at a higher level than in the thetic phase, as the fruit of the transit through its own self-estrangement.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Mural at Carmelo Street, in Barcelona, Spain, by the anonymous street artist, Blu; undated. The full mural.

The Orpheus Complex: The Error of Progressive Neoliberalism

As Michéa has stressed, the new Left of the rainbow is today a victim of the “Orpheus complex.” In order not to lose his beloved Eurydice forever, the singer Orpheus—as Ovid writes in the Metamorphoses (X, 50-52)—could not “look back until he had left the valleys of Avernus” (ne flectat retro sua lumina, donec Avernas / exierit valles).

At the mercy of the cult of progress (id est, of forced capitalist modernization), the neoliberal leftist Orpheus never looks back: he is convinced that the present and the future, in all spheres, can only be better than the past and tradition. he considers that every modernization, in all spheres of human life, is in itself a positive fact and, by this means, achieves reconciliation with capitalist globalization. On the other hand, on the whole, this is the liberal-progressive vision of absolute-totalitarian capital, which advances by annihilating as “regressive” every link and every limit that resists its progress; that is, its march of integral mutation of every being into available commodity and exploitable fund in the name of the infinitely empowered will to power.

Far from preserving the order of things, techno-capital is, to use Jünger’s category, “total mobilization” (totale Mobilmachung) of beings. It ceaselessly transforms the world: Progress is its founding myth. For part of the adventure of Modernity, being in favor of progress may seem a perfectly reasonable option, insofar as progress brings with it emancipation and the development of human potentialities. The mistake, however, consists in confusing progress with emancipation, insisting on implementing the former even when it acts directly against the latter, as has been increasingly evident since 1989. The unreflective adherence to the myth of progress is the error co-originary to the paradigm of the Left and—paraphrasing Engels—is absent in the “socialism of the origins”: that is why today, the recovery of socialism is necessary; that of the Left is impossible.

The original vulnus of the forces of the left quadrant—Michaéa is correct—lies in the mechanical praise of progress and modernization as such; a nucleus that necessarily leads them to reconcile (and, in fact, to merge) with the order of progressive neoliberalism and that it is not imaginable to “extirpate” from the Left’s own code. In fact, this code—Michéa writes—belongs “to the hard core of the metaphysical program of any possible Left, a program it could not renounce, even in part, without completely denying itself.” The myth of progress is the incurable disease in the paradigm of the Left; that which today determines the demand to free ourselves from the Left and its disempowering progressivism in order to resume the path of socialism as the emancipation of the oppressed classes and, with them, of the entire human race.

This hermeneutical framework explains how the Left, which was part of the real opposition to capital in its dialectical phase, becomes useless in the framework of liberal-progressive turbo-capitalism, with which it ends up merging and becoming confused. Also, by virtue of the unbreakable code of progressivism, the opposition to turbo-capitalism can no longer be from the Left (nor, obviously, from the Right), but will have to be founded on new categories, beyond the old cleavage, but nevertheless capable of metabolizing the lessons of Marx and Gramsci, and of their dialectical and socialist anti-capitalism.

The category of “progress” is, in effect, the quid pro quo that has induced the metamorphic new Left to adhere to the rhythm of neoliberal modernization. Until we say goodbye to the myth of progress—and with it to the Left—it will not be possible to pursue a project of real emancipation from capitalism, in a socialist key. This is what Christopher Lasch demonstrated, in the most argued and solid way, in The True and Only Heaven (1991): the thesis according to which “progress cannot be stopped” inevitably brings with it the thesis that “capitalist globalization cannot be stopped.”

The indiscriminate demolition of all figures of limit and tradition—typical of those who are obstinate in “maintaining the left”—does not lead to a socialist society, but to the nightmare of global capitalism; another thing, however, is the reasoned overcoming of limits and traditions that generate oppression and subjugation, such as—among other cases—the servitude of the glebe or prejudices about the anthropological superiority of presumed privileged categories. If capitalism and the Left aim at the indiscriminate deconstruction of all traditions and bonds, socialism should, for its part, selectively protect the bonds and traditions that promote human emancipation and, on the other hand, fight against those that deny it.

In the light of a different perspective, the main task, from an authentically socialist point of view, would be today the revolutionary transformation of that which opposes human emancipation and the selective preservation of that which promotes it. In other words, unlike the Left (which automatically identifies progress and emancipation, even when the former denies the latter), socialism should promote emancipatory progress and oppose disempowering progress.

For example, the neo-language complementing the processes of neo-liberal individualization sanctifies as “progress” the deconstruction of any safety net linked to welfarism or tradition, to community or bonds of solidarity; it liquidates each link in the chain and favors the idea of a society of mutually indifferent and independent atoms, interested only in competing in the arena of the deregulated free market. Would not the priority task of any socialist program be to resist this “progress”—rigorously managed by capital in its own interest—and selectively preserve social rights and class conquests? For the mentis form of the referential new Left, it would be, naturally, the umpteenth form of reactionary and populist opposition to the magnificent future of progress. But, in the light of what has been said, it should be clear in what sense—today hegemonic—there can exist a “progress” that, in relation to emancipation, manifests itself as regressive and, therefore, worthy of being fought.

The deviation consists, ça va sans dire, in accepting indiscriminately as emancipating any modernization and any break with the past, according to the “Orpheus complex.” To overcome the mistreatment and subordination of women is certainly so; but to abandon the study of the Greek language or the wage and labor conquests of the 20th century, is it in the same thing? Clearly, not every step forward is necessarily a step in the right direction. If one finds oneself on the edge of a precipice, the gesture of taking a step forward represents the least desirable and emancipatory progress that can exist. And just as there can be a regressive and counterrevolutionary progressivism, as was that of Marinetti, who theorized the need to kill the “always tedious and oppressive” book, there can also be a communism that is the enemy of progress, as fueled by that of Pasolini or, in a different perspective, that of Benjamin.

Apart from that, the blunder lies in not distinguishing between bonds that enchain and that, as such, deserve to be sacrificed, and bonds that, in a diametrically opposed way, generate freedom and emancipation, and that, therefore, must be selectively protected and preserved. The bonds that enchain, such as the asymmetrical nexus of servitude and lordship on which capital is based, demand to be broken (and instead capital declares them immutable, if not outright just and good). But the bonds that generate freedom and solidarity, such as the family or the school, the trade unions and the “ethical roots” (Wurzeln der Sittlichkeit) of civil society, must be protected (and instead capital aspires to dissolve them, calling this annihilation progress).

In short, the project of a socialist anti-capitalism today must base its program on the emancipation of man and labor, selectively accepting the progress that favors it and rejecting those that deny it.

On the side of the modern adventure—we must insist—progress and emancipation march together. And in most cases, they seem difficult to distinguish. This is precisely what Marx shows in the Manifesto, when he evokes, in a dialectical tone, the emancipatory character of capitalist progress, which is determined in the overcoming of the Ancien Régime, and in the development of modern productive forces.

The modified framework of absolute capitalism, for its part, radically distinguishes progress and emancipation, development of capital and liberation of the dominated classes: to such an extent that—to paraphrase Pasolini—the progress of capital (the “development” of the productive forces and of the corresponding socio-political nexuses) favors dis-emancipation. And it determines social and political regression, disintegrating the very conquests obtained in the framework of dialectical capitalism itself (social rights and spaces of democracy).

It is, in synthesis, the history between 1989 and our present. In the absence of a clear distinction between bourgeoisie and capitalism and between emancipation and progress, from 1968 to the present—and especially since the 1990s of the “short century”—the new Left has fought the bourgeoisie by favoring capitalism and has defended progress by fighting emancipation. The paradox is all the more striking if one considers that in essence capitalism, far from being “static” and conservative, is governed by the incessant transformation of beings and by the permanent revolution of its own conditions.

It was already clear to Marx and Engels when they wrote, in 1848, the Communist Manifesto: the capitalist mode of production lives in the incessant Heraclitean transformation of the world it has forged in its own image and likeness. Its essence lies in the infinite love of unlimited valorization, the secret norm of capital’s innate predatory drive. Unlike the preceding forms of production and social relation, which were based primarily on the conservation of the given conditions and the “unaltered maintenance of the old order of production,” capital exists by permanently revolutionizing the instruments of production and the social relations in which it is structured. It makes incessant mutation its own fundamentum. The total mobilization of beings is its inescapable basis, consistent with the accelerated cycle of the production and circulation of commodities. The only transformation it does not tolerate is, naturally, that which aims at transcending it and generating new and different forms of production and existence.

If the progressive overcoming of the power relations of the pre-modern world was, eo ipso, emancipatory, turbo-capitalist progress as it has unfolded since 1989 is dialectically posed as intrinsically dis-emancipatory and, therefore, worthy of being combated in a socialist key. The principal of the illusions du progress—as Sorel earlier qualified them—and of their religious and intransigent faith resides, in the last instance, in becoming the foundation of the legitimization of the existing, in the form of a dogmatic guarantee according to which what we are today we can continue to be tomorrow in an enhanced form. The ideology of progress, that is to say, of ordered growth according to the temporal figure of the continuum, ends up posing, in the framework of speculative capitalism, as the main obstacle to socialist revolution understood as a “leap” and as a “rupture”—in Leninist terms—of the linear evolution of market society.
It would not be a difficult task, then, to demonstrate how the triumphal march of progress, in which the “victory bulletins” sung by the left-oriented heralds of globalism follow one after the other, is accompanied by social regression and disempowerment of the popular classes. This is translated, for example, in the processes of mass individualization that are determined in the dissolution of the solid and solidary links of the “ethical roots” of society: from the family to the school, from the unions to the power of the State with the capacity to govern the animal spirits of the economy. Such “progress” favors capital and certainly not the national-popular masses of workers, who will be further weakened and deprived of forms of cooperation and protection. For example, the “progress” of the creation of the European Union has led to a hemorrhage of the rights of the working and middle classes. And the same could reasonably be said of the “progress” of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the “citadel” of social rights, Welfarist conquests and labor protections.

In short, the progressive demolition of social rights and of the Welfarist conquests, in the name of the demands of market rationality, produces “progress” only for the neo-liberal oligarchic bloc, determining, for the “people of the abysses,” growing inequality and poverty, but also the lack of growth of wages and the exponential increase of the working poor. In this regard, it is enough to recall what the economist Marcel Fratzscher showed in Verteilungskampf: Warum Deutschland immer ungleicher wird (Distribution War: Why Germany is Becoming Increasingly Unequal). Fratzscher explains that in 2016 German wages were lower than twenty-five years earlier. The triumphal advance of progress has evidently not involved the working classes of that Germany which—the spokesmen of the neoliberal order claim—is the permanent point d’honneur of progressivism and growth.

On the other hand, can we really celebrate as “progress” the trajectory that—as revealed by Luciano Gallino—led, in the first decade of the new Millennium, to the figure of 50 million poor people in the United States and, in the European Union, to no less than 120 million people (a quarter of the population) being at risk of poverty or social exclusion? Can we really automatically associate the slogan “progress” with the pictures, circulating everywhere, of the increasing number of Greeks, Spaniards and Italians who, in the very progressive neo-liberal European Union, rummage through the garbage in search of food? Or those of the homeless on the streets of the United States, the forge of the glorious progress of capital, who are trying to find shelter from the cold so as not to freeze to death? Or perhaps we would identify as “progress” labor conditions that are increasingly precarious, helpless and abandoned to the unquestioned will of the laws of the market?

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.