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.