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.

Practical Policies for a Distributist Economy

Part One.

Distributists want as many people as possible to own the means of their production. A farmer should own the farm, a baker should own the bakery, and factory workers should own the factory. But how do we bring this about? Anyone from a libertarian to a socialist may identify as a distributist, agreeing on the end goal but disagreeing completely on what will get us there. So answering “how?” is the key to any distributist politics. I argue that once we get past the false dilemma of government intervention, we must pursue three lines of progress: countering capital concentration, directly distributing capital, and expanding the commons.

The Question of Government Intervention

The first disputed question between distributists is: how much should the government intervene in the economy so as to bring about the distributist goal?

This is a meaningless question. Government intervention is what every economic system is composed of! Of course the libertarian wants to say that a truly free market with all goods and services owned privately and traded voluntarily is a state of minimal government involvement. But this is an illusion. Private property itself is a government program. You own property only to the extent that the government says you do. You may claim to own your coat, but if I file suit claiming the coat belongs to me and the court decides in my favor, then the coat is mine even if you continue to illicitly possess it. Even such minor instances of private property are a government program.

This is even more clear in the case of large assets like vehicles and real estate where ownership is established directly by government in the form of title documents, and all the more so for fictitious entities such as corporations, whose very existence depends completely on the government. So a “free market” is not “free” of government intervention. Just the opposite: it is constituted through and through by government interventions. Distributists, then, should seek the most effective and just forms of government intervention to achieve their goals, and should repudiate objections that doing so is coercion, theft, or giving power to the State. The real question is: in what ways should the government intervene in economic life?

Countering Capital Concentration

Distributism is not “nice capitalism”. It is bluntly anti-capitalist. But what I mean by capitalism is not “free markets and entrepreneurialism.” That is just a market economy. Capitalism is the system where a class of people are paid simply to own the means of production. Not paid to develop or utilize capital, nor to allocate itwisely; just paid to be the person who is on some government form somewhere listed as the owner. Distributism would have all capital owned by the people who use it: by the workers, and ideally in as small and local units as possible.

But how do we dismantle capitalism without lopping off heads? Can we radically change our world without the violence and chaos of revolution? As explained above, private property is a government program, so we begin by looking at how government creates capitalism in order to see how we should dismantle it.

Any free market economy is going to tend toward the concentration of wealth: specifically and most importantly of capital. As businesses compete inevitably some will out-compete others and acquire their capital and their market share. Smaller numbers of companies continue to compete and consolidate, gaining competitive advantage through economy of scale as they go. This trend is accelerated by capitalism which demands that the consumer pay 5-10% more than the cost of production. That portion goes to ownership, which increases the owners’ share of national wealth year by year. Occasionally concentration gets disrupted here and there by luck, by technological change, and by exceptionally skilled or ruinous management. Still, the overall trend of wealth concentration is inevitable and unquestionably proven by all historical evidence since the beginning of capitalism. Let’s find the apparatuses set up by the state to enable and protect this concentration, and reroute them toward widespread distribution.

If you’ve ever tried to create a company more complex than a sole proprietorship, you’ve seen that the state has detailed rules about who in the partnership, LLC, or corporation has what rights and what responsibilities, and who gets what in the event of dissolution. It could just as well be written into all business law that the state and the employees must get some equity and/or profit share in any business.

I’m the founder and current sole owner of a business. I realize how much effort and risk and how little reward a founder often sees in the first few years of a company. That should be compensated. Our economic well-being depends on the entrepreneurial drive and it should be incentivized. But it does not follow that the founder of a successful company naturally “deserves” a lifetime (much less his descendant’s lifetimes!) of increasing income just because his name is on the charter.

The workers who build and maintain the company deserve their share of the success. Distributists believe every worker should own the means of his own production. We could simply require that all employees get a share of annual profit, and any employee who stays at a company more than a few years starts accruing equity in the company. Couple this with increased worker protections so that employers can’t just fire employees to prevent them from getting equity, and eventually the company becomes (at least to a significant degree) employee owned. In an age when unions continue to shrink, this would empower employees to have some say in the conditions of their employment while giving them more of a stake in their company’s success.

For larger companies, I’d suggest they should also be partly publicly owned. Our original corporations were created by the government to provide some public benefit, such as the transcontinental rail roads, that purely private business would never undertake. There was an understanding that these corporations were to serve the public good, not just their shareholder’s private financial interests.

Perhaps it’s too late to go back to that form of the corporation, but we could turn the purely financial drive of corporations to the public good by having a significant part of the shares of any publicly traded company automatically go to a sovereign wealth fund. The income generated by the sovereign wealth fund would provide public goods such as infrastructure, health care, education, or direct income. A sovereign wealth fund ensures that the public benefits from the profitability of that part of the private sector most dependent on government support.

We’d also do well to consider limiting corporations’ ability to own property in multiple states, and certainly in multiple nations. Part of the reason our government must to be so large is because business is so big (thanks to government enabling). By limiting the geographic reign of corporations we could scale back the level of government needed to regulate them.

States cannot stand up to national corporations because those corporations wield enormous economic power over states. They are able to play one state off of another to see who can cut regulations and taxes most, sacrificing good governance for the sake of procuring the corporation’s favor. Thus ten thousand small acts of different businesses have the unintended result of growing the centralized, federal government because they are the only ones left to direct the market as the corporations require.

We now see this race to the bottom in the service of capital on a global scale. Yet there is no natural reason a New York corporation must be able to buy a factory in South Carolina, or an American corporation buy a factory in Honduras; it only happens because the state and federal governments choose to allow and enable it. Limiting corporations to smaller geographic areas would allow smaller governments to regulate them, and would open up space for smaller businesses to compete with them.

Countering capital concentration is the negative side of the distributist program. It is an ongoing necessity, but in itself it only provides the open space for widespread ownership. The ground is tilled but the seed must be planted and watered. [Next] I will describe how we can continually replenish an ownership society through distribution of capital and expanding the commons.

Part Two

Directly Distributing Capital

Countering capital concentration is only half the solution to the distributist goal of widespread capital ownership. The positive half is actually getting capital into the hands of each worker. I’ve already identified one way to do that – mandatory equity for all employees. The American Solidarity Party supports worker-owned cooperatives, but an employee equity mandate would give that support real teeth. Worker ownership is not just a nice idea, it’s a requirement of justice.

We can also distribute capital to individuals directly by transfer payment. A substantial bit of real capital should be provided to every adult at the beginning of their career. It’s nice to be born into a family business that you learn as you grow, and then help take over as an adult. But that’s not a realistic opportunity for most children, and wouldn’t be for those born to parents in worker-owned cooperatives either. If every citizen had, say, $50,000 seed money available for use pending approval, using something like the same process as loan approval but with no repayment needed, everyone would have an opportunity to launch into an ownership economy without usury. Even if it were used on a prudently considered home purchase, this would allow stability of place and economic freedom to resist the forces of capitalism that turn people into atomized wage slaves.

Free post-high school education and training would lift a heavy burden from the working and small-business owning classes, and it would widely distribute one of the most useful forms of capital. “Human capital” (a problematic phrase, but makes sense when talking about skills and qualifications rather than about people) is especially valuable in a distributist sense because it can never be alienated from the worker: you can’t sell off your welding skills to pay for a kidney transplant. Wherever you may need to travel, that training accompanies you, and your employer must pay enough to access it.

This sort of capital distribution is especially amenable to cheap, local-scale solutions. Currently professional accreditation programs (i.e. universities) have become a sort of cartel designed to create scarcity and drive up costs, thus supporting a massive industry of accreditation suppliers, and a constrained class of accredited elites. This drives up the costs of all kinds of professional services (medicine being the most obvious). And it keeps many talented people out of the most respected and high paying vocations. The state has participated heavily in creating this state of affairs, and it could do much to reverse it. We probably all know more than one disgruntled philosophy or English MA who can’t find an academic job, but who could lead a book discussion more worthwhile than any intro-level Gen-Ed class in a seven hundred student lecture hall.

The Saxifrage School in Pittsburgh was (as far as I know it is currently stalled out) an attempt to create an accredited asset-free college program. The idea was students would meet with instructors in public spaces such as libraries and coffee shops. The professors would be free-lancing, so the only expense would be paying for the professor’s time and the administrative cost of the program. The government could facilitate and fund such decentralized educational programs as they do state schools. Everyone who wants to get two years of liberal arts and/or two years of vocational training (white or blue collar) should be able to get it for free, and we could do it a lot cheaper than the current university system by using existing resources in our own communities.

Expanding the Commons

In our agrarian past ‘the commons’ was land available to all for grazing, hunting and gathering fuel. The commons provided a resource for people who had lost all private property, enabling them to survive and get back on their feet. We should expand the concept and the content of the commons in ways suitable to our modern context. I think we can turn some expensive goods into public goods provided to all free of charge. We already do this with many of the goods businesses depend upon, like roads, fire fighting, crime prevention, trade regulation, and primary research. Let’s do more of the same for workers. What are expensive goods that don’t work well as market commodities which we could add to the commons?

I’ve already explained why and how post secondary education should be added to the commons. Let me reinforce that bit by noting that education is often bought with little to no price-based rational analysis. No 18-year old knows if $100,000 of debt is worth it, nor are they likely to make a prudent decision at that age anyway. And frankly parents are hardly in a better position to make the evaluation, even the few who are in a position to pay. It just doesn’t make sense for education to be a market based commodity. Prices become distorted by lack of information, prevalence of irrational decision, and collusion between supplier and regulators. Rather education should be in the commons, available freely to all who can make the most of it.

Health care is another socially-created good that does not work well as a market commodity. Very few people have the resources to pay for it personally when needed, and when it is needed no one is able to make a free and rational decision about what health care to get. You’re basically the victim of a stick-up at that point. A personal anecdote: in the early days of starting my business I was providing for a wife and two kids on income of about $30,000 a year and simply could not afford health insurance. One day I received a visit from the appendicitis fairy and was rushed to the emergency room. I was never asked what treatment I wanted or told any prices, but to be honest, I would have said yes to anything, especially once the euphoria of the first dose of pain medication set in!

When I received $12,000 of bills from about six different providers, I was lucky enough to negotiate major reductions and assistance on all of them except the anesthesiologist. When that bill went to collections I had many entertaining conversations with debt collectors arguing about whether we should negotiate the price after the fact. Considering that when service was rendered I was on death’s door, under the influence of drugs and had no recollection of being offered a choice of services or told their price, I thought we could make a deal. Those conversations ended only when I was doing well enough to just pay the bill in order to save my credit score. A more prudent person, foreseeing this possibility, would never have started my business. They would have chosen a job with Monsanto, something which offered health insurance. We can change that calculus. Free universal health care would allow many more workers to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs or just be independent homesteaders without the fear of losing employer provided health insurance. And it would allow small business owners to survive, both literally and financially, a surprise injury or illness. We should stop hedging about this as a ‘possible option to be explored’ and fully support free universal single-pay health care.

Finally and most controversially, we should support Universal Basic Income without reservation. UBI would enable employees to stand up for better pay and working conditions because they can hold out longer during a strike or period of unemployment. It would enable entrepreneurs much more freedom to strike out on their own, sustaining them during the lean start-up years that crush many new businesses. It would support homesteaders on the path to economic independence. And for the unsuccessful business owners who lose their personal capital to bad luck or poor management on the first try, UBI would give them a surer way to build up capital and try again, wiser for the experience.

Although as distributists we should want wage labor to be a minimal part of the economy, there will always be a role for it, especially as a way for new workers to enter the economy before they become long term owners in their own business. UBI would allow the wage labor market to be a truly free market. No one would be coerced into taking an exploitative job by material need, and businesses would not have to pay an arbitrary minimum wage. If, say, we had a UBI equivalent to $10/hr full time (or whatever covered the necessities of a modest but decent life), a business could offer $2/hr for an unneeded but valued greeter position. That would allow someone who has few skills a chance to participate in work life and improve their financial situation through their own effort. At the same time no one would be forced to take demeaning or grueling jobs at low pay simply because they lack the credentials for more respectable and high paying work. With a UBI we might find that a business has to pay just as much to get someone to clean the toilets as to design the website. Our current system values white-collar work at the real expense and dignity of blue-collar workers. But manual labor, be it cleaning the toilets or raising children, is what allows the website designer to work at all. The world has existed without website designers; we cannot survive as a species without waste management. UBI would make us acknowledge the real value of all jobs, as opposed to our current system which artificially inflates some while denigrating others.

In these two posts I’ve laid out some concrete policies distributists should advocate to bring about the goal of widespread capital ownership. We should counter capital concentration by mandating public and employee equity in corporations and by limiting companies’ ability to own property; we should directly distribute capital through mandated employee equity, transfer of funds for capital purchase, and free education; and we should expand the commons to include education, health care and universal basic income. Some of these ideas might seem distant and far-fetched, but it is only by boldly naming our destination and then taking the first incremental steps directly towards it that we will ever arrive.

Zebulon Baccelli is a father of five in rural western Pennsylvania. He runs a business selling organic produce grown by a local community of Amish farmers. The Baccellis are active in their Byzantine Catholic church community and in a Catholic-Orthodox home school cooperative. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Imago Dei Politics.

Featured: Reapers, by Edith Hume; painted ca. 1890.

Denying the Spirit of the Age

It seems that in contemporary Christian thought, and particularly among Catholics, the spirit of the age is received without ever being filtered, as if it had always been there. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many of those who profess to think take seriously what the spirit of the age whispers to us when it asserts that, in the West, we live in a perfectly neutral public space, which imposes nothing on us, so that, strictly speaking, the spirit of the age does not exist: it is just an empty place where everyone is equally entitled to speak. Secondly, there is a large faction of Christian intellectuals for whom criticism of the West is unacceptable, in the sense that such criticism is, in essence, immoral. These distant heirs of Christian democracy believe that, since liberal democracy is the absolute good, politically speaking, and the West is populated by liberal democracies, there is nothing to say about the spirit of the age other than to congratulate themselves on the fact that it is heading steadily in the right direction. Finally, there are all those—and there are many—for whom, Christianity having once strayed into the camp of “reaction,” there is no salvation except in instinctive reverence for “progress” and whatever presents itself as such, whether this automatic adherence to the past is a means of atoning for the past, or whether it reflects a genuine conviction that the Western world is moving in the right direction and that it is moving a little more in the right direction every day.

Thus, with the exception of the meagre cohort of “fundamentalists” for whom the present age has a pact with Hell, as has every age for the past two centuries, there is no one within the sphere of Christian intellectuals to actually question our times, to question the profound forces at work in them. This absence is all the more surprising given that, from the point of view of religion in the West, our era is not just any era—it is the moment when the Christian framework of our societies is collapsing almost everywhere, even though, until the 1960s, this framework was still relatively solid. Even if, in this field, which ultimately concerns the secrets of souls, we are not overly fond of statistics, it has to be said that whatever the variable we take into consideration—Sunday Mass attendance, for example, or the number of baptisms—we are witnessing in Western countries, and in those that have joined the West in recent decades, such as the countries of Eastern Europe, a spectacular decline which, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, has often taken the form of a collapse.

Such spiritual tectonic movements are rare in history. In fact, to find the equivalent, we would probably have to go back sixteen centuries, when, following the conversion of emperors, the populations of the Roman Empire became predominantly Christian in the space of a few decades. Thus, from a religious point of view, we cannot pretend that our time is a banal era in which nothing significant is happening. And yet, as in Edgar Poe’s short story, ” The Purloined Letter,” the evidence of the radical and massive de-Christianization of the West that is literally before our eyes is of little interest to theologians and other Christian thinkers. This general lack of interest can be explained by the reasons I mentioned above. For those who take seriously the discourse of our societies on their neutrality, their principled plurality, de-Christianization cannot be the “fault” of our Western world, by definition “benevolent” and “enlightened.”

The inability to think seriously about the link between de-Christianization and the spirit of the age is obviously not anecdotal. In particular, by failing to think seriously about this link, contemporary Western Christianity is reduced to considering that if there is massive de-Christianization in the West today, it is necessarily Christianity’s own fault: contemporary Western Christianity alone is responsible for de-Christianization. Within Catholicism, the enemy kins of conservatism and progressivism are in perfect agreement on this point. For the former, the crisis is simply the result of “going too far,” while for the latter, on the contrary, the crisis is the result of “not going far enough.” But, in all cases, the collapse is not because of the spirit of the age, which either does not exist, or is moving in the right direction—that of progress.

All these explanations, or pseudo-explanations, spontaneously agree to rule out another approach, which will be developed here. This approach postulates that the spirit of the age does indeed exist, that it differs essentially from that of earlier eras in the West, and that this spirit of the age is fundamentally hostile to Christianity. Put another way, this assertion is tantamount to declaring that a fundamental mutation has taken place in the recent history of the West—one that can also be described as a metaphysical mutation—which has tipped the West into a new spiritual universe where opposition to Christianity, far from being reduced to the anticlerical reactions of yesteryear to the “power” of the Church, constitutes a decisive element in the physis of the contemporary Westerner, so that he has no real choice as to whether or not to be anti-Christian: by nature, by his very nature, he is opposed to Christianity.

One can fight one’s nature. Some people do this remarkably well, which explains why so many genuine Christians remain in the West. Nevertheless, this struggle against one’s nature is exhausting, and requires a continuous expenditure of spiritual energy, so that one cannot go beyond the struggle against one’s nature. What is more, the decision to go against one’s nature, because of the courage and energy it requires, can only concern a minority. The vast majority prefer to let themselves go where their nature invites them, without giving further thought to the nature of their nature. This explains why Christianity in the West today is nothing more than a minority affair, with the question of the positive or negative nature of this minority status constituting another interrogation unrelated to the present reflection.

However, we cannot be satisfied with the assertion that, a few decades ago, the West underwent a metaphysical mutation that makes the current spirit of the age the natural enemy of Christianity. But we need to characterize this metaphysical mutation, to understand it in order to grasp it. When it comes to metaphysics, there is no other way forward than to question what lies at the very heart of all metaphysics—its relationship with the notion of truth. It is not just a question of the content of this notion, of what it tells us is “the true,” but also, and perhaps above all, of the status of this notion in the metaphysical galaxy that employs it. To say, for example, that the truthfulness of a thing is the sole basis of its value, the absence of which deprives the thing of all value, is to confer on the notion of truth a decisive status, since truth is, from then on, the origin of all other values. Contrary to the spontaneous belief of pure and probing souls, this determining status of truth is not found in all metaphysics. In fact, it is rare.

This intuitive perception of the notion of truth as a substantial determinant remains rooted in our representations, even our collective ones, more than we might think, since millennia-old spiritual reflexes cannot be erased in the space of a few decades. It does, however, complicate our search for the truth of the metaphysical moment we are living through, as it postulates that “modern” truth is to be found in exactly the same place as “ancient” truth—in other words, modern truth should structure all our modern values, stating what, from the point of view of Western modernity, is evil and what is good.

But this is not the case. Truth, in the modern sense of the term, is in no way located where it once was in the West. Let us take a few examples to help us understand. In the past, questions such as, “Is there a God and eternal life;” “If God is, what is the religion that expresses His Word;” or “If God is not, does Marxist-Leninist ideology provide the meaning and sense of the human adventure”—constituted the highest place of confrontation with truth, because our predecessors believed that the answer to these questions engaged human existence in its highest and most decisive form.
Today, such questions have, in practice, lost all importance. Few Westerners care whether or not there is a God, because deep down, this question seems of little importance to them. It is also revealing that, in an age confronted with the awakening of Islam and the challenges posed by this awakening, to the point of devoting numerous debates to it, not many people in the West are interested in the truth, or otherwise, of Islamic revelation, any more than they are in the truth, or otherwise, of the Christian faith. This is because the metaphysical site of truth has shifted. In earlier times, truth was an affirmative category: truth was stated as a universally valid assertion, always and forever. The consequence of this affirmative character was to separate the world and life into what was true and what was not, into truth and falsehood.

What has become of the modern order of truth? At first glance, one might think that truth has simply disappeared, so much so have the great theorists of post-modernity—Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze in particular, as well as their epigones—shown reticence towards the notion of truth, judged in turn to be “excluding,” “intolerant,” but also “old-fashioned,” even “reactionary.” In fact, the discourse of Western modernity avoids the term “truth” wherever possible, preferring instead, for example, “diversity” or “singularity.”

And yet, truth has not disappeared. Indeed, no human discourse on the world and on life can dispense with the notion of truth, because every human discourse of this kind enunciates a word which, even quite unconsciously, is based on “what is”—in other words, on truth, in relation to what is not, error, illusion; and this despite the assertion that there is only illusion, that life is an illusion. The question, then, is less that of the absence of truth than that of its formalization—that is, of the new form that truth has assumed in our world.

What is this new form? As I said earlier, truth used to be affirmation. In other words, truth was not something naturally deduced from human existence, but something that had to be said, named and proclaimed. In this respect, Descartes’ famous statement, “cogito, ergo sum” was no different from the explicitly religious assertions of the traditional Christianity of his time. In our time, on the contrary, truth does not need to be said; it does not need to be named. And if it does not need to be named, it is because it is a process.

What does “being process” mean? It means that truth, according to Western modernity, is so embedded in us that it takes on the appearance of sensible evidence. Truth needs no enunciation, because it presents itself to us as the very expression of existence, the way in which the verb “to live” gives itself to us. Modern truth is not an enunciation which, by the very fact of its enunciatory status, rejects what is not that enunciation, thus organizing the world on the basis of the two fields of truth (even if invalid) and error (even if partial). It is a process, the very process of human consciousness, which cannot be other than this process.

It is sometimes said that Western modernity is reverting to a form of “paganism.” This is not true. In paganism, or at least Greco-Roman paganism, the task of consciousness was to conform to nature, because it recognized a sacred order in nature. Modern Western consciousness, on the other hand, sets itself no such task. Being itself is enough. This is because “Western being in the world” does not seem to it to be one of the possible historical forms of consciousness’s encounter with the world. “Western being-in-the-world” is the only effective and authentic form of being-in-the-world. It is the sensible evidence.

The confrontation between the “Western being in the world” and other forms of being in the world of consciousness, whether these are earlier in the history of human civilizations, or located elsewhere, in other geographical spaces, is, from the Western point of view, absolutely not a confrontation between “representations of the world.” It is a confrontation between the obvious and what stands outside the obvious, on the side of illusion, alienation and lies. It is precisely insofar as it is conceived as a “confrontation” that this representation is linked to truth. There is evidence, which is of the order of truth, and what stands outside evidence, which dissociates itself from this order. However, evidence is not thought of, not directly at any rate, as truth. It is sensible evidence—and that is all, since that is enough. Sensible evidence does not need truth, or so it believes. It does not need truth because it is undeniable. Being undeniable, means it does not need enunciation. We do not need to name it, to describe it, to circumscribe it, because it is there, and it is in nobody’s power to prevent it from being there. It is what is, the “put there” of the world.

Because it is the “laying there” of the world, sensible evidence does not operate according to the categories of “truth” and “error.” It obeys another dichotomy: that of wisdom and folly. The wise man is the one who recognizes the evidence of the senses and instinctively accepts it as the “there and then” of the world. On the other hand, he who does not receive this evidence is not, or is only subsidiarily, in error. He is mad, since it is the very nature of madness to refuse the obvious, by claiming, for example, that it is sunny when it is actually night. This perception of the refusal of the obvious as “madness” explains why contemporary Westerners, unlike their predecessors, do not see those who contest the sensible obvious as consciences in error, to be converted, but rather as alienated consciences, to be cured. For Westerners (I am referring, of course, to those who currently determine the rules of the game in the West), the world is not divided into those who are right and those who are wrong: it is divided into wisdom, i.e., health (the West and all those who associate themselves with it) and folly, i.e., madness (the rest of the world). As for the madman, wisdom teaches us that we must try to cure him, but that if he becomes dangerous in his madness, he must be locked up: cure or lock up, that is the alternative the modern West imposes on the rest of the world.

This representation of truth as a process, as nature, making sensible evidence the only reality, enables contemporary Westerners to construct a sense of history. If, from time immemorial, sensible evidence has indeed been the only reality in the world, it has nevertheless been necessary for human beings to become aware of the evidence. Our era is the first—within the spiritual perimeter of the West, of course—to recognize and acknowledge the obvious, and is thus the highest, most enlightened epoch in human history, and the path that has brought the human caravan to our time is what we usually call “progress.” Western “progressism” is thus nothing other than the cult of the obvious, and the effort to propagate this cult, and impose it, if necessary, on those who remain resistant.

It therefore takes a real spiritual detoxification to dare question the “obvious” nature of sensitive evidence. Today, such questioning is much more difficult than it was when religious faith was called into question in earlier eras. Back then, religious faith was explicitly presented as faith, i.e., as adherence to an invisible reality which, because it was invisible, did not impose itself on the senses. Faith contained within itself, in its essence, the possibility of doubt and rejection. In our system, on the other hand, evidence is unquestionable, unless, as we have seen, one is insane. The question of its possible non-obviousness cannot and must not be asked, and it is up to each individual to control his or her reason so that it does not clash with sensible evidence. Each individual is the guardian of his or her own sanity. But to do so, he must constantly monitor himself to ensure that he does not diverge, and that he continually adheres to the sensible evidence.

The contemporary Western world has thus invented a new kind of totalitarianism, a totalitarianism that can be said to be perfect because it is not based on an external constraint—and therefore perceptible to anyone with a modicum of lucidity—but on an internal constraint, with everyone in charge of their own control and zealously participating in this function from which they can only free themselves through death. Representing truth no longer as an assertion but as a process comes at a cost: one has to constantly work on oneself to conform to the process, one has to perform. “Performing” means eliminating, as phantasms, all suggestions of the mind evoking the possibility of a beyond to the sensible evidence; it also means nurturing a relationship of enamored obsession towards what presents itself to us as sensible evidence. It means organizing ourselves to continuously enjoy the sensible.

This is the other side of the coin. Modern ideology generally presents itself as a culture of freedom, offering the subject the freedom to “realize” himself as he sees fit. But this is just an ideology. If we question it as an ideology, i.e., as an artificial and/or self-interested representation of the world, we realize that the actual reality of our concrete existences is the very opposite of the expression of this divine freedom. The reality of our world is that every individual, far from being free, is constantly assigned to the task of grasping as much of the world as possible in order to appropriate it and derive what we call “jouissance“—a term that is far from confined to the realm of sexuality.

But to understand this reversal, we must first determine what is non-obvious, what is constructed, in the relationship to sensible evidence. This representation of truth presupposes, in the first place, the existence of two entities which, despite appearances, have nothing in common: firstly, the subject, and secondly, the rest of the world.

In this day and age, you are not a Westerner if you do not believe in the subject. It is all very well to assert that the subject is manipulated, alienated, trapped by the “system,” as some on the Left claim. But even and especially those who develop a so-called “critical” theory of the subject do not question the notion of the subject, which they take for granted. On the contrary—the end of history seems to them to coincide with the effective advent of a subject finally lucid and liberated from all conditionings, who can realize his freedom with full knowledge of the facts.

But what exactly is a subject? An individual consciousness, you might answer. And indeed, each of us instinctively feels like an individual consciousness. But it would be wrong to regard this feeling as universal. One need only have studied history to realize that there are entire civilizations for which the existence of an individual consciousness seems highly problematic, the primordial “I” seeing itself not as an autonomous individual but rather as a simple, humble part of a whole—whether that whole be the cosmos or the tribe.

The question, then, is rather why we instinctively believe in the subject, to the extent that, for a Westerner, it is possible to lose everything, but inconceivable to lose one’s status as subject. Let us also consider the place that modern morality increasingly accords to the notion of the subject’s “consent” or lack of “consent” in determining crimes and misdemeanors. Let us also consider the transcendent legal status of the subject, which is like the ridge beam of all our law.

Why do we believe in the subject in this way, without knowing that we believe in it, since for us the subject is? The answer lies in our relationship with sensory evidence, or, more precisely, in the way it forces us to conceive our relationship with the world. It leads us to perceive everything as a support object. Let us explain these two terms. Object: the universe is made up of nothing but inert objects, even when they have a biological existence on the surface. Unlike earlier ages of the world, which were fundamentally structured around the distinction between sacred and profane, the contemporary West proceeds to a radical equalization of the world, making it a mere collection of objects which are, to use an expression employed earlier, simply “put there,” existing only through this status of “put there,” and which can, at any moment, be extracted from the world, without damage to themselves or to the world.

But these objects are also supports. To be a “support” means that every object, in the world and in its “place there,” is oriented. It has always been oriented towards its use—whatever that use may be. The character of “the util,” to borrow a phrase from Martin Heidegger, is the essence of the object, of every object. It is this orientation that determines the subject, who has a monopoly on detecting the utilitarian in the object, because the object is necessarily oriented towards him. The subject is thus the only one who, as a subject (it can of course be an object for another subject), distinguishes itself from all objects thanks to its ability to detect the orientation of each object.

Thus, the subject does not exist without objects, and without the representation of the world as a sum of indefinitely separable objects. If there is a subject in the West, or, more precisely, if we believe there is a subject, it is simply because the Westerner, for a long time already, but in our time with a radicalism and logical fanaticism infinitely superior to those of previous ages, sees in the world only objects oriented towards him. Because he sees the world in this way, as a vast space for the determination of supporting objects, the Westerner instinctively sees himself as a subject, since to be a subject is nothing other than to determine things in the direction of their use. As for making truth the process of adherence to sensible evidence, this is nothing other than naturalizing this representation of the world according to which each thing is only an object, and each object is only for the subject.

It is paradoxically deduced from these elements, since its official raison d’être is exactly the opposite: the subject is nothing in itself. It only comes into being through the object, and through the assignment it imposes on the object. The subject is this permanent work of assignment, and nothing else. To exist, in the contemporary West, is to be able to operate on things. It is 1) things, and 2) the ability to operate on them, that make the subject. Thus, there is no subject in itself that triumphantly emerges from history to assert its being, its power and its juridical, economic and moral value, and then begins to act on the world. The opposite is true. The subject is the product of the work of assigning things, which, by positing the thing as “the util,” generates the distinction between the oriented object and the subject that notes this orientation and takes technical, economic, psychological advantage of it.

We must now turn to the precise characteristics of this organized power over things, for at this stage of our reasoning, we are still behind the real singularity of our age. That the world is organized in such a way as to be oriented towards a subject who works on it, is something the West has been convinced of for several centuries now. The Promethean titanism of twentieth-century totalitarianism is precisely the product of this conviction. What changes in our time, however, is the nature of the orientation of things towards the subject. In the past, before the radical break of the second half of the twentieth century, the orientation of things, their use by the subject, responded to a will to power. This will to power could be technological, economic or existential in nature. Its aim was to increase the subject’s power through scientific and technical “progress,” the force of arms or the economy. Often, moreover, the subject was collective: it was a people, a civilization that projected its power through overt and explicit domination of the world of objects.

Since the great turning point of the second half of the twentieth century, the world’s orientation towards the subject has changed axis. This new axis is based on principles that are no longer governed by the will to power: the first of these principles is the notion of the singularity of the subject, which makes the aggregation of subjects impossible, so that the subject can only experience itself as a subject in a grasp of things forever distinct from that operated by other subjects. It is like a privatization, to use an economic analogy, of the notion of the subject, which of course needs to be analyzed more closely to assess its relationship with neo-liberalism, the dominant economic and political ideology of our time.

Secondly, the orientation of objects is no longer magnetized by the will to power. The modern, or post-modern, subject does not care about leaving his name in history, about expanding his being in the manner of an Alexander or a Napoleon. What he does want, however, is to derive jouissance, i.e., a sensitive interest, from each of the objects he grasps. It is a mistake, moreover, to say that the subject wants jouissance. In reality, he wants nothing conscious. Quite simply, he cannot apprehend the world in any other way than through interested jouissance. For him, the world does not exist outside this tactile grasp, just as many animals are radically incapable of understanding altruistic feelings like gratitude. The modern subject is nothing without self-interested jouissance. He cannot conceive of existence beyond this permanent search that applies to everything: sexuality, of course, but also “friendship,” “leisure,” “politics,” “culture.” All these categories are, for the modern subject, unthinkable if they do not filter through the skimmer of self-interested jouissance. In particular, we must not imagine that the modern subject could, at certain moments in his existence—for example, when he is no longer represented in society—rid himself of this obsession. For him, life is this obsession.

What remains to be understood is how jouissance is obtained. Naïve minds, shaped by our world, insist on believing that self-interested pleasure is a purely “natural” process that cannot be governed. Of course, this is not the case. Jouissance can be worked on, and not just sexually. The entire Western world is occupied by an immense amount of work that subjects impose on themselves, because this work is the necessary condition for maximizing jouissance. Paradoxically, our world, which prides itself on being free of constraints and subjection, which proclaims itself to be “free,” is governed entirely by a demand for performativity which, deep down, makes Westerners the least free of men and women. At all times, in all circumstances, we must perform in order to enjoy ourselves as much as possible. This general demand for performativity means, in particular, not to “waste time”—in the modern sense of the term, of course. Given the limited duration of a human existence, we need to choose the right opportunity at every moment, and make the most of it. This is why the ideology of free choice is so highly valued, in a world where, strictly speaking, no one freely chooses anything, because every subject is governed by the demand for performativity that imposes all his “choices” on him.

It would be a mistake, moreover, to believe in a free market-style confrontation of the respective performativities of one subject and another, giving everyone a fair chance in a game of egalitarian interactions between independent subjects. Each subject quickly understands that the surest way to force objects to move in the direction of self-interested jouissance is to control them. Firstly, because the control exercised over what is external to the subject induces, in itself, a form of jouissance. Secondly, and above all, because controlling objects is the guarantee that they will not rebel against the destination assigned to them. Everything one controls is, willy-nilly, subject to the will of the controller, the ultimate aim being to instill in the controlled the decision to go “freely” to the destination determined by the controller, to “freely” make the choice of subjection.

Control is the expression of power. Power is clearly distinct from the will to power. Power is the explicit and joyful expression of the expansion of one’s being. It certainly needs objects, but uses them as mere means and proof of its expansion. Power, on the other hand, never makes itself explicit. It never makes itself explicit because it has neither the will nor the time. It could not care less about the glory and trappings of power. Its task is constantly to control, to control better and more, and it never rises above this process of control. Thus, it is far less visible than power; it passes through subterrains, follows mysterious itineraries and revels in its invisibility, which facilitates the twists and turns of its action.

Power is the only serious passion of our time in the West. This is because power is the fundamental condition of self-interested jouissance. Every subject is obsessed, sometimes without being clearly aware of it, by the desire to constantly extend his control over things (including other subjects) and to exploit more effectively the things he controls. Power is an obsession that is obviously not limited to the political confrontation between parties. It is everywhere. It is in the couple, for example, even in the intimacy of the couple. It is also to be found in the supposedly “disinterested” expression of civil society; it is on the side of order and on the side of disorder, on the side of governments and on the side of non-governmental organizations. In this respect, it is revealing that in the feminist movement, power is the sole objective (provided, of course, that it is stripped of the verbiage of “equality” that serves as its veil). “Conquering power” and “being a woman of power” are symbols that resonate because everyone, men and women alike, knows deep down that power is the only significant issue in our world.

The passion for power determines a sociology: this sociology, however, is a little more complex than the far-left’s ritornello about the exclusive domination of capital, and financial capital in particular. Of course, financial capital is an important factor in the acquisition of power. But it is not alone. In this respect, it is rather strange that academics who regard Pierre Bourdieu’s work as their Bible or their Koran are so reluctant to draw concrete consequences from Bourdieu’s typology of capital, through the notion of “cultural capital” in particular. But perhaps they are so timid because an extensive conception of the notion of capital, including cultural capital, necessarily and mercilessly brings them back into the camp of the dominant class.

In this day and age, capital cannot be reduced to financial capital. It includes other forms of capital which, while not directly transformable into money, can easily be used to arrogate power. Let me cite two examples of these new forms of capital: cultural capital, already mentioned above, and symbolic capital. Cultural capital is the best-known: it is based on the possession of recognized but unshared knowledge, distinguishing those who know (technically or conceptually) from those who do not. Cultural capital, which is based on genuine knowledge, is the realm of the engineer and the university professor, and, more generally, of any effective and recognized specialist in a science. Symbolic capital, on the other hand, differs from cultural capital in that it is not based on scientific knowledge: it resides in the mastery of networks and signs, in tactile knowledge of what is in and what is out, or what is going to be tomorrow, in the possession of the right behavior and the right word in all circumstances of the social game, in the ability to make people believe that you belong to the ruling class, whose imposing figures you know and whose clichés and tics you know how to reproduce.

Despite appearances, symbolic capital has no claim to serious knowledge. It has no such claim because, for it, serious knowledge is of no importance. What counts, exclusively, is practical, non-conceptualized knowledge, which consists of feeling “instinctively” (this “instinct” having generally been worked on from an early age) what to do and say, who to know and who to ignore, so that the powerful of this world perceive them as one of their own, and the rest of society is convinced in turn.

To begin with, symbolic capital is linked to power, since it is nothing other than the greedy quest for power, based on the use of signs. Thus, it is only natural that, of all forms of capital, it should play an essential role in our age, since it is an integral part of the spirit of the age. As we have seen, the truth of our world is that we want power for power’s sake, if possible while pretending that we do not want it at all, that we are eminently disinterested. This is why, based on the possession of symbolic capital, a new type of bourgeoisie has emerged, one that can be described as hyper-bourgeois, because it systematizes and hypertrophies the pursuit of selfish interest that lies at the heart of the bourgeois spirit. The bourgeoisies of past centuries retained a form of restraint, which was like a retrospective tribute to the morals of the past: they considered, for example, that while interest could and should ruthlessly dominate in the world of “business,” the values of honor, duty and selflessness should continue to dominate, in the family, in social life, and wherever the icy waters of economic calculation did not prevail, to speak as Marx did.

The contemporary hyper-bourgeoisie, on the other hand, considers that the quest for selfish interest and power must reign absolutely everywhere in the social game. This is particularly true of the great symbolic languages of the human being, such as aesthetics and morality. Modern taste is not a question of taste: it is a calculated investment in the fame of a particular painter, which functions as a sign of recognition of, say, the open-mindedness, the sense of modernity, of the person who praises this fame. In this way, the work of art is not valued for its own sake, but for what it enables: the valorization of aesthetic judgment, understood as an unmistakable sign of belonging to the elite. Similarly, morality—or, more accurately, “ethics”, to use a term that is less frightening to our contemporaries—has never been so often evoked. But this is to draw, with a stroke of fire, the dividing line between consciences of what is right and what is wrong, i.e., between good and bad consciences and, from there, to distinguish between the good guys (the hyper-bourgeoisie) and the bad guys (all other classes, with a special mention for the middle and lower-middle classes). Another characteristic of modern ethics is that it is devoid of any practical consequences.

Through the use of the great symbolic languages, but also through the mastery of techniques that have nothing to do with scholarly knowledge but are organized around the conquest of power, the hyper-bourgeoisie has indeed become the dominant class of our time in the West. As such, it plays the decisive role in the production of ideologies that make jouissance and power the only true realities, the only sensible evidences and, consequently, the only horizon of our existences. The hyper-bourgeoisie is constantly working to convince the other classes of society that there is nothing beyond pleasure and power. It does this not just because it believes in it—although it fanatically adheres to the new gospel—but because this work of conviction is the basis of its own power over society. The more the hyper-bourgeoisie imposes the valorization of jouissance as a goal, of power as a means but also as an ideal form of jouissance, the more society effectively becomes a society governed by the obsession with jouissance and power, and the more the hyper-bourgeoisie sees itself confirmed in its function and enriches itself pecuniarily and/or symbolically, marginalizing older forms of capital, cultural capital in particular.

Like the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, the contemporary hyper-bourgeoisie unites a wide variety of groups, from Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial neo-capitalists to media hosts and gender or race activists. These groups ignore, envy and/or detest each other, but they all share the same solidarity of capital, which forces them, at vital moments, to unite without hesitation. Beyond appearances, they share the same representation of the world and the same interests. Their watchword and objective is identical: concern for the self, i.e., the conviction that every subject must have the ability to find himself, to emancipate himself and, in emancipating himself, to fulfill and realize himself.

In absolute terms, the search for the self, whatever name we give it, by dressing it up in the mantle of “self-fulfillment” and philosophical pseudo-“wisdom” for example, is an absurdity: as we have seen, the subject only exists through the things it appropriates to derive jouissance from them. The “self” does not exist in itself, and by virtue of the basic rules of logic, that which does not exist cannot be found. The subject is, literally, nothing; there are only souls engaged in a spiritual adventure in which they find salvation or condemnation. And yet, even if the self is a mere illusion, the quest for the self is not mere entertainment, in the Pascalian sense of the word, harmful to the soul but harmless to the world. A preoccupation with the self leads us to become ever more involved in the devastation of the world, whether material or spiritual, and to convince ourselves that there is nothing else in life other than this material or spiritual devastation, since “being oneself” simply means appropriating as much of the world as possible in order to derive as much jouissance as possible from it. The “self” is simply the addition of possessions, a compulsive hoarding of objects that we take and throw away almost immediately to turn to a new object and so on. The debilitated existence of the People, who hypertrophy this quest for possessive jouissance, is thus presented as the model of the good life and therefore the example to follow within our means.

I mentioned earlier that self-concern leads us to move from object to object in order to force them. One of the fundamental principles of sensible jouissance is its rapid exhaustion as soon as an identical object is constantly used as a support for jouissance, so that, in order to maintain an identical level of jouissance, we need to renew the stock of new objects available ever more quickly, in order to reproduce a jouissance that is also being exhausted ever more quickly, due to the phenomenon of satiation. For, paradoxically, the age of “self-care” that we are sold as an age of liberation and fulfillment is, for most people, first and foremost an age of widespread frustration. If, for the most part, the hyper-bourgeoisie, beyond the tiny stratum of the super-rich, manages to obtain remuneration levels that are more or less in line with the need for increasingly rapid rotation of objects, the other classes of society are proving incapable of keeping pace. They sink into the frustration that, in their own eyes, manifests their existential bankruptcy, i.e., their inability to reach the marvelous paradise of the subject. Their “self” is a constantly unhappy “self,” condemned to possess the object of their desire too rarely and too slowly. Far from being possession, their self is nothing but “frustration,” i.e., lack, negativity.

Despite this frustration, or rather because of it, a dynamic is set in motion. This dynamic seeks to persuade everyone that the remedy to existential frustration lies in the ever more intensive and extensive consumption of the world. To consume ever more objects, and if possible, the rarest and those once considered sacred, and at the same time to obtain ever more intense jouissance from the objects we consume—this is, this must be, in our world, the sole objective of human existence. And if, despite this consumption, frustration continues to prevail, the fault lies with the dominated classes, backward-looking and reactionary, incapable of intelligently managing the world of objects, unlike the hyper-bourgeoisie.

The goal of widespread, intensive consumption of the world is first and foremost ideological: today, in all Western countries, there is a whole literature whose sole function is to incite the “self” to be interested only in the “self,” and to conduct a continuous work of domestication of the “self” to teach it to care only about the moment, to consider the rest of the world as a mere assembly of consumer goods, and to constantly stimulate the need to consume goods, obviously indispensable to finally be “self,” and to experience the blossoming of “well-being,” and so on.

Over and above this ideology, an entire consumer economy has developed, i.e., an economic system in which consumption is the strategic variable. This strategic nature of “consumption” imposes a simple rule: the world’s consumption must constantly increase, in a mad rush, so that the frustration resulting from the consumption of goods dissolves into the desire for new goods to consume, which promise us ever greater jouissance, ever more exciting, than the previous consumption. Naturally, this promise is always, in the end, disappointed, and the system must produce, in a hysterical frenzy, ever more goods, ever faster, ever more intensely, in order to survive without being overwhelmed by the accumulation of frustrations. This mechanism has no end; or rather, it has an end, still distant, but dramatically approaching—the exhaustion of the world.

But our system, like all totalitarian systems, is not limited to the field of institutional economics. It also produces its own legal order, based on the fantasized existence of entirely free and autonomous legal subjects, whom no institution or higher principle should hinder, or simply impede, and who realize themselves exclusively through the accumulation of rights—the most powerful subject being the one who has succeeded in accumulating the maximum number of rights, in a logic in which the constant invention of new rights is essential to keep the subject occupied and give him reason to believe in his “autonomy” and “freedom.”

The field of morality, too, is entirely occupied by the logic of pleasurable consumption, through mechanisms such as the good conscience, acquired in full and forever by certain groups, and the bad conscience, which can paradoxically be the gateway to the good conscience, allowing one to enjoy one’s status as a beautiful soul and delicate conscience. And we could go on to cite many other areas of life in and out of society, i.e., in the intimate folds and recesses of the “subject,” where the mechanics of power, self-interested pleasure and obsessive consumption reign supreme, intertwined with each other.

At the end of this quick tour, perhaps we can better understand why the contemporary Western world (it being understood that one can be governed by the values of this world, while being geographically distant from it) is opposed to Christianity. This opposition is neither anecdotal nor circumstantial. It is not a rehash of the old anticlericalism. It is radical—in other words, it is in its very essence that the dominant system confronts the essence of Christianity. The economy of Western modernity is, in each of its terms, opposed to the founding principles of Christianity. This system is not obsessed with Christianity; it does not even think about it. Quite simply, in the course of its deployment, it “collides” in some way with the Christian truth that stands in its way, and needs to break this truth in order to complete its deployment, until it occupies the entirety of our world.

Let us examine the terms of the confrontation.

In the first place, and as I mentioned earlier, in our world there are and must be only the obvious and the certain. Believing in invisible truths, to use the classic definition of faith, is not an option. Why not? Because the idea of a reality that refuses to submit to the discipline of evidence and certainty instantly devalues the values of consumption and power. Something is, perhaps, and this something can only be reached through faith. In other words, such a reality introduces us to an entirely different metaphysical order than the consumption of the world—where, in our world, objects without mystery come naturally to us to be appropriated, faith commands us, on the contrary, to journey, without any certainty whatsoever, towards the invisible. Faith is consubstantial with what we call transcendence, and transcendence is unacceptable in our world, because all it takes—even the smallest possible space—is for it to reveal the alienation we impose on things, by revealing that the essence of things, or of certain things, cannot be reduced to their visibility. Our world tolerates just about everything, because in this “everything,” nothing bothers it, but it cannot tolerate transcendence. Muslims, who are unfortunately more vigilant on this point than Christians, have clearly sensed the stumbling block; that is why they resist so strongly on this metaphysical frontline, and why we should imitate them a little more in this area.

Secondly, for our modernity, there can be no soul, that is, no transcendent spiritual destiny doomed to salvation or loss. First, because time experienced as eternity does not exist; there are only instants that superimpose and fade away, so that, strictly speaking, the future, let alone eternity, does not exist. It is only an infinitely dilated present. Second, the soul has no place because there are only “selves,” that is, egoistic, closed instances, totalities that have no need of grace because they are, from the start, perfectly self-sufficient and therefore have no awareness of sin and no need of redemption. The self generates a world within itself, illusory but infinite, and exploring all the intricacies of the “self,” immersing oneself in it, probing its walls is the modern occupation par excellence, the contemporary form of entertainment, to use a Pascalian term.

Thirdly, as we have seen, the “self” does not exist as such. It only comes into existence through the continuous appropriation of things, and to do this, it needs to become power; in other words, control, concealment and manipulation. This power serves the principle of sterile accumulation, which can be likened to what the Gospels call “wealth.” The “rich man,” according to the Gospel, is the one who believes he can dispense with the Word, because in his granary he has accumulated and accumulates again and again the wheat he believes will keep him warm and plentiful for the rest of his life. It is hardly necessary to recall the many condemnations in the Gospels that accompany this figure of the rich man. Condemnations which, of course, do not happen by chance. The Good News is the opposite of the cult of accumulation: it teaches that it is, on the contrary, through the path of giving, which is both detachment and expenditure, that man succeeds in saving himself, abandoning the search for illusory worldly goods to enter the world of true goods, those that enrich insofar as they are given.

Thus, what is the Christian’s position in relation to the spirit of the world, the spirit of this world?

The prevailing response is that Christianity must adapt to our world, either because, from a Christian point of view, the values of this world are positive, or because these values are “neutral” and therefore do not stand in the way of the Christian message, or because, quite simply, this world is our world and we therefore have no choice but to act within it. But, as we have seen, this is, in any case, a pernicious illusion. There is nothing “natural” about the Western value system; it is neither “neutral” nor “positive.” It does not even offer the possibility of remaining external to it, so that we can retain our autonomy of judgment in relation to it. This value system is an arbitrary, unfolding process, not a static device. Why is it a process? Because it is never finished. The quest for power over things and people, the cult of consumerism, never has a limit, because it is always possible to go further in the exploitation of the world in the service of self-interested jouissance, just as a drug addict is never finished with drugs until he or she gets high. In the consumption of the world, there is a mechanism of jouissance and then frustration that demands ever greater consumption in order to postpone, as far as possible, the inevitable existential and economic collapse. The contemporary Western world no longer has the choice of escaping this mechanism, because it has become its lifeblood, guiding the direction of all its endeavors and justifying them. It needs to consume ever more intensely and consume ever more things to prove to itself that it is still what it says it is, a “liberation” and “progress,” and, by extension, to support itself.

Because it is a process, the Western value system wants to convert. It does not want to convert because it believes in a truth and wants to reveal it to the world. Such a concern is alien to its nature. It wants to convert because it sees itself as the logic of the obvious, and everyone must recognize the obviousness of the obvious if it is to escape any suspicion of being merely biased. This demand for conversion imposes continuous, implicit and, if necessary, violent pressure on the “I” of consciousness to conform, at least outwardly, to the new canons and gradually accept all their consequences. In this logic, there is never an armistice, never a pact, never a limit that can be set to the process; there can only be purely tactical retreats, before launching a new offensive.

How, then, is the Christian conscience to react when it is blind to the force and meaning of the process? The first thing to do is to give the process a few tokens, representing these tokens to ourselves as the concessions we need to make in order to be heard in our world. In this way, the “subject” is substituted for the soul, and the truth of Christianity becomes just another truth—a tradition, certainly venerable, but which must coexist with other equally venerable traditions, or simply an individual opinion. Putting things in the best possible light, Christians will be asked to be the chaplains of modernity, spreading a few drops of holy water of “spirituality” over our world parched by self-interest.

But that is not enough, and it never will be. A little while longer, and the notions of sin, and therefore of redemption, are abandoned in favor of rights, and the great enterprise of commodification of things, including and especially those held to be the most holy, is turned into a vector of progress and “emancipation.” Christianity is thus flattened out, stripped of transcendence and eschatology, to become nothing more than a club of right-thinking people, who are kind enough to provide the dominant hyper-bourgeoisie with the backing of their beautiful souls and their virtuous but empty discourses, which, in truth, are indistinguishable from the other virtuous but empty discourses that abound in our world.

We have all known, in our own circle, those Christians who define themselves, quite sincerely, as “humanists” or “progressives” (these are the terms they use to describe the movement of our modernity) and who become, themselves or in the next generation, Christian “humanists” or “progressives” before becoming, in the end, nothing more than “humanists” or “progressives.” For the process of being swallowed by contemporary Western ideology is infallible. From the moment we surrender to the prodromal signs of this ideology, from the moment we accept to reside on its metaphysical site, which we have apprehended on the basis of the contemplative notion of truth and its status, we must then follow this path which inevitably, eviscerates and sterilizes Christianity, replacing it with a wicker dummy which, in time, will fray and unravel ever further, until all that remains of Christian physis is its specter.

The temptation of submission, or even just “conciliation,” is therefore fatal to the Christian soul. But there are other ways to lose oneself in the face of Western modernity. Some people imagine, for example, that there is a political path for Christians in our world: not so much in the form of a Christian Democrat-style political party (we can see what has become of the Christian Democrats, who are undoubtedly still democrats, but less and less Christian), but rather through adherence to a political contestation of the existing order, under the banner of defending the “excluded,” the “oppressed,” the “migrants.” But this is to misunderstand the place of politics in our world. It has no autonomy from the metaphysical principles that effectively govern us. Even, and perhaps above all, the movements that present themselves as the most “radical,” the most “critical” are, in reality, nothing more than forces of adhesion to the great mechanics of our world. These movements, for example, advocate an ever broader, ever more intense “emancipation” of the individual subject, a liberation from the last remaining poles of opposition to the demand to consume “everything, right now,” without realizing that this “liberation” of the subject actually produces a confinement of the soul, reduced to the status of consuming subjects, obsessed by the claim to a formal freedom that is only the other face of effective enslavement to the world of commodities.

On the other hand, some Christians claim to be going back to the “good old days” of Christianity, campaigning for the defense of the Christian “identity” that has been damaged by Western modernity and the influx of migrants from other cultures. Apparently, they do not realize that this “good” time was not so “good” after all, since, as far as we know, Western modernity originated in countries of old Christianity. One day, Christian minds aware of the harmfulness of our world will have to ask themselves the question of the responsibility of the “old times” in the genesis of the new, and verify what, in the Christianity of yesteryear, already unconsciously authorized the drifts of which we are the culmination. What is more, defending Christian “identity” means fully embracing our world. Christian “identity” also means other “identities,” and basically reduces the religious phenomenon to a tribal dimension, with its fetishes and signs of belonging, in competition with the fetishes and signs of other tribes. But religion does not belong to the “words of the tribe,” to borrow a phrase from Stéphane Mallarmé. It is linked to a spiritual reality of a far greater magnitude, which is truth—truth for all time and for all. That is why the battle we are waging is a battle for truth, not a battle for identity.

The only fair and realistic position in the face of Western modernity is to be what you are. What does this mean? It means, first of all, that we must stop obsessing about modernity and defining ourselves in relation to it. To define ourselves in relation to it is to accept, even implicitly, its categories, and above all to see in it a fundamental metaphysical phenomenon—angelic or demonic, as the case may be. Nietzsche wrote that “you should never look into an abyss, because in the end, it is the abyss that is looking back at you.” Precisely, too many Christians contemplate Western modernity as if it were the abyss at the bottom of which human history finds its end. But our modernity deserves no such honor. It is, in fact, nothing more than a temptation, as Christianity has known many throughout its history.

Perceiving modernity as a simple, banal temptation leads us down familiar paths. For, throughout its historical development, Christianity has been confronted with temptation, whether Christians are dominant or dominated, whether the princes in power claim to be God or the Devil, the goddess of reason or faithful to idols, the Holy Church or atheism. If modernity is merely a temptation, as Christians have known so many times, then we can learn a lot from our past. Take, for example, the situation of Christians under the Roman Empire. Like us today, they were in the minority. Like us, they were subject to external injunctions to sacrifice to the gods of the Empire; in other words, to accept that they were just another religion at the service of the goddess Rome, her emperor, and her Stoic, Epicurean or Platonic reason. And yet, despite their small numbers, the Christians of that time were not impressed by the military and philosophical paraphernalia that surrounded them on all sides. They simply were what they were, and through the coherence between their faith and their deeds, they gradually founded an alternative model to the dominant values which, slowly but surely, undermined these values and brought them into disrepute.

These men and women thus proposed and opposed to the world a lifestyle, i.e., a coherent, and therefore aesthetic, structuring of being, thinking, willing and practicing. This radically new style, striking at all the weaknesses and contradictions of the dominant style, proved extraordinarily attractive, both metaphysically and morally, generating an aesthetic superior to what Rome was proposing, if we understand aesthetics as the signposting of truth.

Faced with a somewhat similar situation, we should take our inspiration from exactly this example. It is by proposing a style which, through its inner strength, devalues the style of Western modernity that we will succeed in overcoming it. Where the dominant style values possession, the obsession with consumption, the infinite egoism of self-concern, lies and manipulation, we must express, without useless affectation, but without weakness, a style that is immediately identifiable, both simple and frighteningly logical: instead of the dictatorship of the moment, to place our lives under the sun of eternity; to be sober and attentive to things and the world, rather than seeking to devour them or twist them to our advantage; to say what we think and mean what we say without any consideration of interest or power; to revere what deserves to be revered; believing in sin and redemption; knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no;” being faithful in good times and bad; treating our bodies as sanctuaries and not as commodities; facing evil and suffering without ever despairing; giving without regret and fighting without hating; teaching without moralizing.

Laurent Fourquet is a senior civil servant at the French Ministry of the Economy and has published four books: L’ère du Consommateur, (2011), Le moment M4 – Une réflexion sur la théorie de la valeur en Economie (2014), Le christianisme n’est pas un humanisme (2018), and Le raisin et les ronces (2020).

Featured: Christian Martyrs in the Colosseum, by Konstantin Flavitsky; painted in 1862.

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.

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.

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.

Land of Roots versus Sea of Finance

Today’s society presents itself as “liquid,” if not “aeriform,” according to Berman’s diagnosis of the modern dissolution of stable forms in the air. This depends eminently on the fact that in it there is no reality that can escape the quality that distinguishes liquids, which is the adaptability to the container that houses them and, therefore, the assumption of the forms that are conferred on them at any given moment.

Thus, Hegel characterizes water in the Encyclopedia (§ 284): “it has no singularity of being per se, and therefore has in itself no solidity (Starrheit) and determination (Bestimmung).” For this reason, having no figure of its own, it “receives the limitation of the figure only from without” and “outwardly seeks it.” Its “peculiar state” is Bestimmungslosigkeit, the “lack of determination,” which is what makes it intrinsically adaptive in a universal and undifferentiated sense.

Bauman is right when he states that “this age of ours excels in dismantling structures and liquefying models, every kind of structure and every kind of model, by chance and without warning.” The aspect that, however, he fails to make explicit with due emphasis in his analysis is that this form is neither extemporaneous nor accidental.

On the contrary, it corresponds to the lines dictated by neoliberal policies and by the evolution of the flexible global market, to which everything is called upon to adapt. Because if this aspect is eliminated, only the effects are considered while overlooking the causes; and, for this very reason, the gaze is diverted from the class-based power relationship as the real basis for the liquefaction of ties and identities. The robust relationship that connects the superstructure of postmodern precariousness with the structure of globalized capital, flexible and centered on the figure of flow, is lost sight of.

In other words, we forget the fact that today the absolute flexibility of forms coexists dialectically with the absolute rigidity of the “container;” that is, with globalized capitalism in the anonymity of the liquid-financial markets, which seeks to make precariousness eternal and to make of itself an ineluctable destiny for the peoples of the planet. It sets itself up as the new global container, which gives shape to all the material and symbolic realities contained in it and previously transferred to the liquid state.

As our study Essere senza tempo (Bompiani, 2010) underlines, the total mobilization of entities, characteristic of the flexible mode of capitalist production, unfolds within the framework of the historical immobilism of a time that aspires to make precariousness an irreversible future: plus ça change, plus cést la même chose.

Its configuration is that of the Weberian steel cage with indestructible bars. Inside it, however, everything is possible; the possibilities being coextensive with respect to individual exchange value. Moreover, all values, identities and norms have been nihilistically “transvalued.”

The metaphor of liquidity is indeed quite effective in highlighting the essence of flexible accumulation and of the society of fluid displacement of people (abstractly free to move and concretely obliged to do so) and of financial capitals in the absence of barriers and borders, “dissolved” and removed along with every “solid” and stable instance of the preceding dialectical and Fordist, proletarian and bourgeois structure. Such is the essence of what the hegemonic relation of force spreads in all senses as the “new categorical imperative: let us fluidify everything!”

Among the properties of water is also that omnipresence and that capacity to penetrate and invade all spaces, to break down all barriers and erode even the most solid rocks. They correspond perfectly to the characteristics of the universal flexibility of liquid-financial cosmo-marketing which, with reference to the post-Fordist era, has been defined as the end of organized capitalism.

Flexibility, having saturated every real and imaginary space, is indeed aujourd’hui partout. Water, conceived by Thales as the principle of being, becomes today the ἀρχή of capitalist reality, which renders everything liquid and invades every space, overrunning dykes and obstacles.

This dynamic can be illuminated by referring to the philosophical duo, Land and Sea, canonized by Schmitt and previously codified by Hegel, who asserts this in the lessons on Weltgeschichte:

“The most universal type of determination of nature, which has importance in history, is that constituted by the relationship between Sea and Land.”

According to this heuristically fruitful analogy, the dynamics of the transnational market and global precariousness are, by definition, maritime.

The struggle between capitalist globalization and the national rootedness of peoples is, by the same token, a clash between the maritime and the terrestrial elements, within the framework of the class conflict between the thalassic Lord and the telluric Servant. The terrestrial element of settlements and places, of roots and stabilities, is opposed to the maritime element of flows and homogeneous surfaces, of displacements and uprootings.

The thalassic Lord aspires to make liquid every solid element linked to the stability of the ethical, so that the being in its totality is redefined according to the liquid logic of market globalization; the openness of cosmopolitan capital figuratively coincides with the open and unlimited sea, with its homogeneous expansion, on which it is possible to navigate omnidirectionally; but then also with the peculiarity of the liquid element itself, which tends to saturate every space.

For his part, the “Glebalized” Servant must aspire, instead, to resist this dynamic, imposing the primacy of the telluric dimension of rootedness and borders as walls against deterritorialization, the mobilization of beings and globalist omni-homogenization: unlike the sea, whose essence lies in that flowing by virtue of which—Heraclitus would say—”always different waters flow” (ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρρεῖ), the earth is the plurality of stable and localized spaces. It is traversed by boundaries and differences, by borders and walls.

The Nomos of the earth represents the concrete space of the plurality of peoples and of their possibility of giving themselves a law and a history, living permanently, according to that figure of the roots that accompanies the image of the terroir. The intercontinental migratory flows are opposed to the rooted stability of the peoples, just as the flows of liquid-financial capital mark an antithesis with respect to the work of the solidary community in its circumscribed spaces and in its equitable sharing of goods.

The conflict which, as has been pointed out, runs through the post-1989 battlefield, and which sees confronted, in Lafay’s words, “on the one hand, the process of globalization, driven by business and favored by lower transportation and communications costs; on the other, the permanence of nations, tied to their own territory, which seek to organize themselves within regional frameworks defined by ties of geographical or historical proximity.”

The New World Order is developing in a space as smooth as the extension of the pineapple, without borders or fixed points, without highs or lows. The triumph of flows over solid roots, of permanent navigation over stable life, of unlimited openness over territories bounded by borders, designs a reality in which all that is light floats on the surface and what has weight sinks into the abyss. In the words of Castells:

“The space of flows is a structuring practice of elites and dominant interests…. In the space of flows there is no place for resistance to domination. I oppose the space of flows to the spaces of places that are themselves fragmented, segregated and resistant to domination, and therefore to the space of flows.”

Thus understood, the class struggle presents itself, in the context of the New World Order, as a gigantomachy that sees the global flows of cosmopolitan openness (commodities, values, information, etc.) as opposed to the “solid” places of national communities, which oppose this fluidification and seek stability and rootedness to protect themselves from the elements of unhappy globalism.

In this enmity between the thalassic element of the flows of capital (of desires, commodities, marketized persons, stock values, etc.) and the telluric dimension of the “places of the self-production of vital worlds,” the only possibility of success, for the dominated pole, passes through the reconquest of the State and of politics as a power capable of limiting the insatiable voracity of the self-valorization of value.

Diego Fusaro is professor of 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: Clifftop Walk at Pourville, by Claude Monet; painted in 1882.