Barbarism and barbarians

Richard Billingham, "Arrow", 2000.


Notes on the Brazilian social process in the crisis[1]

“Retention is today the privilege of a small group of the powerful, who God knows are no more human than the others; mostly barbarians, but not in a good way” (Walter Benjamin, experience and poverty).

“I am an agent of civilization against barbarism.” It could be Quincas Borba, but it is Fernando Haddad, still as mayor of São Paulo, in 2015. Perhaps there are those who say that, at the limit, “cultural war” is this: culture against non-culture. Perhaps we could name this conflict, as imagined by those who consider themselves on the side of culture, civilization against its discontents, to honor the terrible American translation of the title of a classic by Freud: Civilization and its Discontents. Against Freud's fundamental intuition, civilization would be something self-sufficient, or almost, since it would always have to deal with some uncivil misfits.[2]

Beyond self-complacency, the way in which this pair of concepts – civilization and barbarism – has been mobilized in contemporary political discourse and imagination deserves attention, especially after our last chapter of the Brazilian dialectic of enlightenment (also known as “dialectic of order and disorder”, in the terms of Antonio Candido), which is nothing more than the Brazilian collapse of modernization. If Haddad conceived of himself in 2015 as “an agent of civilization against barbarism”, he certainly had no lack of reasons to incarnate that noble position in 2018. During the first round campaign, someone had even made a kind of graph that represented, in the extreme right corner, “barbarism” (Bolsonaro), and, next to it, “civilization” represented in a gradient that went from left to right, where all the other candidates were distributed in the political spectrum, from Alckmin to Boulos , passing through Amoedo, Meirelles, Marina, Ciro and Haddad.

I do not intend to pass judgment on that image that, like tens of thousands of others, was produced to dispute the hearts and minds of voters in the virtual field, in the sense of saying that the line that divides “civilization” and “barbarism” should be displaced to include the other names, which would be silly. It is interesting to observe that civilization here represents a limit, to the left and to the right of the political system, and barbarism would be an excess beyond the line unacceptable. In what sense, therefore, could Haddad be considered an “agent of civilization”? If we take this current meaning, in which civilization is a containment and barbarism is the lack of control and the release of something like a “natural tendency to violence”, the name might even work – although real barbarism does not fit into this small scheme.

To try to understand how this pair of ideas can be at work, let's think, for example, about traffic laws. One of the greatest victories of the left in São Paulo is considered to be the creation of cycle paths and the reduction of speed limits on marginal roads and large avenues. Ironies aside and allowing for exaggeration, perhaps the idea of ​​“traffic laws” configures the soul of the left today. Who knows this exaggeration is not so unreasonable, if we add to the “traffic laws” the ambulance and the rescuers who go to the assistance of the victims of fatalities-accidents. Nothing that is also astonishing if we consider that the destiny of the left, after the disappearance of the horizon of transformation of society, has been reduced to the infamous “management of the social”. It is even less astonishing if we find that in the historical genesis of the social in the mid-nineteenth century (after the trauma of 1848, certainly) there is also a question of safety, namely, accidents at work in the satanic mills of modern industrial society. And it is worth remembering that, already in its origin, “security [provident insurance] is not the antechamber of socialism, but its antidote”. (DONZELOT, 1994, p. 137)

If today it is this security that we are calling “civilization”, we can say that, in our prolonged present in which the catastrophic future must be avoided by risk management, we are facing something like progressivism without progress, analogous to the Lulo-PT experience of reformism without reform. For this reason, the comparison with XNUMXth century reformism, even as a criticism in the name of revolutionary desire, is inadequate, since “reform” here does not mean anything other than put off the moment when the house will fall.

The “civilizing force” of the left is therefore analogous to that of a brake – certainly not the “emergency brake” of Walter Benjamin, which meant the interruption of the machine of the world and which would allow its passengers to get off and take the path they wanted. – the brake we are referring to here is pure containment, a mechanism therefore inherent to the normal functioning of things, but which here has the sole function of delaying and avoiding a major accident. Therefore, the “brake” is not an isolated element: it is inseparable from the accelerator. That is, it is not just about Security, but also about Development – ​​one being the truth of the other.

In other words, we have arrived here at what the Escola Superior de Guerra called “Permanent National Objectives” (precisely, Security and Development). As summarized by Robert McNamara in his The essence of security (1968), evoked by a expert from ESG explaining the National Security Doctrine: “Security is Development and without Development there can be no Security”.[3] Therefore, order is progress. It is no coincidence that the same expert will state that, “[..] before the eminent scholar, Brazil can be proud of having inserted, in its National Flag, something similar”. (Idem) Security is the key to understanding “progress” as that timeline where things move forward (which is towards the abyss) and nothing changes.

Let's insist a little more on traffic laws. When Doria beat Haddad in the 2016 municipal elections, a lot had already happened and was happening, both in the city and in the country. And resentful speculations on the left also appeared aggressively about the “poor on the right”, the “poor coxinha”, the “poor entrepreneur” (who is not the “worker” in the classic sense, but is the one who , unable to sell his labor force, manages in some way to integrate socially).[4] The result of those elections would be the return to the balance point of the São Paulo toucan hegemony, in the State that is the “locomotive of Brazil” and which is traditionally commanded by the industrial bourgeoisie and the agribusiness?

More or less. After all, as is clear today, Doria represents less a traditional and conservative right, but a new accelerationist right interested in the scorched earth. The shows of gratuitous violence promoted by the former mayor, such as waking beggars with jets of cold water and bombing Cracolândia, already showed signs of this. Now, the motto of Doria's campaign was precisely "Accelerate São Paulo!", in which his promise to increase the speed limits on the circulation routes was transformed into a general metaphor - not to "solve" traffic, nobody believes that and not even you need to be a traffic engineer to know that it is something “chronically unfeasible” (such as the society portrayed in Sérgio Bianchi’s film), but only so that something essential is derepressed, even if it is the right to launch your own car for within the Tietê River or to pass over the “delay of life” that is any entity that is in the way.

After all, which containment zone in the city is more extensive than its own circulation routes, in its flows, retentions and queues, in which waiting is synonymous with distress?[5] But it is certain that there will always be a peace and love savvy (a militant cyclist, perhaps) saying that these angry souls are terrible and ignorant selfish middle class (sic) or resentful unfortunates who have not discovered the pleasure of pedaling 20 km after a journey of the wind or after waiting in line for the unemployed at the Vale do Anhangabaú employment campaign.

Well then, isn't Bolsonaro's apocalyptic-accelerationist despression also flirting with the libertarian-suicidal impulse of drivers? It must still be fresh in my memory that in June of this year [2020] the captain went personally to the Chamber of Deputies to present a bill that involved the suspension of the mandatory use of child seats, the end of toxicological tests for truck drivers and the increase from 20 to 40 points the limit for CNH suspension (“for me, I would increase it to 60”, Bolsonaro said).[6] So far, nothing that hurts the convictions of our “agent of civilization”. On the one hand, experience of immoderation, instinctual disruptions, derepression and irrationality in its pure state; on the other, a “Principle of Responsibility” that is expressed as a rationale for risk management.

Of course, there is no denying the reasonableness of trying to reduce the damage caused by a system, the road system, which in one year is capable of killing more than 1 million and 300 thousand people in the world. Add to this that in regions of the world that are in an advanced stage of collapse (such as the Middle East and a significant part of Africa), the car, the greatest legacy of Fordist capitalism, becomes much more fatal.

Taking a last example from the world of circulation and traffic and thinking about what had germinated in the hot asphalt of the country: when Haddad militarily defended, along with Alckmin, the increase in bus fares, he was facing a “horde of barbarians” as an agent of civilization? If the criterion is maintained, it will be forced to say yes – which, however, will make the concepts change sign and that we rethink them. Finally, they will be forced to say that barbarian enemies of democracy were the incendiary revolts of 2013 – the excess that went beyond the limits of security – while the agents of civilization were the maintainers of order, in this case, the riot police arresting and breaking up demonstrators – containment.

After "Things Turned"[7], criticism of this excess (the extra “drop of water”) and the defense of containment by the left began to appear, and it is in this context that a rather ambiguous discourse of “defense of civilization against barbarism” takes shape.[8] In fact, not so ambiguous, because, as it was said a few times, in a joke or not, “we should have paid those 20 cents”. Basically: people should suffer in silence a little longer. And when an “anti-fascist front” (?) is evoked in other parts of the world around figures like Macron and Clinton, the message is no different: contain your malaise in neoliberalism, which is being called Western Civilization.

The barbarism that Bolsonaro represents is not his instinctual excesses nor the lack of politeness in his speeches and gestures, which cause enlightened prudes to “international shame”, but the very destructiveness of the civilizing process (which also goes by the name of capitalist modernization) in its final stage. When Adorno and Horkheimer, at the end of the Second World War, wrote the Dialectic of Enlightenment with the purpose of explaining why humanity did not humanize itself but entered a period of darkness, it was about showing how horror was not something like a meteorite coming from another galaxy, but that it was produced immanently, and therefore from the internal contradictions to the Clarification process. Therefore, they were obliged to verify that the agents of civilization were also agents of barbarism and vice versa. It is true that such an interpretation could not have become hegemonic, after all, it boycotted in advance the restorationist project of Reconstruction of a society that had self-destructed and that should necessarily mean the perpetuation of horror.

In the liberal-humanist view of a HelmuthPlessner, the German relapse into Hitler's savagery was a sign of a backward nation, and therefore it was analyzed from the perspective of a deficit: “political humanism was lacking”, writes Plessner (1982, p. 19) in his classic Die verspätete Nation [the backward nation]. Such “humanism”, which remains intact, would be the north of Reconstruction. In his philosophical anthropology, the lack of spirit produced an excess of body, which, in his view, would have led to Nietzschean anti-humanist naturalism that meddled in the romantic heritage of the cult of Volk(Herder's fault). Therefore, to humanize oneself is to create brakes (PLESSNER, 2019, p. 122): the human being may be a “blonde beast”, but “the beast is in the stable” (idem, p. 126) – contained, therefore. The reconstructed civilization is that stable.

A similar ideological transfiguration takes place in Brazil, also on the left, but in another key, as the idea of ​​return, of deficit, of backwardness, of an archaic non-modernized element that would reappear as a result of an unfinished civilizing process or a repression badly done. But this archaic anti-humanist does not appear, at least originally, linked to the idea of ​​“the people”: if in Germany there is an abyss between the left and the poor, since anything that resembles Volk already appears with the face volkisch of an SS executioner, Brazil, on the other hand, enjoys a positive mystification of the people, linked to the national-popular tradition and with a progressive vocation.[9] Something that, however, produced a frustrating mismatch for the left, horrified by the “poor on the right”, ranging from the poor in bad taste who betray the mythical Brazilian cultural beauty to the poor who would be “betraying their objective interests” by vote wrong. While in Germany the left despises people who "meet their own concept" (which appears as Volk), in Brazil the left despises the poor who do not “face like the people” and who do not “act like the people”. Basically: left-wing populism has become an orphan of its object. And then, as Juçara Marçal sings in incarnate: “what was beautiful / now amazes”. And with the exact timbre of Abortion Circle: “the wound opened / it never stopped again”.[10]

What happened? Faced with the social transformations that occurred in Brazil simultaneously with the collapse of the work society underway in the world since the 1970s, it would be necessary to observe how the categories of “working class”, “middle class” and “people” were used in recent decades, thinking about the intersection of their sociological (im)accuracies and the political-moral sense that such categories evoke.

I will launch some modest hypotheses. Theoretical reactions to the problem began to appear from the moment the idea of ​​a “new middle class” began to circulate, especially after research and the book by Marcelo Neri, an economist at FGV who held positions in the Lula and Dilma governments and who idealized one of the social credit programs. As “middle class” has a terrible connotation in Brazil, especially in left-wing circles, it was immediately a question of reacting to this idea that seemed to contain political poison by stating that it was not a new middle class, but a new class. worker (as did, for example, Marcio Pochmann, Jessé Souza and Marilena Chauí – we could include Ricardo Antunes’ “precariat”).

Somehow, the possibility of a monster that could emerge from the ongoing social transformations was already haunting Brazilian social thought, a ghost that needed to be repressed through sociological concepts that sought to evoke the progressive virtues of the “working class” in the classic sense. . After all, the working class is the agent of history and the engine of modernization – and, however, Work, History and Modernization had already lost its objective ballast and Capital had already definitively entered the era of its fictitious reproduction. The world of work in which this “new working class” was being made and being made (certainly not as the “making” of Thompson’s English working class) only at the limit could it still be called a “world”. neoHowever, taking advantage of Silvia Viana's metaphor, it is in the boiling oil of this world of simulated work (which is also the world of structural unemployment) where the coxinha was fried[11], the same hot oil that ripped the skin off the people whose faces the left no longer recognizes. Without understanding what happens there, in the midst of this negative centrality of work[12], the left will continue in the hysteria of its crisis neo-enlightenment, shouting that “the Earth is round” as if it were Galileo in the face of medieval darkness at the dawn of modernity.

Within this “new middle class/new working class” debate, it is not irrelevant to observe what was being produced by Jessé Souza, who, however, has today become an ideologue of PT mainstream with its machine for producing comforts (with refinements of paranoia) and ennobling speeches for a demoralized left. Incidentally, the moralizing charge of his sociological analyses, which tend to be more Christian than materialist, is something that stands out – which is even imprinted in two of his central concepts, that of rabble and that of fighters.

Let's focus briefly on the “Brazilian fighters”, who constitute precisely that social group of workers that emerged from the rabble. What sets the tone there is a morality of work linked, as it could not be otherwise, to a praise of the suffering that sooner or later would be rewarded by the fruits of the nation of the future. “Our research, writes Jessé, showed that this class achieved its place in the sun at the cost of extraordinary effort: its ability to resist the fatigue of several jobs and work shifts, the double journey at school and work, the extraordinary ability to savings and resistance to immediate consumption and, as or more important than everything that has been said, to an extraordinary belief in oneself and in one’s work.” (SOUZA, 2010, p. 50) Or, in the words of Roberto Mangabeira Unger commenting on Jessé's book in the preface: “They actively fight, with energy and ingenuity, to escape the rabble and join the ranks of the enterprising and emerging petty bourgeoisie. They exhibit qualities that Euclides da Cunha attributed to the sertanejos.” (UNGER, p. 10)

Now, if we took the national-popular garb out of there with its imagery of the strong and courageous people, this could easily be translated into the most outspoken neoliberal language as a praise of resilience. In short: entrepreneurship, a euphemism for survival management[13], mystified as sertaneja bravery. Through the popular virtues linked to effort, struggle (understood as a battle for self-preservation) and persistence that, despite all adversities, points forward (although there is nothing ahead), an attempt is made to emulate the ancient enormous effort of overcoming the underdevelopment and the fight against backwardness that animated the populist imagination of the 1950s and 60s and, if we go further, industrialization and ethos of the work of the Vargas Era. It would be up to the people to be the subject of late modernization[14] and carry the burden of shaping Brazilian civilization.

However, in the contemporary situation, it is very likely that this progressive litany has lost its persuasive force and that the incredible resilience of this tireless fighter has found a limit in this fight without horizon of expectation. Who knows, today Jessé would look at his fighters and see what a Ford leader said in the early 1970s, at the dawn of what Chamayou called an “ungovernable society”, regarding his workers: “employees have a general weakening of frustration tolerance. (CHAMAYOU, 2018, p. 25) It is also likely that the social energy identified by Jessé is not, as he would have wished, the fuel for a modernizing leap forward, but the basic ingredient for an explosion of social hatred in the midst of a catastrophic desocialization . And yet, social theorists were seeing in that world of turmoil, in which the possibility of consolidating a salary society in the style of post-war Europe was blocked from the outset, a kind of door to the future such as the “privilege of historical backwardness”. ” (TROTSKY, 1961, p. 4) imagined by Trotsky in his theory of uneven and combined development, in which one would leap at once “from the bow and arrow to the rifle” (idem). In the words of Mangabeira Unger: “It is necessary – and possible – to organize a direct crossing from pre-Fordism to post-Fordism, without the whole country having to go through the purgatory of industrial Fordism. The fighters and the enterprising petty bourgeoisie would be the first beneficiaries of this construction.” (UNGER, 2010, p. 12) It turns out that this “direct crossing” from “underdevelopment” to the world of post-Fordist service work, as it should be in a peripheral country where the truth of the global process is revealed more clearly , was a shortcut to collapse.

As Unger is not at all naïve, he saw that the “battlers” had something of refractory[15], because, being a little above the level of the miserable, they were not targets of management policies. The government should, therefore, be concerned about domesticating this energy and inventing some social program for them, so that the fighters should be “the first potential beneficiaries of training projects and expansion of opportunities. They showed that they can rescue themselves because they have already begun to rescue themselves on their own”. . They became “ungrateful”, as Minister Gilberto Carvalho said after the 2010 demonstrations.

Whether or not they wanted to call it the “new middle class”, there was the expectation that this new working class would become the cement of the new Brazilian society in a similar way to the middle classes of the North Atlantic, although with the difference in the colorful clothing of the national-popular, which would be further proof of the Brazilian contribution to the democratic society of the future. It was just not wanted to say that the project was to form a middle class (by some) because this is understood as an “elite of privileged people” (SOUZA, 2015, p. 240) who want to “distinguish themselves”, they are racists and assholes – it is therefore the representatives of the relations of production (in a moral sense only, since the real relations of production are not in question) who resist the productive forces, bearers of progress. It is no coincidence that in the official PT narrative the “coup” and Bolsonarism are interpreted as the reaction of the heavy structures of backwardness that were not broken by the progressive forces (which in this case would be the PT itself). The attempt to convince people that this “conservative reaction” (to put it simply) is a “reaction to progress” is almost comical, therefore it can only be a symptom of what the PT governments were “good at”.

Anyway, back to the “middle class”. Let us remember Marilena Chauí's famous characterization in her contribution to the book on “10 years of post-neoliberal governments [sic] in Brazil”: the middle class is a “cognitive abomination”, because it is stupid; an “ethical abomination”, because it is violent; a “political abomination”, because fascist. (CHAUÍ, 2013, p. 134). Barbarism personified, in short. Now, isn’t that exactly what the “battlers” who voted for Bolsonaro were later called? However, Chauí would like to, with the concept of the “working class”, defend solidarity and other ancient civilizing virtues linked to work – which, however, no longer existed in a society that only at the limit can bear that name. Talking about the “new working class” seemed, therefore, more like a euphemistic veneer, a moral idiosyncrasy of intellectuals that the managers and technocrats themselves do not have, which is why they did not hesitate to talk about the “new middle class”, although the term was also a mystification of reality.

In any case, as the “middle class” also works, in one way or another, the sociological distinction that was wanted to be made there seemed rather a reference to how distinctions operate socially in moral or cultural terms (in the manner of the symbolic distinction conceived by Pierre Bourdieu). What lies behind the argument is that there is a middle class that represents atavistic backwardness (linked to everything that appears as unproductive, such as patrimonialism, rentism, etc.), and another, hard-working, struggling and ascendant, that should become the social base of a “civilized and democratic” capitalism – turbocharged and without crisis, without a doubt. After all, as Lula says: “[…] obviously I am clear that the worker can only win if the company does well. I don't know, in the history of humanity, a moment when the company goes wrong and the workers manage to conquer anything but unemployment”. (LULA, 2013, p. 16) Anyone who saw Lula’s last interviews, while he was still in prison, or even his testimony in A Verdade will win, realizes that his “utopian” spirit (which is undeniable) is linked to the fantasy of the infinite the valorization of value (which Marx called the fetish of capital).

At the limit, we can say that such a fantasy is constitutive of the very idea of ​​the left as it is configured in the post-war period, since its definitive horizon became, in a more or less intense way, to regulate/govern/develop capitalism, playing a role a distributive function and appeasement of social antagonisms. Therefore, it does not matter if liberal-Keynesian or Stalinist with authoritarian pretensions, this infinity of value happens to be in the heart of the left, which then needs to believe and make others believe that there is always value being produced and that accumulation is an indefinite process and potentially eternal. The drama – and this is something observed by Robert Kurz at the turn of the 1980s to the 90s – is that, as capitalism loses its ability to reproduce, the left is being demoralized.

In Brazil, when the “hour of the left” arrives in the wake of redemocratization, the global picture of the tendency to collapse and the dismantling of the work society was already given. The ongoing process of automation and the continual expulsion of living labor from the productive process (which also took place brutally, too, or above all, in the countryside) could no longer be compensated, as occurred in the organic center of capital, by an external expansion of the market as after the tree in the 1940s and 50s. “The scenario, writes sociologist José de Souza Martins, was one of growth in the number of uprooted people, living precariously on the margins of the organized economy, people supposedly with no horizon and no future.” (MARTINS, 2011, p. 11) The picture was already that of “anomic Brazil” (in Martins's name), in which the formation of something like a “prosperous” society (in capitalist terms) and full employment was an impossibility logical and historical. In this situation, a superfluous population contingent from the point of view of capital reproduction was growing. What to do? Martins comments on a conversation from 1982: “During one of the coffee breaks, João Pedro Stédile commented to me that 'whoever managed to organize these lumpens would change the country'.” (idem) Two years later, the MST was founded.

If the MST at some point presented a potential for revolutionary rupture, it is because it was able to organize these people without a threshing floor or on the brink, poor people expelled from the countryside and clustered in the huge urban peripheries, a population of “monetized subjects without money” who no longer had no possibility of being integrated into the labor society.[16] They were “unemployable”, as FHC said in the 1990s. “The situation for these masses is at the end of the line. They need to fight to survive, and this can only be possible in a rebellion against most of the productive forces of capital and its mode of production.” (MENEGAT, 2013)[17] In the case of the PT, it was not clear what its relationship would be, in the words of Tarso Genro, with this “population marginalized, lumpen or merely excluded from the world of Law and Law” (apud MARTINS, 2011, p. 12). At the same time, as Martins says, “the designation 'lumpen' indicated the suspicious political incorporation of a mass of helpless people whose behavior could be framed, but could not be assured”. (idem)

Therefore, it was not a question of a base of unionized workers ready to set up a “union capitalism” of European-style partnerships. It was not given in advance that a social pact would be formed. Over time, it was shown that the only destiny of this mass was to be governed, with the left and right hand of the neoliberal State, which sometimes protects and assists vulnerable populations with social programs, sometimes punishes, imprisons and kills. But it was not without success, quite the contrary, social management with the left hand, whose spiritual origins should perhaps be traced back to that umbilical relationship between the Brazilian left and the Social Doctrine of the Church and which married state-of-the-art government technologies (which even passed to be exported as model practices). At a given moment, therefore, “the Workers’ Party’s conceptual difficulties with the lumpen mass came to an end when it became clear that it had become a constituent of Lulism and had been decisive in Lula’s reelection […].”(idem)

In the meantime, social movements harnessed by the state also became platforms to gradually catapult sectors of the “rabble” into this new middle class through social credit. In other words, how to deal with the fractures of “anomic Brazil”? cash baby. Anomy in capitalism is pacified with money, it doesn't matter if it has no value, what matters is that circulation works. If this is something that society does, then that's another matter… The important thing is that it rained money and people were happy – who wasn't? And there was no lack of sociologists and philosophers to confirm that money liberates, civilizes, emancipates, etc. In any case, in addition to satisfying the most basic material needs, money above all brings respect and recognition. Which is not irrelevant, as the labor crisis inaugurated a veritable Era of Humiliation. When Kurz spoke about “the lost honor of work”, we must take into account that this means an objective dishonor of (former) workers, who pass into the category of “deplorables”, as Hillary Clinton designated Trump voters, who were precisely the majority among former workers in the deindustrialized regions of the rustbelt.

In this sense, “work morality” is not a mere superstructural ornament, but it has a social objectivity in capitalism and takes on another, more brutalized meaning, at the moment of the crisis of work as such. There is a way to compensate for such an undignified condition: if such compensation cannot appear in production (in work), dignity must be realized at the other end: in consumption (which is eternal while it lasts). Money is the ticket to enter the world – the monetarized subject without money is the “man without the world” himself.[18] But since what seemed to be growth towards infinity was a simulation powered by a fictitious capital (we must bear in mind here above all the tree its commodities[19]), it was likely that eventually the money would run out after the bubble burst. And as money does not form society, what appears when it runs out is the violent opposite of society – and already in the first months of the Lula government there were those who said that the infamous “inclusion through consumption” does not make society and that that would lead to fascism, and yet they were accused of catastrophizing, exaggerating, etc.

Accumulated humiliation and suffering is likely to produce something other than peace and love, especially in a situation where the “frustration tolerance” of fighters around the world is at an all-time low – and yet those who react with “more love please” seem just wanting to reinforce tolerance to the disgrace of normality. Comte's triad – love, order and progress – also comes into decline, which was a pacifying formula to end the turbulent periods of crises and revolutions and to cement the foundations of a slow history. That cement, the bonds in a fractured society, was the social, whose ballast, as explained by Donzelot, is in the decline of political passions. Now, from the moment when, as announced by the iron lady, there's no such thing as society, the artificiality of the “social” and its expiration date become visible as, precisely, society becomes unmanageable, and social conflict, as recognized by Honneth (2012), is brutalized in the face of the decline in expectations of recognition. Perhaps what appears there is the reverse process to that analyzed by Donzelot: the decline of the social and the return of political passions. And in that, hatred reappears not as just any pathology, but as the political passion par excellence, the passion for confrontation and antagonism. In 2013 it was said: “Love is over, this is going to turn into Turkey” – the reference was the libertarian breath of Taksim Square, but “becoming Turkey” can be, as we know, something much worse.

What emerges from this collapse looks bleak. We can speculate whether Walter Benjamin, observing our contemporary world, perhaps thought that, as an antidote to ongoing barbarism, a “positive barbarism” could arise, such as he imagined when reflecting on the mutilated men and women coming out of a war situation ( the Great) and with its ability to make and transmit atrophied experience.[20]Unlike the "agents of civilization" who positively become agents of barbarism, the enemies of barbarism are also ensnared in horror. Without the “barbarized”, the victims dehumanized and crushed by this machine for grinding people and, however, condemned to improvise in a time without development, there is nothing that can be done against real barbarism. Who knows, maybe a new intelligence can emerge from improvisation – but that's only if Benjamin is right.

*Felipe Catalani is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at USP.


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[1] The article is part of the book Panic as a policy: Brazil in the imaginary of Lulismo in crisis(RJ, Mauad X, 2020), organized by Fabio Luis Barbosa dos Santos, Marco Antonio Perruso and Marinalva Silva Oliveira.

[2] What Adorno said about the critics of culture is valid today for the false “critics of barbarism”: “The critic of culture is not satisfied with culture, but owes his discomfort solely to it. He speaks as if he were the representative of an unblemished nature or a higher historical stage, but he is necessarily of the same essence as what he thinks he has at his feet. […] The critic of culture can hardly avoid the insinuation that he has the culture he says he lacks. […] Where there is despair and suffering, the critic of culture sees only something spiritual, the state of human consciousness, the decay of the norm.” (ADORNO, 1998, p. 7)

[3] The entire quote: “In a society that is modernizing, Security means Development… Security is not military material, although that can be included in the concept; it is not military force, although it may encompass it; it is not a traditional military activity, although it may involve it. Security is Development and without Development there can be no Security.” (apoud Brazil, 1979, p. 399)

[4]About the idea of wind as it appears in the sociology of work, see for example the article by Vera Telles (2006) “Mutations of work and urban experience” and the one by Ludmila Costhek Abílio (2017) “Uberization of work: real subsumption of viração”. On how the collapse of the work society manifests itself in the urban peripheries, see the thesis by Daniel Manzione (2018), entitled They don't wear overalls: work crisis and reproduction of the collapse of modernization from the periphery of the metropolis of São Paulo.

[5] On the social meaning of this waiting in the contemporary world, see the chapter “Waiting zones: a digression on the dead time of the contemporary punitive wave” in the book The new time of the world (2014) by Paulo Arantes.

[6] At the time of writing this text, news appears that Bolsonaro also extinguishes the DPVAT, insurance for traffic accidents.

[7] For an analysis of post-2013 political developments from the point of view of militancy, see Passa Palavra (2019).

[8] I refer to a text written in another context (“Documents of culture, documents of barbarism”) in which Paulo Arantes (2004, p. 221-235) comments on a so-called “Manifesto against Barbarism and in favor of Art”.

[9] The film Bacurau (2019) is exemplary in this case, and in such an exaggerated way that its character of consolation, in the face of the contemporary situation, becomes excessively evident.

[10] Note that the album was largely produced during the events of 2013. For a general commentary on the album, see the article “Note on the album incarnate by Juçara Marçal (2014)” by Walter Garcia (2016).

[11] “The new right was not born in 2013, even less in the days of colonization. She is the offspring of a socially structured dissolution, therefore not of any anomie imputed to her and reciprocated by her in mirrored accusation. The coxinha was fried in the generalized disgrace of work whose flexible form deformed us all, in the shadow of which, however, it found a particular political expression.” (VIANA, 2019, p. 26)

[12] The term, which also indicates the intensification of suffering at work at the moment of its crisis, is by Paulo Arantes (2014, p. 106). The background theory on the labor crisis is by Robert Kurz and the observations on social suffering by Christophe Dejours. With this term we seek to emphasize that the more the work crisis deepens and the more work becomes objectively obsolete, the more it becomes, in people's lives, a problem, and the more its social centrality in capitalism becomes more acute. This means, therefore, that the labor crisis does not mean the loss of its centrality, as imagined, for example, by Habermas from Claus Offe's observations on the crisis of the European wage society and the welfare state, in such a way that, at the core of his theory, a new paradigm centered on language should occupy the old Marxist paradigm of work.

[13] As suggested by Ludmila Costhek Abílio (2019).

[14] On the concept of “late modernization”, see the chapter “The failure of modernization” in the book The collapse of modernization by Robert Kurz (1993).

[15] About this “second middle class”, he says: “Brown, coming from below, refractory, feeling like a piece of the North Atlantic lost in the South Atlantic, this new middle class is made up of millions of people who struggle to open or to maintain small enterprises or to advance within established companies, people who study at night, who join new churches and new associations, and who wield a culture of self-help and initiative.” (UNGER, 2010, p. 9)

[16] Here I follow the argument of MarildoMenegat (2013) in his article “United by permanent catastrophes: what is new in social movements in Latin America”.

[17] For a deeper understanding of this argument, see also the doctoral thesis by Ana Elisa Cruz Corrêa (2018) entitled Modernization crisis and barbarism management: the trajectory of the MST and the limits of the agrarian question.

[18] It is not by chance that one of the central figures of the “man without a world” is the Unemployed, as it appears in Günther Anders' analysis of the novel Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin.

[19] For an informed explanation of the current economic crisis in Brazil and the relationship between tree its commodities and fictitious capital, see the article “The growth and crisis of the Brazilian economy in the 2020st century as a crisis of the labor society: commodity bubble, fictitious capital and critique of value-dissociation” by Fábio Pitta (XNUMX).

[20] I am referring to the essay “Experience and Poverty” (1994).


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