In search of alienated normality

Image: Stela Grespan


The normality of the “new normal” that is sought is nothing more than an alienated consciousness of reality itself

The social panic generated by the threats and consequences of Covid-19 masks the current characteristics of the crisis of capital, the political class struggle and the borderless cultural and ideological war of the dominant classes to maintain the liberal order. This war entered its historical period of dissolution of superstructural and structural configurations, which agonize before the limits of material and social reproduction that are their own. And, as they are not absolute, the conditions for the valorization of capital tend to be denied from its internal logic of production, now with a rotation cycle for its realization in an increasingly irrational, uncontrollable, accelerated way and with social consequences. exacerbated and barbarized.

It is about the dynamics of a reality in which the bourgeoisie drags its nature and founding principles of material support like a lethal burden among the rubble of devastated work in all possible varieties of precariousness and brutal exploitation, and of a frayed social life in multiple forms of denial and alienation of the social being that is externalized through the production of goods and the estranged relationship with them.

In this context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship with the destructive imperatives of capital that has taken advantage of circumstances – on a global scale – to deepen inequalities, concentrate and centralize wealth is increasingly demonstrated. Amid the frightening numbers of infections and deaths in the world, corporations and capital in general, as usual, put their profits above any humanitarian or moral principle.

In a report by Mariella Bussolati, published by Business Insider, 15-09-2020 (reported by the IHU, 16-09-2020) the evidence demonstrates that this relationship is part of a dynamic process of development and devastating transformations. The data of this reality are eloquent, in six months, 32 of the largest multinationals in the world increased their profits by an amount of 109 billion dollars in relation to the average of the exercises of the previous 4 years. According to the NGO report, Oxfam[I]from 2016 to 2019, the top 10 brands paid $21 trillion in dividends, 74% of their profits; the world's top 25 billionaires increased their wealth by $255 billion in the first three months of the pandemic. Meanwhile, 13 million Brazilians remain without a job and 600 micro, small and medium-sized companies have closed their doors, but, on the other hand, 42 billionaires in the country have increased their wealth by US$ 34 billion. And, to avoid any doubts about this unequal society, it is very illustrative that 6 Brazilians possess wealth equivalent to the assets of the poorest 100 million in the country. The richest 5% hold the same share of income as the remaining 95%.

In the pandemic, it only highlights what was already underway: the health crisis and the devastation of social protection by neoliberal policies in the realities of societies in the capitalist world. However, all this had been manipulated and hidden by international institutions such as the World Bank, the UN, UNICEF and neoliberal governments since the 2008 crisis until today. But, as it becomes impossible to control and hide this phenomenon resulting from the irrational expansion of capital itself, its ills come to light and serve to reveal the nature of the system.

These “contradictions in process” (Marx, Grundrisse, 1973), are a dynamic driven by true autophagy, a concept that in biological sciences means a catabolic process that gives rise to the degradation of components of the cell itself, leading to its destruction. But that in the field of economy and society is characterized by immense complexities that, far from any linear and positivist determinism, is covered with all the ontological dialectics of the development of capitalism. This means that capital always coexists with the eternal “flight forward” where its crises externalize the inherent contradictions of capitalist production that cannot be suppressed, which indicate the limited nature of its production regime.

The movement of this dynamic seeks to resist the negative trends of its organic logic, such as the decline on a world scale of the low rate of profit resulting from the reduction in the production of real values ​​in the relations of production. Derived, in large part, from the imperative that the commodified social relations place each capital individually, to increase automation and its activities to face the competition of a market totally monopolized and under the control of financial and industrial corporations. This forces the replacement, to a large extent, of living labor (a source of value) by new elements of the productive forces, what Marx would have called the “General Intellect”, that is, the increasing use of science and technology in production to accelerate productivity and strengthen competitiveness between capitals. Thus, what he characterizes as capital’s “contradiction in process” manifests itself, in the historical framework of 2020, as an insoluble, irresolvable trend that calls into question the survival of the dynamics of the system itself.

It is here that the problematic of the reduction of “abstract work” is situated, alluded to by Marx since the study developed in his work on the Grundrisse. For, in their analyses, although it has found solutions to its general crises, capitalism – through its own self-phagy – to re-establish new levels of production and labor relations and partially restore the quantity of its margins of values ​​- is unable to confer lasting stability to its production system on a world scale. The solutions that, throughout their historical evolution, have become increasingly provisional and short-lived, in addition to deepening and sharpening the “contradictions in process” of capital and reaching limits internal e External of its development.

In this way, it is no longer a question of cyclical and conjunctural crises, but structural ones with a strong destructive content, and far from any lasting perspective that is capable of opening new cycles for a stable resumption of the expansion of capitalism. The internal limits identified in the intensity of this growing trend, undermine the very basis of expansion and accumulation by reducing the capacity for self-valorization based on the direct expropriation of the power of “free labor” (living labor), in the form of merchandise to produce values ​​and generate the spiral of real appreciation of the total share capital.

It is here that we can notice the unavoidable movement of this contradictory process, while reducing the total and abstract social work of the productive system to increase productivity and reduce the cost of production, which ends up sabotaging the dynamics of capitalist rationality itself, sustained by the logic of value, which gives meaning and determines the form and content of capitalist and bourgeois social relations. It is a dead end that puts the whole of society at risk and threatens the very basis of modern civilizational development, in particular because it generates external of this dynamic irrecoverable and destructive consequences on nature and, consequently, on the relationship between man and nature.

Far from any ideology of the sustainability discourse, industrial and financial capital objectively operates at an accelerated pace, devastating its own form of sociability based on exploited labor, a source that generates private wealth to realize its short-term profits. It blindly moves forward without caring about the damage that this logic generates for nature and the human condition, therefore, the social foundations of this rationalization of production and social and material reproduction tend to lead society, every day, to the verge of ecological collapse. This means that today, we cannot fight this reality if we do not attack the foundations of this rationality, that is, the current mode of sociability. Under these conditions, there is no longer any possible reconciliation between the logic that governs the capitalist economy and life. The demands of production and the market prevent any form of rational control or containment measures to curb the devastation of nature through the appropriation and expropriation of its resources with the aim of converting them into merchandise.

What we are experiencing with the covid-19 pandemic is just a symptom of this destructive process with which capitalist normality has come to identify and become the crisis itself, in a fraying of contradictions that have turned into a modus operandi of an unprecedented metabolic process of destructiveness, both in the social relations of production, and in the condition of the relationship of the social being with nature. Therefore, it becomes an illusion or complete naivety to think that there will be a post-pandemic reality from now on -projected from market assumptions of the way of living and relating with complete freedom and tranquility, where everything will return to its functioning " normal” after the traumatic experience wrapped in the name of the generalized social experience experienced in the pandemic.

Such an illusion reminds us of the Open Society reign of conservative liberal philosopher Popper.[ii], where happiness, freedom and human well-being are measured by the free circulation of goods, of capital that emerge as the foundations of capitalist modernity and the bourgeois State. The problem is that this type of thinking overlooks and even ignores the combination of the human condition, which – in this society – is mediated by the exchange of goods and its fetishized world. A world in which the social reality and life appear to everyone as an indivisible, unalterable and insurmountable reality. Everything dominated by its apparent universe, which seems to be what it is, chained, fixed in representations seen as definitive, always generated in the immediacy and everydayness of life.

Contrary to this representation of reality, we have to understand the covid-19 pandemic not as a random phenomenon, but as an irrational advance in the very dynamics of the form of production and reproduction of the globalized system of capitalism in crisis, a product of ongoing transformations , which have generated devastating consequences between the social and economic order and nature. In this way, what we are experiencing as a consequence of the transformations of capitalism is the manifestation of biological, epidemic, bacteriological factors that are multiplying such as SARS and its family of lethal viruses, H1N1, EBOLA, swine and road flu that, as described by the highlighted biologist Rob Wallace[iii], create conditions for the emergence of new deadly viruses with high and rapid contamination. And when expanding around the world, they get out of control and start to compose an explosive reality, which has always been covered by a veil of “normality” of the liberal social and political order that drags humanity towards a sinister future.

How then to speak of a puerile “new normal” of post-pandemic normality, when its origin and reason for being and existing do not reside in itself, but in the social order in which we live, responsible for causing, in a multifaceted way, varied dimensions of a social reality which, in its essence and form, expresses the highest degree of contradictions that potentiate economic, social, psychic, racial, ethnic, political, ideological and class tensions? Therefore, how to think about “normality” in this form of sociability that engenders hatred in social relations with xenophobic, homophobic, racist and class actions? How, if all this manifests itself by trampling its own political regime: capitalist democracy? In fact, the regime fulfilled its historic role in consolidating the sociability and rationality of its form of production and reproduction, but today it is in a phase of exhaustion imposed by the exclusionary and irrational imperatives of capital.

In this scenario, the fact to highlight is that the reality of the bourgeois social order is faced with all possible forms of hostility that come from within the system itself, with regressive and accentuated practice of violence as a method and pedagogy of social control and political domination . In this way, political coercion, the rise of neo-fascist extreme right-wing social forces, expresses the growing difficulties of the ruling classes to build - as in the past - greater consensus and unity around their hegemonic social, cultural and political universality. Therefore, it became common to denial from the constellation of truths from the framework of liberal and political social thought, from scientific knowledge and practices that shaped the modernity of bourgeois ideology itself: social justice, freedom, reason and science as indispensable for realizing the utopia of classical liberal thought of the notion economic progress, development and profitability of the economy.

The apparent and partial abandonment of this economic, political and social ideology by right-wing and extreme right-wing forces that question fundamental aspects of capitalist society with propaganda and “anti-system” political speeches against parliament and the courts of justice, or with radical offensives against work and social rights, expresses, nothing more and nothing less, the historical links of modern bourgeois democracies and the capitalist State with fascist violence in order to be able to impose – in specific historical conditions – an institutional framework of an authoritarian nature. But in the past, this bond of bourgeois democracies with fascism in countries in late capitalist development -even competing industrially in the world market -was to achieve modernization through authoritarian political conditions of capitalism, to expand capital and to aim at territorial conquests through violence and imperialist war.

At present, the radicalism of the right and extreme right, whether in the concrete form of the neoliberal economic project with all its social consequences, or in the symbolic and ideological dimension of a fascist nature, maintains an essential historical difference in relation to what was manifested in the interim period. World Wars. The manifestation of fascism in that period – even if it seems paradoxical – took place in a context of ascension and positivity of the industrial production process of capitalism. At present – ​​whether through state coercion, party action, right-wing rabid groups, white militias, religious fanatics who form crusades against blacks, who hunt communists and all those who question the traditional and conservative form of sociability of the social order Since 1970, the existing system has expressed the crisis of capitalist democracy, its political, theoretical, cultural and philosophical principles.

It is in this context that the Bolsonaro “myth”, as well as the economic myths of growth, development and progress of bourgeois societies, make up the face of the same capitalist sociability in its degraded, threatening and erratically moving phase. The first myth is the ghostly political, ideological expression in the form of a quarrelsome braggart that has a usefulness, even if provisional, to hide the essence of the social and economic crisis, to distract the immediate perception of the fundamental issues that are in process in Brazil and in the world. On the other hand, the myths ofeconomic science referred to liberal have always had the functional intention of intending, whether by the classic liberal, neoliberal option or by the Keynesian social-democratic formula, to circumvent the unavoidable: the logical destructiveness of capital, which has shown colossal difficulties in converting itself into a phoenix – as occurred in the past – to take flight from its own flames and ashes.

The normality sought as an ideological discourse, together with countless expressions of wisdom, moderation and balance for a “good life” and “well-being”, with rational and realistic attitudes of “political correctness” translate the search for moral norms and standards, psychological aspects of human, social behavior in a historical period with a future threatened by the very driving force that engendered capitalist modernity. With this, they intend to passively and resignedly accommodate the majority of the working population that lives within the flames of the revolutionized capitalist order and with uncertain trends, many of which are even unpredictable. What it reveals is the inability of the goods-producing system to fulfill its civilizing promises, leaving it only to fight – under any conditions and in any way – for the survival of this system.

And, to the dismay of many, it is at this very moment that huge portions of the left in Brazil and in the world, in order to adopt a possible and “realistic” horizon of permanent coexistence with the formal and dichotomous binomial: democracy and capitalism, renounce the radical and strategic critical view of the world, society and politics. They assimilate the dominant ideology and that of liberals who do not recognize the reality that capitalism has created an economic sphere separate from other domains of social and political reality. Therefore, there is no logical and necessary relationship between economic interests and democracy, since in the course of history and national experiences, the economic interests of capital imperatives have always confronted the limits of institutional normativities, reaching today the fact that that democracy has become a serious problem for scorched earth neoliberal macroeconomic policies.

Indeed, the normality of the “new normal” that is sought is nothing more than an alienated consciousness of reality itself, a slave to its world of appearances that despises the objective and concrete processes of social relations in their entirety. The rupture with this conscience requires a change in the very position of the social and class horizon that one has before the world and life, extrapolating the merely existential and conflicting dimensions of individuals to conquer an authentic realization, not as a single being, prisoners of his anguish, but as a social being freed from the alienation of his daily life to live his humanity with mastery and knowledge of the true face of society and the world in which he lives.

* Eliziário Andrade He is a professor at UNEB.



[ii]Popper, Karl Raimund, The Open Society and Its Enemies. São Paulo: EDUSP, Vol. 2, 1987.

[iii]Wallace, Rob. Pandemic and agribusiness: infectious diseases, capitalism and science. São Paulo: Editora Elefante, 2020.

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