Temporality in contemporary culture

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By Joao Adolfo Hansen*

Conference on the metamorphoses of culture today

I begin by drawing your attention to the very position in which I speak, a position necessarily below what happens. I believe that I speak, in this sense, through the medium and I think also within a situation that for the most part remains, at least, ignored by me. I have the distinct feeling, when talking about a subject like this, of talking between what I totally ignore and what I know very little.

I believe that this, by the way, is one of the main determinations of any talk about culture today. Certain notions that until yesterday seemed very evident and that were notions produced from the second half of the eighteenth century onwards, Enlightenment notions such as criticism, negativity, transformation, overcoming, totalization, totality, purpose and meaning of history, have lost their strength and A person who talks about them must necessarily recognize his bias when he talks about them. In this sense, the talk about them also has to recognize that it has lost all pretense of prescription.

If you think, for example, that until yesterday, while these categories were apparently obvious, the fact that there was supposed to be a cause and a final meaning for history also determined the idea of ​​a prescription of what action should be in terms of an action suitable for this purpose. As today a category such as totality or totalization disappears from the discussion of culture, and the idea of ​​a final meaning for history also disappears, the whole idea of ​​a prescriptive speech, that is, of a “ought to be” also disappears.

Thus, I have the impression that we should remember a notion expounded a long time ago by an author who is now largely forgotten due to these changes in culture. Karl Marx in the early XNUMXs floorplans – the book that brings together the drafts of The capital – states that, in historical development, the last phase is usually very one-sided in relation to the previous ones because it assumes that the previous ones were stages for itself and that, in this sense, it generally has an inability to criticize its claim to universality and criticize yourself. In this sense, says Marx, the present is one-sided. And it is one-sided because it produces one-sidedness, that is, it unilaterally appropriates the past and it is somehow blind to itself because it has no evident evidence of the processes taking place in it as present.

In this sense, I would like to remind you of a hypothesis made by the German historian, Rienhart Koselleck, who, discussing the historical process, proposes that we think of history according to the category of “time”. He proposes time not necessarily in a Kantian way, as a prior category of all thought, but as a social category. He proposes that the category of time would allow observing certain historical periods, observing through it two fundamental things: the way in which an experience of the past is cut, in terms of experience, and at the same time the way an expectation of the future is cut.

Koselleck fundamentally works, in this sense, with the histories of the Ancien Régime, with the histories today called baroque, with stories from the XNUMXth, XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, and he shows, for example, how these stories recycle a notion that we find in Latin letters, especially in Cicero, which is the old idea that history is the master of life . Koselleck proposes: what allows, for example, a man of the XNUMXth century to think that historical experience, what once existed, can be, as an experience of the past, a model for the present and at the same time a model for the master of life regulation an expectation of what will happen in the future?

It highlights something that should be evident to anyone who works with this subject linked to the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries: that in these so-called societies baroque the very fact that they supposed that there is a first, only and last foundation of history, which is God, made them think that the divine presence, which already appears in the past, also appears in the present and in the future. And, in this sense, the hypothesis that the good and great examples lived by illustrious men, prophets, heroes, etc. ancient, which evidence God's presence in time, inasmuch as God "is" always, they are also repeated in the present and future. In this sense, in the hypothesis that Koselleck shows, for a historical formation such as the Old Regime formation, there was a kind of almost immediate nexus between the experience of the past and the expectation of the future due precisely to this theological hypothesis that time has a religious sense and that God is always repeated in him.

This is what would allow us, for example, in our specific case, Brazilian, Portuguese, to understand the experience of a priest Antônio Vieira, in the XNUMXth century, who wrote a book called history of the future. People, since the French Revolution, have known that a hypothesis of writing a history of the future is a kabbalistic hypothesis, for us, either superstitious or, by definition, improbable because people have an experience, since the French Revolution, that history does not repeat. Or, if it repeats itself, it is like a farce of the tragedy that it was the first time.

Now, Koselleck makes precisely this hypothesis, which is very interesting to think about: this idea that culture as a social production, as a social representation, as a social expectation and as a social consumption of the past and the production of values ​​in the present articulated with an expectation of the future it should also be historicized by the way we can think about the category of time and that, in an Old Regime, pre-enlightenment, pre-French Revolution society, which believes in Cicero, history is the master of life, history does repeat itself. History repeats itself and the gap between the past and the future is practically zero. That is, the unpredictability factor of the future tends to zero. For example, for a man of the XNUMXth century, the idea that if it happened like this, it will happen again in the future was probably quite evident.

Now, you remember, for example, a critical hypothesis of this hypothesis made by Kant in Anthropology, which is a book that he writes right after the French Revolution, in which he says that until then all historical experience he was referring to the societies that call despotic, of Ancien Régime had been subordinated to the theological model of the sense of time. And he says: all of society was subordinated to time, insofar as theologically time is an emanation of God and, therefore, human history is part of a divine project included in time.

Kant will affirm, at the end of the XNUMXth century, you know that, that, from that moment in which he writes, history no longer needed God, God is dead, and that, in this sense, there is no absolute foundation for it and that history now becomes just a quantitative process that subordinates time to itself and that establishes, by definition, a lapse of indetermination between the experience of the past and the experience of the future. In the Kantian hypothesis, already at the end of the XNUMXth century, the Enlightenment idea, the idea that the future is imponderable, the idea that we do not know absolutely what the future is, but that the future depends on a human calculation that quantifies the several variables trying precisely to orient time towards it, the future, where the sense of time comes from.

We probably learned from the French Revolution and Enlightenment philosophers, and later from Marxism, in the XNUMXth century and even in the XNUMXth, this idea that time has a meaning. Now, this sense is no longer divine or theological, it is only human and results from a production of merely human events. The debate is whether these events are produced by individualized types or by proletarian masses or by anonymous factors such as the economy or politics, in an undetermined way.

But there is always this common core fact which is the idea that time advances in a straight line, the past does not repeat itself because it was denied by the practices of the present, the present is still a stage where we are, but it is a stage of contradiction and he still hasn't realized the fullness of time, the fullness of reason that will really incarnate in him, and that then the idea that time in the present is, by definition, you know, the space of a negativity. That is, culture has a function not only of representing the social, etc., but culture also has a function with the idea of ​​criticism, that is, the idea of ​​making the contradictions of the present the material of a negation that postulates a transformation that will overcome the present, making the future come quickly.

This is, for example, the utopian hypothesis of the early 1924th century, the hypothesis of the surrealists in XNUMX, the Dada hypothesis or the Cubist hypothesis, probably the idea that the bourgeois or academic or official forms of representation that we find in culture are pastist. , excessively linked to a past understood as a conservative or reactionary past or proper to a managed life. And this idea, then, that art or culture has a function of, through the negative rationalization of the form, through the refusal of the familiarity of the form with the managed world, to propose a critical activity, which probably reaches the spectator, making him politically aware of a need to overcome that present state in terms of the future.

Do you remember, for example, that the poet Mayakovsky was going to say, when he was commissioned by Lenin to make that graphic and at the same time poetic program of revolutionary art in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s, that the true time of the revolution is the future that is, everything comes from the future, the future is the time where time comes from. That is, it is as if there were a memory of the future, that is, we live in the present, since we are enlightened, as a function of a critique of the present, of a continuous denial of the present, as a function of something that must be a future that hasn't come yet so it probably is"Utopian”; in fact, he isa-topic”, he has no place; but he isUtopian”, that is, he is out of topos, he is out of place.

Probably the traditional idea, then, if you think, for example, the constitution of a type at the end of the XNUMXth century that is “the artist”, another type that is constituted which is “the critic', another type that is constituted which is “or intellectual”, are all types, according to the Enlightenment, endowed with a function of producing culture, in a broad sense, or, in the more specific case of culture, of producing the arts in the sense of a continuous critique that always postulates an overcoming of the present state because the present, by definition, is an unsatisfactory state.

Do you remember that hypothesis, for example, “the dream of reason engenders monsters”. Do you remember Goya's painting, that idea that the present is the state of myth, the present is the time of ignorance, of superstition, and that Enlightenment criticism, being rational, will produce a radical abolition of myth making that the values ​​of res publica, as Kant said, that is, of the “public thing”, of true democracy against despotism, are established. Now, Gilles Deleuze made a very funny joke. He used to say: yes, Goya was right, the dream of reason produces monsters, but so does insomnia.

In other words, when reason goes crazy – and it does – it can be an industrial reason that calculates, for example, how many Jews we are going to burn per second in an oven. And he draws attention, for example, to a concentration camp, which is rationally constructed as an instrumental reason, Enlightenment reason taken to the last consequences of industrialism, burning people. And that it is an absolutely frantic reason, a reason taken to the maximum insomnia, it is not a reason that is asleep, but a very awake reason.

In this sense, precisely, you agree with me, in the 1960s especially, we found various activities in culture, mainly coming from France, but also in Germany, England, Italy and later in the United States, a movement in culture that initially started in disciplines that began to criticize the positivism of historians and the positivism of social scientists in general and are disciplines coming from linguistics, psychoanalysis, ethnology, anthropology that began to draw the attention of these social scientists and historians to the particularity of practices and they began to criticize mainly the idea that there is a given meaning or that there is a given unity in the idea of ​​subject or consciousness or ideology or representation, etc.

This constitutes what a German philosopher who teaches at Stanford today, who is Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, calls non-hermeneutic field, in the case of culture, and which is linked precisely to a critique of the Enlightenment. That is, the idea that this way of organizing time as succession, evolution, transformation, dialectic overcoming and as contradiction assumes that there is a unitary, full subject, who is a subject of knowledge in relation to any object to be known. It assumes, at the same time, that consciousness is the place where knowledge operations take place. It assumes, at the same time, that there is an almost equivalent relationship between the subject who knows and the object to be known. And it assumes, at the same time, that time is a continuum and that it has a unit.

What is a Hegelian idea, you remember: this idea, in the case of the arts, of classifying historical periods, with a single unit then, "the baroque","the classic","the arcade","the romantic”. You know this, of course: several historians began to show, since the 1920s of our century, that within a limited time frame we observe several temporalities, that it is impossible to unify time under a single label because we observe, for example, that there is a temporality of language, there is a time proper to economic processes, there is a specific temporality to sexual practices or kinship relations, there is a temporality proper to politics and that there are several times at the same time that prevent people from suppose this idea of ​​an evolutionary unity.

You remember, for example, Braudel's studies on the Mediterranean, on Felipe II, how he shows that there is a very long time, which lasts thousands of years, which is the very time of the rotation of cultures or of the Earth. Then, as there is a shorter time that is placed on top of this, which is a political time, a monarchy, which lasts two hundred years. And then an almost conjunctural time, a quick time, of events, of small wars. And then a micro time, which would be the time of almost individual processes. This idea of ​​historians is very interesting to think about.

She began to introduce, in the 1920s, in French historiography, for example Febvre, Bloch, this idea that we should abandon this historiographical model coming from the XNUMXth century, which is the Hegelian model, of continuous evolution, of a history that has an already given meaning and a single line in time, showing, for example, that this history is ethnocentric, Western, basically German, English and French and that it excludes other historicities. She puts the Orient out, she puts the sayings "primitive societies” out etc.. This criticism that began to put precisely this idea of ​​a discontinuous time, which until then was something that scared historians, must already be considered as a shock to the idea that time is an evolutionary continuum of transformations and that time has a meaning already given as an origin and as an end.

We will find, on the other hand, for example, in all the activity of psychoanalysis and the development of psychology in the XNUMXth century, a critique of the bourgeois idea of ​​an individual defined as a unit and psychological identity that is always unrepeatable. Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis shows, by “a” plus “b”, that the subject is an accident in a signifying chain where he occupies an imaginary position allowed him by the culture and that he can be several at each moment and always another and that the subject has no substantial unity.

At the same time, in philosophy, in the 1950s and 1960s, we find a very strong recovery of the hypotheses of Nietzsche and later of Heidegger about the fundamental non-meaning of history, this idea of ​​a anarché. That is to say, in the traditional, Enlightenment hypothesis, history has a Arch there is a basic origin and therefore there is an end. Now we are going to observe, in the 60s, this idea of ​​a anarché, of a non-origin, and which will produce, in turn, the idea of ​​a given non-meaning and the critique of the idea of ​​evolution, of the idea of ​​progress, of the idea of ​​identity, of the idea of ​​unity, that is, as they said, it is a generalized “anti-platonism” made as a radical criticism of this idea that consciousness is the founding core of the process of knowledge, because now it is said: no, consciousness is the effect of a linguistic structure or a family structure or a political structure or an economic structure or an “x” structure.

There ends the idea, for example, that consciousness is the nucleus. At the same time, it is said: the idea that there is a meaning already given in the object, that only the subject recognizes the given meaning, is false. In the Nietzschean hypothesis, for example, knowledge is not re-cognition, but it is force, knowledge is a violence that is exerted on any object that is totally foreign to us. The hypothesis, then, that the very idea of ​​truth, which we learned from the Greeks that it is something substantial, is a historical product and that it is a radical, let's say, historicization of everything.

This led, as you know very well, to a criticism that has been made to this day in the so-called discussions postmodern in the 1980s, which is a critique of the traditional method of interpreting culture established in the XNUMXth century, mainly in Introduction to the Sciences of the Spirit, by Dilthey. Do you remember, for example, that at the end of the XNUMXth century Dilthey, the German philosopher, made a hypothesis: what is the relationship we establish with a work of art? In Dilthey's hypothesis there is a creative subject, who is thought of in the classic fashion, as a unitary subject, an individual endowed with a deep and psychologically original critical sense. This individual then formalizes, in a work, his individual experience. But which, because it is genius, manages to formalize in the individualization of the work an experience that is social and which therefore transcends mere individuality and may be of interest to others.

We, as readers or spectators, says Dilthey, establish, as subjects who are also like the author, a relationship of dialogue with the work. By establishing this relationship, we are going to look for what the surface of the work hides and we are going to ask the work what it means, if it has a secret intention, a deep intention. Then we will interpret the work. That is, the work is doubled the Latin word: to interpret, that is, stand in the middle of the fold and unfold outwards.

What is interpreting? It is to seek in the work that hidden meaning in its depth and which corresponds to a hidden meaning in human nature and that that man, individual artist, for being a genius guy the model is romantic, he expresses, he represents, that is, he presents anew , he re-presents, he re-veils, that is, when he shows, he at the same time conceals and re-veils. The critic's activity, then, is to establish a commentary relationship with the object, showing the public in this case, us, that it was not able to see that deep meaning, the true deep meaning of the work. Because, when this true deep meaning is discovered, the work immediately reveals itself as a critique of the present and a possibility of overcoming criticism, proposing the advent of the future.

Now, this model of interpretation has blown up precisely with the constitution, in the 1960s, of this so-called “non-hermeneutic field” because it is the idea that it is explicit sex there is nothing to be interpreted because there is no depth. And the idea that we should work with relationships and not exactly with this hypothesis of searching in the supposed depth of the object for an interpretation that we would bring out. This immediately produces the hypothesis that there is no given meaning in the historical process to which interpretation is traditionally related.

To the extent that this meaning is not given, there is also no reason to make an interpretation because we do not have to look for the true meaning to engage teleologically, finalistically, in the critique of history and in the advance, in historical progress. The hypothesis now is that meaning is contingent, meaning is just an effect that is produced here and now as a mere relationship between the subject who acts — and this subject knows that he is just a partiality, he is not unitary at all, deep, it is just a syntactic function — and the object.

This produces, in the field of art and literature criticism, a great shift that has been increasing since the 1980s. Probably because history itself, as a discipline, historians mainly, taking into account this change in the field of knowledge, began to draw attention to the fact that, instead of establishing a relationship with the object that should be interpreted, it would be I need to start discussing the conditions of possibility of the appearance of that object.

So, for example, in the case of literature, we noticed a movement like this: in the 1960s, 1970s, there was a kind of great concentration on the “immanent” analysis of discourse or on an analysis that looked for meanings in a discourse. Suddenly this was forgotten and studies turned to something now called "cultural studies”, in which literary historians, instead of discussing the novel by Machado de Assis, are discussing the material conditions of the end of the Empire, the development of the press or the productive techniques of the book or the material conditions of the circulation of reading or the orality or illiteracy in Brazil to discuss the text of Machado de Assis in the context of these practices.

Or else it shifted to a history of reception, I mean, let's not exactly see what the meaning of this work is. Because in Dilthey's hypothesis we establish a relationship with culture regardless of its materiality, we seek in culture a meaning that is transcendental, which is the meaning of communication between two full subjects regardless of any material element. What is the traditional idea: what does this text mean? The idea that a text always has a universal meaning.

Now, the whole movement from the 1960s onwards, taking into account the criticism of this interpretive model, for example, the Germans linked to the theory of reception. That hypothesis, for example, that Jauss made that Joaci here knows, he worked something similar in the Chilean Cards… Jauss says, do you remember: Goethe wrote, at the end of the XNUMXth century, a play that is Iphigenia in Táuride. Iphigenia, if we read it interpretively, we will say: what does Iphigenia mean? In Jauss's hypothesis, you remember, the cultural meaning of Iphigenia would be the sum of the readings that have been made of this text since Goethe published it at the end of the XNUMXth century. So the idea now is that it is fundamental to take into account the practical conditions of appropriation of the object, that the object does not have a produced meaning.

I don't know if you agree, but in the discussions that take place today in the field of culture, we realize that something has changed in the way the experience of time is oriented. I mean, we are evidently not agents of the Old Regime, we don't believe in God, by definition we are atheists. I think that even when we are religious, we are practical atheists.

At the same time, capital revolutionizes the world again today with this technological revolution, for example, in information technology. It's something we don't know what it is, but it's absolutely amazing. The other day I got really depressed because I read a report about a bank robber in Canada who stole a car too and ran away. And he was tracked by satellite, a satellite read his license plate in a forest in northern Canada and he was arrested. It is very frightening because Lampião, who was a lively guy, used to say: “God is big, but the bush is bigger”. Not today, God is too big.

I think of Deleuze's idea that our society today is no longer a disciplinary society, but one of control. Deleuze proposes that the model of society today is the credit card. And he remembered, for example, how the credit card produces virtual money and also how it produces virtual time. And, as it produces virtual time for each one of us, it obliges us, in the present, to commit to all the conservative engagements we are involved in. We are still married to the same woman, to the same man, we have the same lover, the same boyfriend, we continue to have the same boss, we continue to do the same things with the idea of ​​responsibility. I mean, I have to pay this off next month.

So Deleuze demonstrates how perhaps the credit card shows precisely a new way of organizing time that presupposes something else. And that is what is terrible, according to critics of the postmodern: the idea that the present does not pass, that the present is eternal. In the Enlightenment hypothesis, the future is the time from which the true meaning of history comes and, therefore, the present is just a passage, the present must be quickly declared past.

I mean, the more we kill the present, the faster the future comes. Which is the idea of ​​the revolution. That's what the revolution is. Now, in our time, since the 1980s, terms like revolution, class struggle have radically disappeared from discussions, I don't know if you agree, and today, a person who dares to speak of revolution or class struggle will immediately be classified as maladjusted or neurotic. either romantic or unrealistic. Our president proposed: “forget what I wrote”, in the name of a political realism that we know is not only a realism, but a radical cynicism.

Now, critics rightly criticize the hypothesis that our present seems to have become a present of exchange value and of radical commodity fetishism, where we only have a continuous process of exchange, an absolutely generalized exchange-exchange, and that , as we have no idea of ​​the future, it seems that the present repeats itself, all the pasts are piled up as if they were at our disposal.

So, for example, some urban planners have drawn attention to the contemporary space of metropolises, to how a kind of stylistic simultaneity is experienced today, mainly in architecture, of citing styles from historical styles. So we are in a space that is neo-baroque, Babylonian, Roman, Greek, Renaissance, neoclassical, romantic, Bauhaus, functional, Le Corbusier and wattle and daub. Now, is this merely a fad? Some say no, it is not a fad, that this is corresponding to a deeper, more radical structure of the very way of organizing perception in the economic, political and cultural changes of the present, which are causing time to be lived in a way another way.

For example, Gumbrecht draws attention to the fact that anyone in New York making a call to Paris and the Atlantic Ocean is not a spatial obstacle. There is a radical simultaneity, it's as if I were talking to my friend in the next room or here, with you. What does that mean? What some scholars call "glocal”, I mean, it is a global that is in the local, a simultaneity of the space of all versions, the possibility of having simultaneous access to all versions.

We have two basic positions on this, I don't know if you agree. There is a possibility, insofar as today's culture accumulates, piles up, has an archival pattern, it keeps gathering and citing apparently in a non-hierarchical way. When I was young, there was a basic discussion for us, which was the distinction between thanks to and high culture. So we said: “ah, this is thanks to ”; “this is great poetry”; “ah, this song is good, this other one is thanks to ”. And the idea of ​​an erudite culture opposed to the cultural industry. And the idea of ​​a popular culture opposed to a non-popular culture.

And the idea of ​​the validity of terms such as “right"and "left” in determining political positions. Now, we know that, since the 80s, these terms have disappeared. And especially in media we perceive an absolute and radical indetermination of aesthetic value, for example. We have, on the same page like Folha de S. Paul, but it would also be New York Times ou Le Figaro, anywhere in the world, at the same time, news about Caetano Veloso talking about his love for Fernando Henrique and, on the other side, an excerpt from Mozart, Macaco Simão talking badly about Mário Covas, an advertisement for Brad Pitt and then a little cooking news. Thirty years ago a page like this would be violently criticized by sociologists, historians, critics, etc. as a counterfeit and as something thanks to and radically in bad taste and as something ridiculous, absurd. Now, no, we have a kind of absolute equalization, there are no intervals. And there is a kind of de-hierarchization of artistic value.

This produces a critical problem that is fun and which is the following: Enlightenment critics, who are still here, Marxist critics, people who read Adorno a lot or whose minds were formed by Walter Benjamin, when they see this spectacle they think like this: “wow, what a horror, what a horror”! At the same time, when they see, for example, the new boy-Folha-de-S.-Paulo, which uses the Sheet as a means of marketing to publish their new novel that will talk about homoerotic incestuous relationships that is now politically correct, they say like this: wow, what a terrible novel, rubbish!

Why? We read Kafka when we were young. Kafka! At the same time, they go to a painting exhibition and see there, for example, that So-and-so is repainting the repainting of Beltrano's painting, that he is making a parody of the quote's stylization, etc.. So they say this: putz, but there's no invention, this guy has nothing, we liked Picasso, Klee, these people are inventive. Now, this is a very interesting critical problem because these critics are in a weeping, nostalgic, melancholy attitude like “how green my valley was”, saying like this: yes, that time was good, and now we are experiencing a radical decay of values.

And they even produce a contradiction in the discourse itself, which is the idea of ​​proposing products of high modernity — Kafka or Picasso, it could be Matisse or Joyce or Eliot — as models for the little poet or writers of today. Now, if we are modern against the postmodern, we cannot propose that the modern is a model of anything because, by definition, the modern is an Enlightenment idea that makes the modern have to deny itself .

The modern does not admit canons, the modern has no model. So the critic who says like this: “that sucks” and Kafka is the model for saying that this is no good, it is a violent contradiction because he is proposing that a modern artist like Kafka is an academic, is a classic that serves as a model for another production. This is one side, which has this whining in the culture and which today comes, I think, mainly from the area of ​​Marxism. Marxists who keep crying, saying it's very sad. Really, neoliberal society is a horror! But it's no use staying in that position just crying.

Another problem is the following: since everything is equivalent, we run the risk of falling into a radical cultural relativism and applauding everything, remaining only in a position of description and thinking that everything is cool. The problem today, in the way we face these questions and also the question of the organization of time in the historical experience of contemporary culture, in my opinion — which is just an opinion — is that we don't have categories to describe what happens.

I mean, reality is much bigger than we think. And she's probably a lot faster. We are still applying Enlightenment categories, which are ours, to think about processes that have already left the Enlightenment behind. If we are in the position of a modernist critic, nostalgic for ballet, nostalgic for the great art of the XNUMXth century — which is great art, really —, we will make melancholic and regressive statements about the present. If we are in the position of merely relativizing everything, we end up adhering to this kind of general liquidation that is just a marketing of culture as a commodity, as regressivity, etc. past, and also avoid merely adhering to what is there.

In any case, it seems that, in the experience of time today, the future is blocked. Why? Perhaps because the present does not pass. And why doesn't he pass? Here we have two hypotheses: one, which comes from the area of ​​Marxism and the very well-founded criticism of the neoliberal world today, is the idea that the present does not pass because economic and political processes produce, in individuals, a basic disinvestment of the relations of criticism. For example, when work has to ally with capital to guarantee employment, the idea of ​​revolution that until yesterday animated the labor movement has gone into space.

At the same time, the idea that in a culture like this capital is revolutionizing culture and that, in this sense, the present does not pass and the future is blocked because what is dominating, for the time being, is this mercantile, financial present, of economic exchange that transforms culture into exchange value. We are noticing this, for example, in World Bank programs for universities or for Brazilian education, this idea that only matters, as teaching, as education, what is immediately profitable.

Bill Gates was at Stanford about five years ago and gathered all the artists, architects, musicians, painters who teach there, he also gathered the people of letters, philosophers, historians, all humanities and the arts and said like this to them: look, i make thirty million dollars a month. It is a divine argument, it is absolutely absolute. And then he said: do you still waste time teaching the structure of Shakespeare's theater? Do you discuss whether or not Macbeth is a criminal, whether or not he is Machiavellian? This is silly.

You, with the knowledge you have, must teach your students to produce plots that imitate Shakespeare because we have a great field of entertainment industry ahead of us. Which is the Japanese model too, you know. The Japanese are making a bet that the great economy of the XNUMXst century will be the sign. Hence the investment in education that is already training people there to produce entertainment for the masses, because they are making a hypothesis that information technology is freeing people from immediate work and that the growth of those people who provide services, tertiary workers, etc. it will be infinite.

Now, culture is in this key, according to a Marxist critique would show, precisely because of this radical capitalist idea that culture effectively has always been a commodity, a ham, and that it only matters when the ham is immediately profitable, period. This is a hypothesis. The most optimistic critics — and who are postmodern — are saying: look, enough of the melancholy, things have changed, the future is blocked because we have too much of the future. The present is so multiple, it has so many pluralities, so many articulations that we don't know what the future is because that Enlightenment idea that the future was only one and that it would be a future surpassing the present as a revolution ended. We have millions of futures today, that's why the future appears blocked — it's undetermined, we don't know what it is.

So, in this space, we have a discussion about culture, I think, if we think that, at the same time, neoliberal economic processes are putting more and more people out of the economy, production, education, health, etc. . and simply washing your hands. I mean, until yesterday there was a type, which was the Enlightenment intellectual or the critical intellectual, who still dared to have the idea that he could speak for these masses.

Today this is an idea that embarrasses, no one has the courage to speak for anyone — to think that I am going to make a proletariat aware of his true historical duty, that should really embarrass anyone. But it is a mistake there was. At the same time, when this idea of ​​criticism or the intellectual as a critical type disappears, who took political sides on the question of culture, this old representation of time as contradiction, negation, transformation, overcoming and revolution also disappears. Today these ideas are apparently absent from culture not only in Brazil, it is a worldwide phenomenon. So we are in a situation where we would have to discuss what a new way of experiencing time means and that spatialization, simultaneity increasingly replace the ideas of continuity or overcoming and that denial disappears and we live a kind of full affirmative possibility of what were called differences.

Now, more and more, we have legion differences. I mean, since Gay Boys, lesbians, homoerotics, passing by blacks, abandoned Jews, children, FEBEM, you have it all. There are so many minorities… Now, class society is obviously there and it is more and more effective. The capital is there, we have a society still based on the idea of ​​exploitation. Probably, then, what we don't have, in the speed of this change, are the categories that would allow us to think about time.

In Koselleck's idea, which I think is a very interesting hypothesis, thinking about how we understand experience, that is, how we classify and define the category of experience, what we mean by experience. At the same time, how do we accumulate experience, what function does, for example, memory play in it? What is memory today, when it is on a hard disk or on a floppy disk? It's interesting to think.

What relationship do we establish with the experience not only of the present but mainly of the past in processes of our life in the present in terms of an expectation of the future? I mean, what is our horizon of expectations for the future? How do we think about the future? And if we don't think about it, why don't we think about the future? And then these elements — the experience category, the horizon of expectation category, the predictability and unpredictability of the future category — would allow us to think about something else that is fundamental to thinking about time, what the event is, what the event is. Nothing happens in our society — I don't know if you agree — boredom is deadly — at least I feel it.

I think that there is a kind of great agitation of the exchange, everyone runs from one side to the other, the simultaneity is more and more radical, but nothing happens that is a transformation of the state of things. A statement like that — you could say to me — is Enlightenment, you still have the previous model, because today maybe you shouldn't even say that, that nothing happens. The fact that nothing happens is perhaps characteristic of exchange, because there is only maintenance of the circuit, without anything happening in the circuit that is circulating, but nothing new comes from outside or inside that interrupts it. In that sense, some critical people — I don't know if they're Enlightenment — have the right to say, I think, that it's too tedious, it's too boring, it's too repetitive.

We have some events scheduled. For example, we can kill a president. It is the North American model of producing an event. Or, for example, we are a serial killer, we climb a tower and with a rifle kill our colleagues at the university or school.

Now, is this an event? The police, on the outskirts of São Paulo, in Carapicuíba, kill seven to eight a night. It's not an event. It is an event, but it is not an event because this is not given in the media and this does not apparently affect the structure of life. What is an event? It seems that the idea of ​​an event is also always related to a certain expectation that we have in relation to the future, the way of working with the experience of the past and the present and the way in which we guide, in the political sense of intervention, this experience and this expectation in our present. That determined the event. What is the event? It is what happens and may not happen. That is, he is a rupture, the event is a rupture.

In this non-hermeneutic field, there are currently several studies on new objects. And one of the objects being studied at Princeton, for example, is the theory of emergence or the theory of the event. I mean, the idea of ​​inventing a new science, a heuristic, which should try to think about new objects that are still somewhat unthought of today but that are already among us. For example, the criminal who is arrested in Canada because the satellite read his license plate; the credit card that produces virtual time; the fact that we have more and more neo-fascist phenomena; the fact that, at the same time that there is an absolute end to this Enlightenment idea, people are increasingly experiencing the cults of Isis, there are more and more esoteric cults, devil cults, these television sects that are proliferating.

I mean, there are several events, or rather, several phenomena happening in culture that deserve to be discussed as new objects, but generally what is happening is that, to talk about them, the critic either gets a melancholy attitude — "oh!, that sucks, it's a decadence!” — or he is in an attitude of mere validation. And maybe we should retreat the assumption and try to discuss what are the effective possibilities of finding new categories of thinking about objects. For example, the university does not think about everyday life. The university thinks only of erudite knowledge that has already been accumulated, which is generally dead knowledge.

The university, where it has heads, generally does not think about the here and now of everyday practice. She has to think about the XNUMXth century before Christ, evidently, she has to do that, which is her role. But not only that. She would need to invent a heuristic, an art of inventing future problems that we haven't even imagined yet. Then it would be cool, because we don't have any answers. That's cool too, that's magnificent, it's a time of absolute indeterminacy.

Anyway, it's interesting to think about: perhaps seriously thinking about the presence of the present, that is, what is the presence of the present. Probably the presence of the present is, in my hypothesis, a de-hierarchization of values, an absolute simultaneity of relations, an absence of the future, which is blocked, a radical accumulation of all the pasts that are stored and cited at will and, above all, a indefinition of what is, for example, the body.

We would also have to think about the body. What is the body, when does it move, when does it come into contact with the computer? What is the subject, in these various connections? We would have to discuss even today if our linguistic model – signifier, signified – is still valid, which accounts, as a semiotic, for cultural phenomena, or if we should not recover what Jean François Lyotard proposed as an energetic, a drive theory, a libidinal theory of cultural production.

But these are hypotheses. I think I talk a lot. I even had a text written and I didn't follow it, I got lost talking about other things. I hope I haven't been too wasted. Sorry, I spoke in an arbitrary way. Maybe I was just postmodern.

So, do you think it was possible to place a question? My idea was to propose three hypotheses about temporality thought of as a social articulation. I mean, this hypothesis that Koselleck talks about, the Old Regime time, a theological time, in which God is present; the Enlightenment time, which we find in the Enlightenment and in Marxism, this hypothesis of criticism and overcoming; and postmodern time, which feels like non-time, which feels like an eternity. As Drummond used to say, as it became boring to be modern, now I will be eternal. It's more or less this situation where we're posthumous in relation to ourselves, we're already dead and we're still alive — that's what's cool.

*John Adolfo Hansen is a retired senior professor at USP. Author, among other books, of Sixteenth-century sharpnesses – Collected work, vol 1 (Edusp).

This article was a talk at the Conversas no Ateliê event. Lectures on Arts and Humanities. Org. Vera Pallamin and Joaci Pereira Furtado. FAU/USP, 2002

 

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