Dystopia or utopia?

Image_Oto Vale


Utopia must once again become the Benjaminian key against the rubble of progress and the catastrophe of the future

Argentine political scientist José G. Giavedoni, Professor of Political Theory at the National University of Rosario, Argentina, wrote a beautiful article (1) days ago, maintaining that “the Benjaminian spirit seems to want to warn us that the truly shocking thing is to recognize in the future distant and apocalyptic, not something far away, even if perhaps a probable destination, but our own present”.

Walter Benjamin's famous thesis IX in the work "On the Concept of History" it shows the angel of history shocked by humanity's inability to recognize its own catastrophe and naturalize it on the ruins of the past. Thus, the present can only present itself under the rubble of what is left and the future will amalgamate all these catastrophes and ruins under the cloak of progress.

In this sense, I see Benjamin's disagreement with the famous Marxian phrase that "revolutions are the locomotives of history", through his perception that the train has run out of control throughout history, and revolutions have done nothing more than impose a brake on humanity itself.

As Professor Giavedoni himself put it: “The great success of neoliberal capitalism is to govern us, not against our will and freedom, but thanks to it and through it, convincing us that the situation we find ourselves in is the result of our own choices and decisions”.

However, there is something, a passage, in the text, that bothered me deeply, to the point of disagreeing with it. It is still not clear who will be right in the end (I cannot pass up Keynes's phrase: “in the end, we will all be dead”), but I would like to make explicit, in this brief text, the reason for my disagreement.

In this vein, Professor Giavedoni, despite all his fearful-skeptical discourse regarding the crazy speed of the train (progress) of humanity, states that: “The future technological scenarios without labor making the world move, within the framework of the present social relations of production, are nothing more than fantasy”.

My question is simple: Is it? And I give two examples contained in the text itself that reinforce this doubt: the first is when the professor asks for help in the recent article by Noami Klein (2), to quote the executive president of Google and Alphabet Inc, Eric Schmidt, who states that: “ The first priorities we are addressing center on telehealth, remote learning and broadband… We need to look at solutions that can be delivered now and accelerate the use of technology to make things better”.

In the second example, he highlights the words of the CEO of the company Steer Tech, Anuja Sonalker, for whom: “Humans are biohazardous, machines are not”.

Now, putting together the runaway train of progress (neoliberal capitalism), the speeches of the executives of the aforementioned companies, as well as the factual “crumbs” offered in the rubble of the present, it is possible that the fantasy lies in affirming, categorically , that the technologized scenarios in the future will not do without the workforce to make the world move.

And I give, right off the bat, a good reason to support this doubt: since the French election of 2017, which swore in Emmanuel Macron as the eleventh president of the French Fifth Republic, in fact since the primaries, the socialist candidate Benoit Hamon already defended a universal minimum income in the country. Not that here in Brazil, a country so backward in terms of technology, this proposal never appeared. On the contrary, the then senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT-SP), had been advocating this cause for many years.

But, then, would we be ahead of France in matters that refer to concern about the future of humanity? No way. Suplicy's concern originated in the dark past-present of the impoverished Brazilian population. Hamon was looking to the future. Nor could it be otherwise, given the social differences between France and Brazil.

Indeed, the debate on a universal minimum income, soon contested by the boastfulness of “everything-can” capital in France (but also worldwide), aimed to discuss precisely the excess of technology in people's daily lives. Because if the invasion of domestic robots is a matter of time (3), as were other technologies in the past (microelectronics, for example, more recent), nothing prevents the new “members” of our daily life, whether familiar, work and/or pleasure, absorb the tasks of workers, especially the less qualified.

Therefore, the recent European discussion on taxes for robots is emblematic. The so-called “GAFA tax” against internet giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple is already a reality in France. But other countries in the European Union are studying it.

However, I do not believe that Professor Giavedoni referred only to over-qualified labor to express his disagreement with the end of the present social relations of production. It would be of a cynical elitism that is not consistent with the content of the article. On the contrary, it seems that he makes the same mistake that he criticizes so much, namely, the inability of us human beings to recognize the catastrophe, when it presents itself routinely.

It is therefore necessary to be attentive to the signs that will lead us to one side (of the absolute catastrophe in the future, this one guided by the unstoppable machine of progress) or to the other side (that of the Revolution as an emergency brake).

Considering the momentary victory of runaway neoliberal capitalism, in contemporary historical reality, the blots in contrasts to what is set are still small and diffuse, but important. It is good to remember the narrative constructed in recent years by the French economist Thomas Piketty (4). Since his book “Capital in the XXI century” (2013), and now more intensely in his new book “Capital e Ideologia” (to be released in Brazil), this author has been proposing a tax on the highest assets that could reach 90%.

Undoubtedly, despite not resolving the central issue of humanity – civilizing emancipation –, given that we would still remain chained to the shackles of the nation-state, at least while it lasts, at least we would invert the current equation of growing global and regional budgetary expenditure. , which always ends up being paid by the poorest, and we would increase the income side of tax revenue.

Another important thinker in the current era of human history is the French philosopher Dany-Robert Dufour (5). Author of several books published in Brazil by Companhia de Freud, his most recent book “The individual who will come after liberalism” brings the central question of what will happen to the individual after the cataclysms and global interventions of liberalism.

Dufour's central idea is that, despite the apparent victory of liberalism, translated into its darker face of technobureaucratic neoliberalism, it shows signs of exhaustion. The apparent liberation of the totalitarian forces of the era of Italian Fascism and German Nazism engendered, in itself, the centripetal forces inherent in a new type of alienation. What resulted from this force towards the center in curvilinear movement was a politico-economic-social system that transformed human society into anything profitable. In other words, we are what profit gives us. Outside of it, we no longer exist as otherness.

The beautiful Western utopia, after the two world wars, that representative democracy could unite peoples, internally and externally, at the dawn of the Welfare State, vanished in the face of the cold mathematical reality of “Market” figures. Explaining better, instead of politics emancipating the people who created the constitution (Marx (2016), it was the economy that subjected everyone by creating, itself, the constitution for the people; or, as Dufour states, through its operator, the “ Divine Market”.

If we go back a little further in time, something 25 years ago, the German philosopher and essayist Robert Kurz, in an article published by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo (6), already alerted to the “naive but sensible conception of productivity: the more it grows, so thinks good human reasoning, the more relief it brings to man's life”. However, he questions the marvel of this theoretical naivety when he concludes immediately afterwards: “In our time, however, it seems that the increase in productivity, in addition to creating an exaggerated amount of goods, resulted in an avalanche of unemployment and misery”.

So before the 1970st century even opened its eyes, Kurz had his eyes wide open for the catastrophe that could be our future. Technological or “structural” unemployment, which was born in the XNUMXs, combined with the irrational view of the market on the reasons for this mass unemployment, and added to the ideological massification by State apparatuses, the latter co-opted by the market itself, already foreshadowed that something very wrong was happening in the society of the third industrial revolution, that of microelectronics.

In fact, as Kurz well demonstrates: “For the first time in the history of modernity, a new technology is able to save more work, in absolute terms, than is necessary for the expansion of markets for new products”. Thus, Kurz quickly demonstrates in his article that the market system is not concerned with human beings as individuals, but only as a total consumer of increasingly available and diversified products, in the light of the Shumpeterian theory (we can also include Kondratieff) of economic “big cycles”.

However, he asks a crucial question: "Who will then buy the ever-increasing amount of goods?" It is obvious that Kurz is taking aim at the growing unemployment in the current field of modernity. Microelectronics was not, nor will it be, the redeemer of “big cycles”, despite all the political-economic-media discourse of the advantages it brought. The operators of the “divine market” do not know, or do not want to know, the difference between advantages (in the sense of convenience, comfort, even luxury) and the effective need for this unbridled race for the inexhaustible production of goods. Accurately, Kurz concludes: “In vain, they still wait for the 'great cycle' of microelectronics – in vain they still wait for Godot”.

It is very likely that the reader who got this far will opt for the dystopia option, referring to the title question. And we cannot criticize it, because, as the linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky (7) rightly said: “The victory of neoliberalism was to destroy politics as a refuge for the vulnerable”. The worst feeling for the unemployed, and even for the current hyper-precarious people in their intermittent jobs, is helplessness, invisibility in the face of a society that, every day, atrophies itself into its nucleus of global power.

Well, at least there seems to be no doubt left: that utopia needs to once again be Benjamin's key against the rubble of progress and the catastrophe of the future. It is necessary to brush history against the grain to envision a different way out than the one it projects for us. Otherwise, the emergency brake has failed!

*Andre Marcio Neves Soares is a doctoral candidate in Social Policies and Citizenship at the Catholic University of Salvador.


MARX, Carl. Critique of Hegel's philosophy of law. 3rd. ed., 2nd. reprint. São Paulo. Boitempo. 2016, p. 56;










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