History of an involution

Image: Vlado Paunovic


The road from structural politics to hysterical moralism

The other day I was reflecting on how it was possible for the operational capacity of the political opposition to the system to be extinguished and today it has to be rebuilt essentially from scratch. Given that this is the problem with current problems, and given that, like every historical process, its causes are plural, I would like to dwell briefly on a single cause, of a specifically cultural nature.

The era of democracy and political opposition from below was a circumscribed epoch beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, in which Marxism played a key role. Specifically, Marxism was fundamental to understand, and to make people understand, how, in the modern world, every change of habit and opinion (which becomes hegemonic) always has a primary root in the “structure”, that is, in the sphere of economic production. and in the correlative management of power.

If, in a description of what happens, one is not aware of its structural root, if one does not understand how to situate the problem in relation to the distribution mechanisms of the economy and power (often coinciding), one loses sight of the only sphere which the causally decisive levers can be moved.

After remembering this fact, one cannot help thinking about the generational distribution of current political consciousness. Repeated experiences, from collecting signatures to public debates and rallies, indicate a common view: the generational distribution of political awareness almost perfectly follows a downward curve. Those who show the greatest urgency to act before the levers of power are the oldest, and as you get younger, the ranks of the politically conscious dwindle, to the point where they almost disappear among the young and very young (say, the 18 to 24 age group).

It is important to note, however, that this fact has no historical precedent. Until recently, young people were part of the ranks of “arsonists”, universities have always been forges of contestation, political passion was born on the biographical threshold between studies and entry into the world of work. And this is natural, because the commitment and energy needed for critical political participation are more easily found in the twenties than in the sixties; and, on the other hand, because limitations, burdens and responsibilities normally increase with age.

So the question is: what happened?

To get an idea, just look at the political activism of young people, which in fact still exists, and whose form is instructive. It is interesting to look at the themes on which activism today focuses. A brief record reveals: (i) an environmentalism centered on climate change; (ii) gender identity issues, gender violence, gender equality, gender self-determination, gender language; (iii) Disney-type animalism and self-harm eating practices (veganism, praising synthetic meat and insect meal, etc.); (iv) for the most daring, appeals to “human rights” in a very selective version (in which, incidentally, violations occur only among enemies of the United States).

What is fundamental to highlight is that, instead, there can and does exist: (a) an authentic “structural” environmentalism; (b) a historical-structural awareness of the sexual division of labor (and its consequences on customs); (c) an analysis of the forms of “reification” of sensitive nature (animals) in modern industrialization; (d) a political awareness of the exploitation and violation of human nature.

And, in each of these cases, it is possible to recognize real problems by placing them in the general framework of the processes of economic production and distribution of power in the contemporary world. But none of this is predominantly part of the political activism of young people, who instead embrace their top-down “protest” agenda, in a format rigorously stripped of its structural implications.

In other words, spaces for contestation and ways of identifying problems have fallen to unfathomable levels, through the media apparatus and school and university indoctrination. Thus, comfortable bubbles of dispute are created, with the certificate of progressive kindness provided by reputable sources.

The old system of social control alternated the violent repression of youthful passions with periodic wars to vent them; the new control system, on the contrary, provides places where it is possible to carry out simulated revolutions with cardboard swords, on islands without any communication with this continent where real power plays its games.

However, this process of building artificial fences without structural anchorage is not new and it is wrong to focus only on today's youth. It's a process that started at least in the 1980s and has simply expanded and improved over time. All the conceptual effort made by Marxist reflection (in part already in the Hegelian era) and then developed over more than a century was annulled by the bleach of the new media power.

Today these “political” agendas, carefully neutralized, spread and make their characteristic shrill voice heard, which is then echoed, perhaps with reproachful benevolence, but finally blessed by the mouthpieces of power. We thus fall back on an analysis of history, politics and geopolitics which, forgetting what the true levers of power are, dedicate themselves body and soul to moralizing readings of the world, to police news, to the uproar of “righteousness” and the politically correct, to gossip among the elites.

Geopolitical interpretations proliferate and prosper in which Vladimir Putin is the bad guy and the Russians are the ogres; social readings in which criticisms of “gender ideology” are homophobic abominations; in which anyone who does not hug a Chinese is a “fascist”, and anyone who hugs him after a counter-order is a “Stalinist”; ecological readings in which the paintings in the museums get dirty because “there's not a minute to lose”, before going home and playing on the 88-inch Smart TV; etc. etc.

This infantilization of historical-political analysis makes any “activism” that examines the world as if the distribution of moral adjectives were its core, fatally impotent. And when someone points out that all this exhausting hysterical grunt doesn't produce any uneasiness in power, which even applauds, they've already prepared another moral attribute: you're a cynic.

The compartmentalization of the protest according to the ideological fences elaborated upstream produces, in addition to a substantial impotence effect, a total loss of balance and the ability to assess the proportions of the problems.

Each of these ideological games appears to those who play them as a cosmos, the only point of view from which to better see the whole world. And this generates an unbalanced sensitivity in visitors to these venues, because they invest all their energy and passion in a carefully delimited field: there are people who pass twice a day in front of the hungry old woman in the apartment next door, but they jump out with their eyes red with blood if we use an ill-regarded gender pronoun; there are people who are scandalized by human rights violations in Belarus (where they have never set foot) and then explain to us that it is right to beat the “anti-vaccines” and deprive them of hospital care; there are even students who demand meritocracy and vote for Calenda…

In general, the scenario is as follows: while royal power advises us to be resilient (because, if we take the form of the boot that tramples us, we suffer less), it advises us not to have children and not to retire for the good of the world. future, while every day explains to us that we have to be flexible to work where there is a need and that we have to stop moving because we ruin the climate, because, while it urinates on our head, it requires us to save on showering. While all this is happening, and much more, these activists are furiously fighting each other… because no injustice should go unpunished, including “asparagus rights”.

*Andrea Zhok Professor of Philosophy at the University of Milan.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the portal Crisis watchdog.

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how

See this link for all articles