The neoliberal ethos and the bacillus of fascism

Image: Michelle Guimaraes
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By RENAKE DAVID*

Neoliberalism is the most recent historical phase of capitalism, which encompasses a unity between the accumulation model and political, social and cultural forms

The plague, a novel by Albert Camus that narrates the transformations in the lives of the inhabitants of a city under the rule of the bubonic plague – and makes an allegory of all forms of human oppression, notably Nazi fascism –, ends with a warning after reporting the effusive jubilation who took care of the citizens of Oran with the end of the epidemic: “In fact, upon hearing the cries of joy that came from the city, Rieux remembered that this joy was always threatened.

Because he knew what this euphoric crowd ignored and can be read in books: the plague bacillus never dies or disappears, it can remain dormant for decades in furniture and clothing, it waits patiently in rooms, in cellars, in trunks, in tissues and paperwork. And he knew, too, that perhaps the day would come when, to the misfortune and teaching of men, the plague would wake up its rats and send them to die in a happy city”.[I]

It seems that, about a century later, in various corners of the world, we have found ourselves living in an environment very conducive for the bacillus of fascism to emerge from its dormant state and awaken its rats to die in unhappy countries. This text intends to expose how some essential characteristics of ethos neoliberalism may be related to the growth in adherence to the far-right discourse today.

Neoliberalism is understood here not as a mere set of economic rules, but as the most recent historical phase of capitalism, which encompasses a unity between an accumulation model and political, social and cultural forms. A set of discourses, practices and institutions that impose, through coercion and, above all, consensus, a normative logic on the conduct of individuals, whether they belong to the dominant or subordinate classes. All epochs produce the personalities they socially need, that is, they adapt “the 'civilization' and morality of the broadest masses (…) to the needs of the continuous development of the economic apparatus of production”[ii], in the words of Antonio Gramsci.

Theodor W. Adorno, who dedicated much of his work to the objective of preventing Auschwitz from happening again, tried to make us aware of how the general cultural atmosphere of capitalist social dynamics in the 20th century tended to generate personalities with anti-democratic inclinations. The studies of The Authoritarian Personality, carried out together with Levinson, Sanford and Frenkel-Brunswik, aimed to identify latent fascism in parts of the American population at the time and analyze its determinants. The research did not find many cases of openly anti-democratic people, but it did identify types of personalities that indicated a great susceptibility to fascist propaganda, whose conformity to authoritarian ideologies, in given moments of social crisis, could go from being a latent – ​​and often unconscious – state. – for their open defense and violent actions against scapegoated minorities in a society where social domination is increasingly abstract and impersonal[iii]. At the time the results of this research were published, in 1950, Adorno assessed that the manipulative personality was the most dangerous in the typology drawn up based on the characteristics of high scorers on the “F scale” (“F” for fascism). Marked by stereotypy[iv] extreme – rigidly dichotomous notions (good vs. bad, we vs. the others, me vs. the world) become ends and not means, and the world is divided into administrative, empty and schematic fields –, the manipulative type is obsessed with “doing things”, not caring in the slightest about the content of such actions, and makes the activity, of efficiency as such, a cult. Your love cannot be directed towards other people, being absorbed by things, machines, equipment, while people are treated as an amorphous mass. He has a type of objectified consciousness – “In the beginning, people of this type become, so to speak, equal to things. Then, to the extent that they achieve this, they make others equal to things.”[v]. Adorno noted that this was a pattern found “among numerous businessmen and also, in increasing numbers, among members of the rising managerial and technological class who maintain, in the production process, a function between the old type of owner and the aristocracy of workers”[vi].

Fifteen years after the publication of the The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno warned about the cultural climate that fueled the worrying trend towards the development of ever-increasing numbers of subjects inclined to fetishize technique, ie, who consider technique as something in itself, with its own strength, forgetting that it is a product of human work. “The means – and technology is a concept of means aimed at the self-preservation of the human species – are fetishized, because the ends – a dignified human life – are hidden and disconnected from people’s consciousness”[vii]. The overvaluation of technique is something very characteristic of the objectified consciousness of the manipulative type and is what leads, “ultimately, whoever designs a railway system to take victims to Auschwitz more quickly and fluently to forget what happens to these victims in Auschwitz”[viii]

And isn’t it that these characteristics of the obsession with efficiency and incessant activity, of reified consciousness, of the overvaluation of technique, are very present in the subjectivities constituted by neoliberalism, so well summarized by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval in what they called “entrepreneurial subject ”? He must lead his life in such a way as to yield an ever more productive performance, in order to expand his “human capital” indefinitely and, thus, guarantee his employability[ix]. The logic of competition and efficiency and the company model begin to govern all spheres of life.

The idea of ​​making oneself a company suggests that each individual can lead, control, and manage their life by devising appropriate “strategies” and rationalizing their desires. In self-management, the individual must undertake self-improvement[X] constant, becoming increasingly effective, ready to win each competition and ensure its permanence in the “employability” game. All activities of the individual must be conceived as a process of valuing the self, resembling a production, an investment, a cost calculation[xi]. These “human capital” management techniques are pragmatic, “solution-oriented”. Dardot and Laval note that “They are not so much about why, but about 'how it works'. To follow the style of the formulas found in this type of discourse, 'the fact of finding the nail responsible for the puncture says nothing about how to change the tire'”[xii].

In the professional sphere, social relationships have become one-off commercial transactions, without any expectation of trust, commitment or solidarity. Dardot and Laval show how relationships with others are seen as a form of extra sales and, in the same way that persuasion techniques are developed to sell a shoe or an apartment, techniques have also been created to increase the effectiveness of these relationships. The human being is an individual company and every company needs advertising. And, as in advertising, “It's not about saying what's true and what's not. It’s about asking what is the most effective and constructive way to communicate with someone”, warns a pedagogical presentation on neurolinguistic programming[xiii]. What matters is convincing others to obtain efficient results. The other is a mere instrument.

And as company ethics applied to the conduct of subjectivity has made work activity the essential vehicle of personal fulfillment, the imperatives of efficiency and competition as a norm of conduct spread throughout all human social relations, as well as affecting the relationship between individual with himself – who must always seek the best version of himself, incessantly surpassing his achievements – from the earliest age, as it is as a child that one begins and fills the piglet with “human capital”. Anne Helen Petersen shows how, starting in the 1980s, in middle-class homes, parents began to adopt “combined cultivation” in their children’s education, ie, fill their children's time with activities that prepare them for the job market in the future – from ballet classes, piano, foreign languages, fencing, participation in various competitions, to encouraging the formation of a network of influential contacts. “(…) to be 'successful', a Millennial child, at least by middle-class standards, had to prepare for the burnout"[xiv].

The fact that work is considered the primary sphere of personal fulfillment does not mean, however, that the worker's class identity is encouraged, quite the opposite. In the neoliberal era, workers are encouraged to “free themselves from the passive status of wage earners” – basically, social and labor rights guaranteed jointly by the State and the company – of the Golden Age and become companies of themselves. in order to be successful. Euphemisms such as “collaborator” are replacing “worker” or “employee”, terms that have become almost taboo in the corporate world. In this ultra-Robinsonade, there are no spaces for collective support networks, such as unions, considered not only useless, but enemies of individual success. The social atomization advocated by the neoliberal order is an essential fertilizer for the environment of generalized competition to flourish. Each and every one is subject to the imperative of competitiveness, which never ceases.

Therefore, to “win in life”, it is necessary to have within oneself the obsession with doing things that Adorno identified in the manipulative personality. A statement from a Goldman Sachs associate in the 2000s precisely illustrates this characteristic and how it became normative conduct among businessmen and managers:

“Self-esteem is about this – completing and doing things. In a big company or in academia, it's hard to get things done. [On Wall Street,] you work with a lot of people and they are all super dedicated, very smart and really motivated, and that creates a really good environment. I think in the old days, in the 1950s or 1960s, people kind of had a set pattern for their lives. They went to work, rose slowly through the ranks, and did whatever they were told. I think now people have been seduced by the possibility of taking career leaps and the big difference they can make, how important you can feel or whatever else is attractive to them… I think in this day and age, you can do a lot , and that's seductive. That's why people who already have more than enough money, more than enough respect, stay involved in this, sacrificing their time with their family, because they need to feel needed. And there’s nothing better than always delivering and completing things.” [xv].

By “things” the neoliberal subject means “work”, ie, make your “human capital” generate value, more value, incessantly. If you give yourself a rest… not a rest, a break, a break that is not strategic enough to allow you to work 130 hours a week[xvi], you may lose your employability. And it doesn't matter that a huge amount of research[xvii] demonstrate that overwork, at one time or another, results in a drop in performance – because the foreman that has established itself within each conscience tells you that “every moment that passes without working means that someone else is getting ahead of you”[xviii]. Petersen stresses that as unions and the legislation that protected them became unpopular during the neoliberal era, so did solidarity among workers. As each individual sees themselves as an independent worker in constant competition, like a company, solidarity becomes an obstacle[xx]. As levels of precarious working conditions grow, propaganda and the feeling that it is necessary, to remain a good competitor in the job market, to be willing to constantly overcome all physical and emotional limits increase. “Getting out of your comfort zone” has become one of the biggest clichés in the recipe for businessman success.

In recent years, we have seen the rise and spread of “hustle cultures” –“culture of toil” or “culture of grinding”. “Hustle” understands the sense of rush, as well as those of activity, movement, grip and competitive struggle. The individual captured by this way of being is not only obsessed with doing things, but also with showing that he is obsessed with doing things, quickly and tirelessly. It’s the people eager to exclaim “Segundou!” instead of “Sextou!” on the social networks[xx]. Companies in the gig economy (Gig Economy) develop aggressive campaigns praising this type of “dedication”. One of them thought it would be good to publish in her blog the story of one of their drivers, who, a week before giving birth, felt strong contractions, but continued taking passengers from one place to another, as she thought it was just some discomfort, and when she finally realized that it was really the baby wanting to come out of the womb a week early, he headed to the hospital, not without, along the way, doing another run[xxx]. In Brazil, iFood stood out for its marketing 4.0 against the delivery drivers' strikes, and several of its contents were typical of the culture of toil – “I would run today to build tomorrow”, “Don't stop when you are tired. Stop when everything is done.”[xxiii]. Another emblematic campaign of the manipulative type, “possessed by the will of doing things"[xxiii] is this: “You have coffee for lunch. You persist in your persistence. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You can be a person of action. Fiverr – We believe in people of action (doers)”[xxv]. The most self-congratulatory billionaire of our times, the new owner of the ex-Twitter, is a huge enthusiast of the culture of toil. In November 2016 he posted that there were quieter places to work than Tesla, “but no one ever changed the world by working 40 hours a week.” And he concluded with another of the greatest tales from the vicar of neoliberal reason: if you love what you do, “(almost) you don’t feel like you’re working”[xxiv].

It is clear that the ideal subject of neoliberalism must be willing to never stop working. In the widespread formula “Don't stop when you're tired. Stop when you have finished the task”, at first glance, it seems that rest will come after the job is finished, but, as Dardot and Laval observe, the business subjectivity of this phase of capitalism defines a “subjectification due to the excess of oneself in oneself or yet, for the indefinite overcoming of oneself”. Satisfaction never arrives, because enjoyment is in a “beyond de always repelled”[xxv]. It is the logic of a company's survival – if there is no economic growth, if its capital is not continually expanded, it perishes in the face of its competitors. During the first impactful months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bolsonaro government's Communications Secretariat formulated an advertising piece whose motto was “Brazil cannot stop”[xxviii], in which the announcer mentioned several professions, repeating “Brazil cannot stop”. About two months later, in the anti-lockdown Bolsonaro crusade, Secom launched another campaign, this time alluding to one of the most famous Nazi mottos, “Work sets you free”: “Part of the press insists on turning its back on the facts, on Brazil and on the Brazilians. But the government, as determined by its boss, will continue working to save lives and preserve the jobs and dignity of Brazilians. Work, unity and truth will free Brazil…”[xxviii]. A furtive tear must have flowed among some members of the Bolsonaro government when they learned about the dedication of the Carrefour supermarket chain in not closing even if a worker died in the middle of the working day – they just had to cover the body of the recently deceased with some umbrellas and surround it. it with some improvised barriers so that no employee or customer can be distracted by impulses of commiseration, a clearly unproductive feeling by neoliberal standards[xxix]. After all, no more freshness, no more mimimi. How long are we going to stay crying?[xxx]

Exaggerated realism is another trait that the neoliberal subject shares with the manipulative personality. Possessed by the desire to “do things”, the manipulative type cannot imagine, even for a second, the world as different from what it is. “At any cost he seeks to practice an alleged, albeit delusional, Realpolitik"[xxxii]. “You have to be realistic”, they say. There must be no utopia. By realism this subject understands the recognition of the “overwhelming superiority of the existing in relation to the individual and his intentions, that an adjustment is advocated that implies resignation in relation to any type of basic improvement, that he gives up on anything that could be called daydreaming and that remodels itself as if it were an appendage of the social machinery”[xxxi]. Now, one of the indelible marks of the cultural climate in the neoliberal years is the disqualification of utopias – whether as foolishness, childishness or a paved path to totalitarianism. On a collective level, there is a lot of work to create consensus around this idea, disseminated on different platforms. At the individual level, the various neoliberal techniques for the self-administration of our individual “internal company” – coaching, neurolinguistic programming, transactional analysis – they sell tools so that we have more chances to adapt better to reality, making us more operational even in the most stressful or depressing situations[xxxii].

The research on The Authoritarian Personality showed that, among high scorers on the “F scale”, the denial of utopia is closely linked to ideas such as “the eternal and intrinsic evil of human nature” and the “human instinct to fight”. Adorno warned that “a person can express aggression more freely when he believes that everyone else is doing the same”[xxxv]. The denigration of human nature as selfish and warlike is also widely shared by neoliberal ideas. This cultural belief was even dressed up in scientific garb, as Susan McKinnon denounces, commonly presented under the rubric of “evolutionary psychology”, which adulterates the theory of evolution and natural selection into “neoliberal genetics”, naturalizing the “neoliberal economic values ​​of individual interest, competition, rational choice and the power of the market to create social relations” [xxxiv].

In the neoliberal work culture, an entire apology for the need to be merciless is developed, as this is what constant competitiveness demands – and if human nature is individualistic and aggressive, if you are not merciless, someone else will be and will thus take your place. The world of capitalist civilization is painted as a state of nature, but those who succeed in this free-for-all can poke out their competitors' eyes with a Christofle knife, dressed in an Armani suit, after arriving by helicopter at the arena. But let them not get used to these treats, because “nothing is guaranteed” and, in the next battle, everything could be taken away from them.

To show your personal value in neoliberal society, it is imperative to overcome your limits, whether physical, psychological or moral. Us reality shows of competition, which so well expresses the ethics of the neoliberal subject-company, ruthlessness, sabotage and selfishness are seen as just another “skill” in competition. According to a participant in these programs that naturalize suffering (both self-imposed and competitor-imposed suffering), “In survival situations, there are many things you have to get rid of. When it comes to moral goals, sometimes it’s every man for himself. The compassion part, you have to kill.”[xxxiv]. Silvia Viana shows how these programs are full of examples like this, which reproduce the ethics of neoliberal hegemony that must shape the company-subject. Dirty work becomes valued as courage – “It takes effort to be bad, to go against your own conscience”[xxxviii]. Christophe Dejours points out: “Violence, injustice, suffering inflicted on others can only be placed alongside good if they are inflicted in the context of a imposition of work or a 'mission' that elevates their meaning"[xxxviii]. In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Public, Dejours reports the case of a training internship in France in which, at the beginning, each of the 15 participants – all senior managers – received a kitten. At the end of the internship, which lasted a week, the director ordered everyone to kill these cats. It was a training to be merciless. 14 people complied. The only one who did not comply with the order fell ill and had to consult Dejours. The interviewer comments: “You are describing a completely Nazi scenario…”[xxxix].

Well... In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt discusses Heinrich Himmler's role in “solving problems of conscience”, pointing out that he almost never tried to justify Nazi atrocities in ideological terms, but rather sought to reverse the direction of the instincts that affect every normal man when faced with the physical suffering of others , making them turn to the individual perpetrating the violence: “So, instead of saying 'What horrible things I did to people!', the killers could say 'What horrible things I had to do in carrying out my duties, how heavy this task is on my shoulders!'”[xl]. In the perpetration of Nazi horrors, the same logic of valuing dirty work as heroism reigned.

Adorno found that many politically fascist anti-Semites in the Third Reich were manipulative types, such as Himmler, Höss and Eichmann. “His sober intelligence, together with the almost complete absence of any affections, makes them perhaps the most merciless of all. Their organizational way of looking at things predisposes them to totalitarian solutions. Its objective is to build gas chambers // instead of the pogrom.” It is not even necessary to hate the chosen scapegoats – they deal with them through administrative measures, without any personal contact with the victims. “Their cynicism is almost complete: 'The Jewish question will be resolved in a strictly legal way' is the way they talk about the cold pogrom"[xi]. Some of Arendt's considerations about the subjectivity of a portion of the Nazis also resemble Adorno's description of the manipulative personality. According to Arendt, Nazism realized that, for its machine of domination and extermination, “the coordinated masses of the bourgeoisie constituted material capable of crimes even worse than those committed by so-called professional criminals [from the rabble], as long as these crimes were well organized and take on the appearance of routine tasks.”[xliii]. She pointed out that Himmler was “not a bohemian like Goebbels, not a sex criminal like Streicher, not a madman like Rosenberg, not a fanatic like Hitler, not an adventurer like Göring”, but a “more normal” man. Himmler's great ability to organize the masses under Nazi rule was based on the assumption that the majority of men were not bohemians, fanatics, adventurers, sex maniacs, madmen or failures, “but, above all, employees effective and good heads of families”. Arendt believed that the atomization of the bourgeois individual, expressed in his great devotion to matters of family and personal career, was the product of the bourgeois belief in the paramount importance of private interest. The typical man that Himmler organized for torture and mass murder, in an industrial way, “was the bourgeois who, amid the ruins of his world, cared most about his own safety, was ready to sacrifice everything at any moment – ​​belief, honor , dignity”[xiii].

At the beginning of the 1940s, Herbert Marcuse, when analyzing the new mentality built under the Nazi regime, pointed out how, after the First World War, the pace of reconstruction and modernization of the German industrial apparatus was admirable, but the profits obtained from this apparatus were not those expected by German capitalists, due to the shrinking of the internal market, the loss of the external market, and the social legislation of the Weimar Republic[xiv]. Nazism offered them the return of a direct imperialist policy, the expansion of the internal market and the passage of a steamroller over social legislation (and the left-wing parties and social movements that supported it)[xlv]. “The same principle of efficiency that, in the organization of business, led to the regimentation of industry, benefiting the most powerful conglomerates, leads, in the organization of work, to the total mobilization of the workforce”[xlv].

And among the main characteristics of subjectivity in Nazi Germany, Marcuse highlights precisely the ideas of relentless competitiveness, efficiency, pragmatism, glorification of the individual and risk, so dear to neoliberalism. The German population, under Nazism, had been imbued with “a rationality that measures all matters in terms of efficiency, success and effectiveness. The German 'dreamer' and 'idealist' became the most brutal 'pragmatist' in the world. He adjusted his thoughts, feelings and behavior to the technological rationalization that National Socialism transformed into the most formidable weapon of conquest. He thinks in quantities: in terms of speed, skill, energy, organization, mass”[xlv]. Marcuse considered that the terror that threatened the German individual at any moment provoked this mentality in him: “he learned to be suspicious and cunning (…), to mechanize his actions and reactions and adapt them to the rhythm of universal regimentation. This factuality is the very core of the National Socialist mentality and the psychological ferment of the National Socialist system.”[xlviii]. Marcuse highlights that Adolf Hitler's speech at the Industry Club in January 1932 emphasized that, in the modern world, whether in the private, social or political sphere, life was based on the principle of efficiency. “According to this principle, individuals, as well as social groups and nations receive a share in the social product measured by their performance in competitive struggle – regardless of the means by which this performance was achieved and regardless of its ends, as long as they remain within the established social standard. For Hitler, modern society is perpetuated by relentless competition between unequal groups and individuals: only the most ruthless and most efficient competitor can survive in this world.”[xlix]. According to Marcuse, the Nazi State was the consummation of competitive individualism, and not its reverse, as it was and is so often interpreted. “The regime releases all the forces of brutal self-interest that democratic countries had tried to dominate and combines them with the interest of freedom.”[l]. The emphasis on the individual present in Nazi ideological proclamations had its counterpart in the organization of the masses, which is guided by the principle of atomization and isolation. Unlike class organization, mass organization does not occur through the consciousness of a common interest, but is only a coordination of individuals, “each one following his most primitive self-interest and the unification of these is effected by the fact that this self-interest be reduced to the simple instinct of self-preservation, which is identical in all of them”[li].

I don't want to argue that neoliberalism and fascism are the same thing. Like Amos Oz, I consider that distinguishing between the gradations of evil is a difficult and absolutely necessary part of the moral exercise. It is necessary to “pay attention to the differences between what is bad, worst and the worst of all”[liiii]. Logically, fascism is what is labeled “worst of all”. What I try to do here is to draw attention to certain disturbing affinities between the model subjectivity produced by neoliberalism and 1) the types of personalities that Adorno's studies detected, in the 40s of the last century, as those most likely to be seduced by propaganda fascist, and 2) some characteristics that historical fascism considered ideal as a norm of conduct for its model subjectivity.

Therefore, it seems to me that the Zeitgeist of neoliberalism makes the task of fascist propaganda easier, at the same time that it creates the objective conditions for popular support – whether through enthusiasm or total identification (or almost), or through indifference to the horrors that come attached to the ticket fascist – spread like wildfire. The similarities between the historical context in which classical fascism emerged and what we are experiencing today are alarming enough. I am referring, above all, to the immense concentration of capital and, consequently, the growth of social inequality and economic instability, with millions of individuals seeking new forms of survival to avoid social decline – or becoming frustrated with the failure of expectations of upward mobility. Social. Added to the brutal economic pressures is the erosion of the legitimacy of the main institutions of bourgeois democracy, considered corrupt and inefficient in protecting those who feel cheated, wronged or left behind. Large waves of resentment are forming and they reach greater levels where social atomization spreads more deeply. Today we have the climate crisis as an aggravating factor, which clearly exposes the obsolescence of the capitalist mode of production, guided by the compulsion of incessant growth on a planet whose resources are finite and whose ecological balance on which human life depends is extremely complex and delicate.

Even if, against all the catalyzing conditions of neoliberal times, a fascist nebula does not emerge, it is very worrying that so much of the fascist mentality survives so diffusely among us. And this shouldn't surprise us because fascism emerged as a form of capitalist administration to try to solve a crisis of profitability combined with a crisis of legitimacy.

I have the impression that the signifier “Nazism” (and its derivatives) still provokes a lot of rejection, but much of the content that its meaning expresses is accepted or naturalized, in a surreal divorce between signifier and signified. Some contemporary European intellectuals lament an amnesia of the horrors that occurred under the Nazi regime and call for a battle for memory. This is, in fact, crucial to stopping fascism, but it is not enough, especially if we ignore the social conditions that generate amnesiacs. And yet, knowing the facts, is it possible that thought can work on them in a categorical way? Because there is no point in having knowledge of all the facts if we are like “Irineu Funes, the memorable one”, that is, incapable of establishing conceptual relationships, even though we have an infallible memory. And this is one of the great tragedies of capitalist development: limiting human thought to the apprehension of isolated facts, reducing it to a simple attribute for qualification in the job market. The alignment of the temporalities experienced by the individual with the needs of capital rotation discourages intellectual and spiritual reflection because the time spent on them is considered unproductive, since thought is leveled at the immediately present. Adorno and Horkheimer, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, warned of the regression that advanced industrial society produced in the making of judgment, taking away the ability to judge, to distinguish between true and false. The thought was becoming an “unfashionable luxury object”. This expression reminds me of a speech by Arthur Weintraub, interviewed by Eduardo Bolsonaro in a live, when he reveals that he is one of the chloroquine gurus at the parallel Ministry of Health set up by Jair Bolsonaro. According to Arthur, the then president called on him: “Hey, skinny, you’re fucking crazy, go there and study this, man”. And then he started reading articles on the internet. Regarding the scientific method, Arthur expressed it this way: “The academic model, which follows the scientific method, is an archaic model, man, it's something that comes from when there was no internet, everything was on paper, people had time…”[iii].

This “wreck of reflection” paves the way for the arbitrariness and brutalization of the fascist administration: “When fascism replaced complicated legal procedures in criminal proceedings with a faster procedure, contemporaries were economically prepared for this; They had learned to see things, without further reflection, through the conceptual models and technical terms that constitute the strict ration imposed by the disintegration of language.”[book]. Mark Fisher, some seven decades later, reported how the work of teachers was under intolerable pressure to mediate “the post-literate subjectivity of the consumer in late capitalism and the demands of the disciplinary regime (passing exams and the like). ”[lv], analyzing the impacts of a “dotted, ahistorical and antimnemonic culture” on generation Z and a part of generation Y, for whom “time has always been cut and packaged in digital micro slices”[lv] and the recognition of Slogans It is enough to orient yourself in the informational plan of the internet times.

The union between cell phones and the internet constitutes a powerful tool in the production of stereotypical thinking, so striking in its manipulative nature and fundamental to the needs of the economic production apparatus of modern capitalism. The virtual experience through smartphone predisposes our consciousness to be captive to the proliferation of images, the celebration of the ephemeral, the robinsonades, the rush, the incessant noise and light, the constant vigil, and averse to silence, sleep, solitude, pondering, introspection, to hesitation – because the latter mean an increase in capital turnover time, increasingly intolerable in the performance society, supported by the capitalist compulsion for expansion. Adorno and Horkheimer observed that, in capitalist society, from the 20th century onwards, “whoever hesitates finds himself outcast as a deserter. Since Hamlet, vacillation has been for modern people a sign of thought and humanity. Lost time represented and mediated at the same time the distance between the individual and the universal.”[lviii]. And an observation by Victor Klemperer is quite illustrative of how the anti-hesitation stance was also valued by Nazism: “Montaigne’s point of view: What do i know, what do I know? Renan's point of view: the question mark is the most important of all punctuation marks. It is the position of extreme antagonism to Nazi stubbornness and self-confidence. The pendulum of humanity swings between both extremes, seeking the point of balance. Before Hitler and during Hitler's period it was stated countless times that all progress is due to the obstinate and all obstacles are due to question mark sympathizers. This cannot be said with certainty, but it can be said with certainty that blood-stained hands are always those of the obstinate.”[lviii].

Capitalism is thus increasingly becoming the reign of the “doers”, of men of action, of the manipulative type. If, at the dawn of capitalism, becoming an appendage of the machine was the figure that marked human alienation, if the desanthropomorphization imposed by capitalism was represented by animalization, by becoming a “trained gorilla”, today our alienation is marked by Attempting the closest possible imitation of the machine, our deanthropomorphization is represented by the digitalization of our subjectivity – the machine operates through stereotyping.

Therefore, as Brecht warned, it is necessary not to describe fascism simply as a “wave of barbarism that collapsed like a catastrophe of nature on some countries”. Taking a stand against fascism without criticizing capitalism, which engenders it, would be like wanting to “eat your portion of veal without slaughtering it. They want to eat the veal, but they don't want to see the blood. They are content to know that the butcher washes his hands before bringing the meat. They are not against the property relations that produce barbarism. They are just against barbarism”[lix].

The threat of the bacillus of fascism is eternal… as long as capitalism lasts.

*Renake David She has a PhD in History from the Fluminense Federal University.

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GULLINO, Daniel. “No more freshness, no more mimimi. How long will they keep crying?” says Bolsonaro about the pandemic, The Globe, 4 Mar. 2021.

KLEMPERER, Victor. LTI: The Language of the Third Reich, Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint, 2009.

LEVY, Clarissa. “iFood’s Hidden Propaganda Machine” in: The Public, 4 Apr. 2022. https://apublica.org/2022/04/a-maquina-oculta-de-propaganda-do-ifood/. Last accessed on Aug 25. 2023.

MARCUSE, Herbert. Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999.

MCKINNON, Susan. Neoliberal Genetics: An Anthropological Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2021.

MENEGUS, Bryan. “Lyft Thinks It's Exciting That a Driver Was Working While Giving Burth” in: Gizmodo, 22 Sep. 2016. [https://gizmodo.com/lyft-thinks-its-exciting-that-a-driver-was-working-whil-1786970298]. Last accessed on Aug 25. 2023.

MOTTA, Anaís. “Secom uses a motto associated with Nazism to publicize actions, but denies any relationship” in: UOL News, May 10, 2020. [https://noticias.uol.com.br/politica/ultimas-noticias/2020/05/10/secom-usa-lema-associado-ao-nazismo-para-divulgar-acoes-contra-a-covid-19.htm].

OZ, Amos. “In praise of the peninsulas” in: How to Cure a Fanatic: Israel and Palestine: Between Right and Right, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2016.

PETERSEN, Anne Helen. I Can't Take It Anymore I Can't Take It Anymore: How Millennials Became the Generation of Burnout, Rio de Janeiro: HaperCollins Brasil, 2021.

ROCHA, Camilo. “What are the criticisms of those who glorify 'grit' at work?” in: Nexus via Democracy and the World of Work in Debate, 18 Feb. 2019, https://www.dmtemdebate.com.br/quais-as-criticas-a-quem-glorifica-a-ralacao-no-trabalho/. Last accessed on: 25 Aug. 2023.

TOLENTINO, Jia. “The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death”, The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/jia-tolentino/the-gig-economy-celebrates-working-yourself-to-death. Last accessed on Aug 25. 2023.

TOOZE, Adam. The Price of Destruction: Construction and Ruin of the German Economy, Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2013.

WORKER dies in supermarket in Recife; The body is covered by umbrellas, and the place continues to function. G1, 19 Aug. 2020. https://g1.globo.com/pe/pernambuco/noticia/2020/08/19/representante-de-vendas-morre-em-supermercado-no-recife-e-corpo-e-coberto-por-guarda-sois.ghtml. Last accessed on Aug 26. 2023.

A suicide at work is a brutal message – interview with Christophe Dejours. Public, 1st Feb. 2010. Available at: https://www.publico.pt/2010/02/01/sociedade/noticia/um-suicidio-no-trabalho-e-uma-mensagem-brutal-1420732 .

VIANA, Silvia. Rituals of Suffering, Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2012.

WOOD, Ellen. The Origin of Capitalism, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 2001.

Notes


[I] Albert Camus, The plague, Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1999, P. 269. The novel was written during the years that Camus was part of the French resistance movement to Nazism and published for the first time in 1947.

[ii] Antonio Gramsci, “Caderno 13 (1932-1934) – Brief notes on Machiavelli’s politics” in: Prison Notebooks, vol. 3, Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2000, p. 23.

[iii] Cf. Theodor W. Adorno, Studies on the Authoritarian Personality, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2019. 

[iv] Stereotypy in Frankfurt studies therefore has nothing to do with the concept of stereotypy associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which comprises repetitive, restricted motor and verbal behaviors with no apparent purpose.

[v] Theodor W. Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz” in: Education and Emancipation, São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, p. 141. Lecture on Hessen Radio, broadcast on April 18, 1965, first published in 1967.

[vi] Theodor W. Adorno, Studies on the Authoritarian Personality, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2019, pp. 561-562, emphasis added.

[vii] Theodor W. Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz” in: Education and Emancipation, São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, pp. 143-144.

[viii] Theodor W. Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz” in: Education and Emancipation, São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, p. 144.

[ix] See Pierre Dardot & Christian Laval, The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2016.

[X] In English, self-improvement, a term widely used in corporations. Ellen Wood, when defending the thesis that capitalism is born in the countryside, draws attention to how “Improve” (improve/improve/perfect), in its original meaning, literally meant doing something aiming for monetary profit, especially through land cultivation. In the 17th century, “improver” (improver) referred to one who made the land productive and profitable. With time, "Improve” and its derivatives were acquiring the more general meaning that we know today – “and it would be interesting to think about the implications of a culture in which the word corresponding to 'make better' is rooted in the term that corresponds to monetary profit”. Ellen Wood, The Origin of Capitalism, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 2001, p. 89.

[xi] The “activity of the individual, in its different facets (paid work, charitable work for an association, management of the family home, acquisition of skills, development of a network of contacts, preparation for a change of activity, etc.), is considered in its essence as business.”, says one of the “personal development” gurus. Bob Aubrey, L'entreprise de soi, Paris: Flammarion, 2000, p. 15 apoud: Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016, p. 335.

[xii] Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016, p. 340.

[xiii] Antoni Girod, NLP, Paris: Interéditions, 2008, p. 37 apoud: Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016, p. 340.

[xiv] Anne Helen Petersen, I Can't Take It Anymore I Can't Take It Anymore: How Millennials Became the Generation of Burnout, Rio de Janeiro: HarperCollins, 2021 [2020], pp. 64-65, chapter 2 (Growing mini-adults).

[xv] Karen Zouwen Ho, Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street, Durham: Duke University Press, 2009 apoud: Anne Helen Petersen, I Can't Take It Anymore I Can't Take It Anymore: How Millennials Became the Generation of Burnout, Rio de Janeiro: HarperCollins Brasil, 2021, p. 180.

[xvi] Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo, said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016 that working 130 hours a week is possible “if you are strategic about when you sleep, when you shower and how often you go to the bathroom.” Max Chafkin, “Yahoo's Marissa Mayer on Selling a Company While Trying to Turn It Around” in: Bloomberg, 4 Aug. 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-marissa-mayer-interview-issue/. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xvii] Camilo Rocha, “What are the criticisms of those who glorify 'grit' at work?” in: Nexus via Democracy and the World of Work in Debate, 18 Feb. 2019, https://www.dmtemdebate.com.br/quais-as-criticas-a-quem-glorifica-a-ralacao-no-trabalho/. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xviii] Miya Tokumitsu, Do What You Love And Other Lies About Success and Happiness, New York: Regan Arts, 2015 apoud: Anne Helen Petersen, I Can't Take It Anymore I Can't Take It Anymore: How Millennials Became the Generation of Burnout, Rio de Janeiro: HarperCollins Brasil, 2021, p. 122.

[xx] See Anne Helen Petersen, I Can't Take It Anymore I Can't Take It Anymore: How Millennials Became the Generation of Burnout, Rio de Janeiro: HarperCollins Brasil, 2021.

[xx] In English, they use the acronym “TGIM” – Thank, God, It's Monday!”.

[xxx] See Bryan Menegus, “Lyft Thinks It's Exciting That a Driver Was Working While Giving Burth” in: Gizmodo, 22 sep. 2016. https://gizmodo.com/lyft-thinks-its-exciting-that-a-driver-was-working-whil-1786970298. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xxiii] See Clarissa Levy, “iFood’s Hidden Propaganda Machine” in: The Public, 4 Apr. 2022. https://apublica.org/2022/04/a-maquina-oculta-de-propaganda-do-ifood/. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xxiii] Theodor W. Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz” in: Education and Emancipation, São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, p. 140.

[xxv] “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be hurting. Fiverr – In doers we trust”. See Jia Tolentino, “The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death,” The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/jia-tolentino/the-gig-economy-celebrates-working-yourself-to-death. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xxiv] See Erin Griffith, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” The New York Times, 26 Jan. 2019. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xxv] Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016, p. 357, emphasis in the original.

[xxviii] See “Federal government releases emotional video asking Brazil not to stop; look", Tempo, 22 Mar. 2020. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

https://www.otempo.com.br/politica/governo-federal-lanca-video-em-tom-emocional-pedindo-que-o-brasil-nao-pare-veja-1.2317098

[xxviii] See Anaís Motta, “Secom uses a motto associated with Nazism to publicize actions, but denies the relationship” in: UOL News, 10 May 2020. https://noticias.uol.com.br/politica/ultimas-noticias/2020/05/10/secom-usa-lema-associado-ao-nazismo-para-divulgar-acoes-contra-a-covid-19.htm. Last access: 25 Aug. 2023.

[xxix] See “Worker dies in supermarket in Recife; body is covered by umbrellas, and the place continues to function”, G1, 19 Aug. 2020. https://g1.globo.com/pe/pernambuco/noticia/2020/08/19/representante-de-vendas-morre-em-supermercado-no-recife-e-corpo-e-coberto-por-guarda-sois.ghtml. Last accessed on Aug 26. 2023.

[xxx] See Daniel Gullino, “No more freshness, no more mimimi. How long will they keep crying?” says Bolsonaro about the pandemic, The Globe, 4 Mar. 2021. https://oglobo.globo.com/saude/coronavirus/chega-de-frescura-de-mimimi-vao-ficar-chorando-ate-quando-diz-bolsonaro-sobre-pandemia-1-24909333. Last access: 26 Aug. 2023.

[xxxii] Theodor W. Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz” in: Education and Emancipation, São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, p. 140.

[xxxi] Theodor W. Adorno, Studies on the Authoritarian Personality, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2019, p. 419.

[xxxii] See Pierre Dardot & Christian Laval The New Reason for the World: Essay on Neoliberal Society, Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2016.

[xxxv] Theodor W. Adorno, Studies on the Authoritarian Personality, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2019, p. 155.

[xxxiv] Susan McKinnon, Neoliberal Genetics: An Anthropological Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2021, p. 188.

[xxxiv] Silvia Viana, Rituals of Suffering, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2012, p. 155.

[xxxviii] Silvia Viana, Rituals of Suffering, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2012, p. 156.

[xxxviii] Christophe Dejours, The trivialization of social injustice apoud: Silvia Viana, Rituals of Suffering, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2012, p. 156, emphasis in the original.

[xxxix] “A suicide at work is a brutal message – interview with Christophe Dejours”, Public, 1

 Feb. 2010. Available at: https://www.publico.pt/2010/02/01/sociedade/noticia/um-suicidio-no-trabalho-e-uma-mensagem-brutal-1420732 . Last access: 20 Aug. 2023.

[xl] Hannah Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Tale of the Banality of Evil, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1999, p. 122.

[xi] Theodor W. Adorno, Studies on the Authoritarian Personality, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2019, p. 562, emphasis added.

[xliii] Hannah Arendt Origins of Totalitarianism, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012, p. 472. Brecht also noted this attachment to order and the obsession with the perfect execution of the task ordered in Nazi society, without the content of the task mattering, and made it the subject of one of the first dialogues in his work Refugee conversations. Regarding the orderly compulsion of a member of the SS: “The sense of order was so ingrained in him that he preferred not to flog rather than do it in a disorderly way.” On the orderly waste of war: “Order consists in wasting things in a planned way. Everything that is thrown away, or ruined, or devastated, must be recorded and enumerated on paper, that is order. However, the main reason for order to be observed is of a pedagogical nature. Man cannot perform certain tasks if he does not do them in an orderly manner. I am referring here to absurd orders. Make a prisoner dig a ditch and then bury it again and then dig it again, and let him do it as sloppily as he pleases; he will become mad, or rebellious, which is the same thing. If, however, he is urged to hold the spade in this or that way, not to bury it a single inch deeper, and if a line is stretched out demarcating the point where he is to dig, so that the trench is of an exact measurement, and if again, when burying it, you ensure that the ground is as level as if no trench had been dug, then the work can be carried out and everything will go in line, as the popular expression goes.” Bertolt Brecht, Refugee Conversations, São Paulo: Editora 34, 2017, pp. 14; 16.

[xiii] Hannah Arendt Origins of Totalitarianism, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012, p. 472.

[xiv] Cf. Herbert Marcuse, “The new German mentality” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999.

[xlv] Adam Tooze highlights that the available records of the famous meeting between 25 businessmen and Hitler, Schacht and Göring at the latter's mansion on February 20, 1933, show that the conflict between left and right was the central theme of speeches by both Hitler and Göring. Cf. Adam Tooze, The Price of Destruction: Construction and Ruin of the German Economy, Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2013, chap. 3. “Partners: the regime and the business world in Germany”.

[xlv] Herbert Marcuse, “State and Individual under National Socialism” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 123.

[xlv] Herbert Marcuse, “The New German Mentality” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 197.

[xlviii] Herbert Marcuse, “The New German Mentality” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 197.

[xlix] Herbert Marcuse, “State and Individual under National Socialism” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 112, emphasis added.

[l] Herbert Marcuse, “State and Individual under National Socialism” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 121.

[li] Herbert Marcuse, “State and Individual under National Socialism” in: Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism, São Paulo: Fundação Editora da Unesp, 1999, p. 122.

[liiii] Amos Oz, “In Praise of the Peninsulas” in: How to Cure a Fanatic: Israel and Palestine: Between Right and Right, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2016, p. 20.

[iii] VIEW https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vdZLkvpQv4 , between 2m17s and 2m39s.

[book] Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 1985, p. 166.

[lv] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, São Paulo: Autonomia Literária, 2020, p. 49.

[lv] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, São Paulo: Autonomia Literária, 2020, p. 48.

[lviii] Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 1985, p. 169.

[lviii] Victor Klemperer, LTI: The Language of the Third Reich, Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto, 2009, pp. 131-132.

[lix] Bertolt Brecht, “Five difficulties in writing the truth” in: marxists.org, https://www.marxists.org/portugues/brecht/1934/mes/verdade.htm#:~:text=Deve%20ter%20a%20coragem%20de,ter%20a%20ast%C3%BAcia%20de%20divulg%C3%A1-. Last access: 19/10/2022. A year after the Nazis came to power in Germany, Brecht wrote the political pamphlet “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth”, distributed illegally in his home country.


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