Intellectuals under anti-intellectualism

Image: Janko Ferlic


Anti-intellectualism is the cable-stayed bridge in neo-fascism and neoliberalism to barbarism. Intellectuals are members of the resistance to revived irrationalism

In the Arab-Islamic world, observes Edward W. Said in Humanism and Democratic Criticism (Companhia das Letras), two words are used for intellectual: muthaqqaf e mukafir, the first derivative of thaqafa or culture (hence, man of culture), the second of thought or thought (hence, thinking man). Confronted with the unreliability of authoritarian governments, which used censorship to block the circulation of debate about the common good, intellectuals were seen as more trustworthy in the Middle East.

At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the legitimacy to argue injustices was confirmed in the noisy intervention of Émile Zola (J'Accuse, 1898) in the Dreyfus affair. The awareness in the lyrics reinforced the idea of ​​the intellectual-writer as a guide to get through confusing times, as a spokesperson for a political party (Rosa Luxemburgo) or social class (Hobsbawm). In French history, the word intellectual kept alive the reference to constant participation in the public sphere, with maîtres faleurs (Simone de Beauvoir, Aron).

In Italy, the notion of engagement echoed in Antonio Gramsci's elaboration, bequeathed by the Quaderni del Jail (1926-1937), about intellectual “organic” (linked to rising classes) and “traditional” (linked to declining classes). It means to say that at some point any intellectual experienced a class organicity. The concept impacted, through use and perhaps through caricatural abuse, the western hemisphere. The theme has always been seductive.

In the United States, intellectuals – who weave visions about the direction of society and the State – have never had such recognition. Specialization left them on the sidelines, unlike other latitudes. Government affairs and the influence of megacorporations on media outlets acted as dams, almost impassable by the intelligentsia: a) because it is far from the concrete issues of the subtle institutional policy and; b) by the economic-market restriction exerted on the media. Judith Butler and Chomsky are brilliant exceptions.

In Brazil, cultural inserts in many newspapers and magazines sensitive to political and psychoanalytical reflections (Marilena Chaui, Contardo Caligaris) on urgent agendas accompanied the post-1985 redemocratization process. The chroniclers (Sueli Carneiro, Luís Fernando Veríssimo) served as vents for the subjectivities forged in the dictatorship and reconfigured in the laissez-faire, both moral in the wake of May 1968 and merticantilist in the neoliberal wake. Creativity dribbled the doldrums, brought identity to the stands.

In the opposite direction, conservative intellectuals (Olavo de Carvalho, Roger Scruton) supported by fake news increased ratings at the yellow-green pulpits of the press. The greedy interests of finance/rentier capital, to which it is associated, set the tone. The strengthening of the old foundations of capitalism, colonialism (racism) and patriarchy (sexism), renewed the nausea. The right was coming out of the closet in which it had confined itself with the wear and tear inherited from the period inaugurated with the 1964 coup. It had found the cause of the free market.

The reciprocity between means and ends

The hegemonic discourse of unique thought, condensed into a dozen points in the Washington Consensus, took on the “authority of science” for understanding the role of the state and the different dimensions of sociability. “We received endless lessons from accredited experts who explained to us that freedom requires deregulation, privatization or war, and that the new world order is nothing short of the end of history,” quips EW Said. On the pages of Folha de São Paulo, Alain Touraine attributed to Fernando Henrique Cardoso the beginning of the “virtuous cycle” that put the country in the direction… of the mongrel complex. The sieve that reduces democracy to “administrative efficiency” and “normalization of the rules of the game” was enough for him to judge. It sounded childish to recall resilience in the face of the “rumor of boots”.

However, the applied policies did not deliver what they promised (job creation, economic development, growth of the Gross Domestic Product / GDP and the Domestic Product of Happiness / PIF) in the countries that transformed the prescription of financialization into the iconic commandments of the market-god, culture and thought suffered a discredit. The lies of the false messiahs (World Bank, International Monetary Fund / IMF) were expensive. They were just platoons in charge of the extermination of social and labor rights, by governments that – shamefully – abdicated governance and social well-being. The dogmas of the monetarist religion hid the ideological option for the rich (with offshore).

The technocratic arrogance of the Chicago School accelerated suspicion against knowledge. But in the local news the arrogance is still reproduced, by insulting those who reveal the hidden (antisocial) face of fiscal austerity for wanting to “break the spending ceiling”. Vile journalism under the patronage of banks standardizes opinions that reporters parrot without question.

The falling prestige of the intelligentsia was accentuated with postmodern authors, who treated scientific, aesthetic, gender, and race speeches as simple “narratives”. Instead of classifying them as analytical or propositional, they relativized the assertions. In the pandemic plague, the denialism against humanity exploited the symptomatic derision of the concept of truth, to discredit the health recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In this context, the credibility of the argumentative community collapsed. Its power in the “collective production of realistic utopias”, in the expression of Pierre Bourdieu, with research and concepts to question and overcome common sense lost its potency. Theorizing has been eclipsed by society. The work of abstractions was stamped as subversive, stateless. Sociology and philosophy subjects were attacked as extraterrestrial beings in the high school curriculum. Teachers, socratically, accused of corrupting (sic) the youth. As in the verses of Martin Fierro: “Let's go inside recién / to the most felt part".

The Ministry of Science and Technology had an absurd 90% budget cut. Funds for master's and doctoral fellows went down the drain. There was an evasion of brains abroad, due to the chaotic abandonment to which researchers were condemned, after the arduous trajectory of studies in the service of knowledge, science, the arts. The devastation of the Amazon reached records. The disrespect for the territory of the original peoples, with threats and murders, stamped the horror. Children ended up sucked in by prospectors' dredges when bathing in their grandparents' rivers. There was an enrichment of 1% vs the impoverishment of 99% of the population, in the metaphor created in Occupy Wall Street. The country has returned to the hunger map of the United Nations (UN). The intellectual's role in discerning the dialectical elements of conflicting political situations has weakened.

The guardian of events artificially escaped from official memory has disappeared, the “disappearances” under the military dictatorships in Latin America, the genocidal strategy of “herd immunity” due to the spread of the virus in the pandemic, the number of deaths from Covid-19. XNUMX, automatic alignment with the United States, increasing deindustrialization. The construction of the pillars of equality, social programs, the national-developmentalist project (with active inclusion of citizenship), the safeguarding of companies from the privatist rage, became volatile. The nightmare of zombies spread throughout the night of that priest's “brothers in the street”. Bones that were distributed to dogs are now sold to miserable people who line up outside the butcher shops. Social peace and the coexistence of biodiversity have been ruined. "And? Am I not a gravedigger? How long are you going to cry? No more mimimi”, is heard in the playpen.

The anti-intellectualism present in Bolsonarism et caterva overseas (Hungary, Poland, India) is a revanchist reaction to the protagonism of “political” (organized and engaged in the class struggle) and “pure” (disorganized, but participants in petitions) intellectuals. Reaction that aims at liquid dehumanization and the dismantling of teaching places, with shooting clubs and military police jagunços in the rear. Traditionalism does not support Modernity.

The classic opposition between individuals involved with practical problems and individuals orbiting radical ideas, with a taste for revolts, was left behind. As if ideas don't bear fruit when they mature. The struggles against slavery, the conquests of women, blacks, indigenous peoples, gays, young people, like the new unionism and the rise of a political party from the bottom up, did not happen by magic. . To change and improve the world, it is first necessary to understand it.

The means (gay faber) and the ends (Homo sapiens) are imbricated. The values ​​embedded in the purpose cannot be denied by unethical methods, with contradictory and erratic political content. There is reciprocity there. The suspension of the old bipolarity, with the cancellation of the subject carrying the transforming imagination in one of the poles, put an end to the interlocution. The heavy curtain of authoritarianism on stage has come down. The fascistization of public debate makes light of nuances, of points of view. Approaches with simplifications what is complex.

Again, the memories of oblivion

The exile of coherence motivated the departure of Paul Nizan from the French Communist Party (PCF), in the face of the shocking German-Soviet alliance (1939), which Stalin justified with “tactical” allegations for better preparation for the imminent confrontation. Heartbroken, Nizan noted: "The only honor we have left is that of the intellect." Alliances in favor of doing without regard for thinking arouse depressive feelings and desertion on the battlefield, even today.

For sociologist Sérgio Abranches, the dilemma was foreshadowed in 1988 by the “coalition presidentialism” in the architecture of institutionality, which introduced the figure of the Presidency into the parliamentary framework of the Federal Constitution. The “citizen” frame propitiated the abstruse actions that, in the political-parliamentary theater, celebrate indigestible pacts to metabolization.

Astonishment revived among the illustrious deputies Glauber Braga, Fernanda Melchionna et all, of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) and Marcelo Freixo, of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), opposed to the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC / n° 5). The pleiad answered the indecent wishes of corrupt prosecutors and factious judges, and began to earn praise from the rotten band of punitivism, in interviews. The vote turned a blind eye to the thousand and one illegalities of the Lava Jato operation and the persecutory dynamics with political objectives against the left, exempting the Public Ministry (MP) from coherent public control.

The MP still awaits a fair trial. Diners too. Although the politicians on the screen do not belong to the category of intellection, which is neither a defect nor a virtue, it would have been prudent to drink chicken broth and follow the maxim: “The first task of intellectuals should be to prevent the monopoly of force from becoming the monopoly of truth.” And pay attention to the red light. “Lthe task of the intellectual is to stir up ideas, highlight problems, develop programs or just general theories; the task of the politician is to make decisions”. In: Norberto Bobbio: the Philosopher and Politics – Anthology (Ed. FCE).

Two types of errors surround the deliberations in Parliament, the circumstantial ones and those that affect history. Some self-correct on the wagon floor. Others run the risk of breaking the trailer axle. At this point no one doubts the nature of the mistake made. Even discounting the infectious reasons of practicality, ignored by theory, the choice promoted by those responsible for establishing lines of action to defend justice against discretion is unacceptable. To paraphrase: “The only honor left to us is disenchantment”.

Intellectuals work in a peculiar area with relative autonomy from socio-economic and historical conditions – culture. A place where ideopolitical orientations and aberrations (Mário Frias, Sérgio Camargo) would not succeed if society had settled accounts with the “years of lead”. The plagiarism of Joseph Goebbels' stratagems that shaped the Nazi-fascist tragedy would not even surface. In the nihilism that covers the extreme right with darkness, and sectors to the left, it is impossible to distinguish the polar star to guide the republican vessel. But it is possible to say that the militia chart of Bolsonarist hatred leads to servitude, while the compass of democratic socialism anticipates the liberation of bodies and souls, and takes the ship of wisdom to the port of those freed from oppression: The cherry season.

Resistance to revived irrationalism

However, the alert should be stressed: the “dialectic of durations” shows that the great wave of contemporary history did not end with the Nuremberg court. The serpent's egg continues to produce reptiles. It is a phenomenon whose assumptions have survived intact. The sense of losers resulting from the meritocratic ideology has not abated. Grown up. The industrial reserve army was replaced by the multitude of people resentful of the change in their status within the family, in their relationship with their wives and children and sexuality.

The experience of bureaucratic/totalitarian socialism caused disappointments. “Real socialism”, as Rudolf Bahro's critique pointed out, tore up the principle signed by Marx and Engels that “the emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves” (1848 manifesto). The suffocation of the soviets in the former USSR was a consequence. The land of Canaan needs to be reinvented, based on the democratization of democracy and not its denial, short and thick.

The complete realization of democracy, with institutions to ensure that representative bodies do not usurp individual and collective rights, coincides with socialism. The full achievement of socialism, with social property articulated to an oxygenated superstructure, coincides with democracy. In the absence of the pair socialism / democracy, social life collapses "in historical weariness and in perverted utopia”, writes Leonardo Padura in the last paragraphs of El hombre que Amaba a los Perros (Ed. Max Tusquets).

Participatory democracy is not a mere accessory of changeist thinking, the cold revenge of the romantic culture in the face of the deviations of the regime of representatives, made hostage to money. Or a whim of someone who misses Rousseuanism. It is the guarantee that popular-democratic sovereignty will not be hijacked, as it was in real socialism and, as it is, in really existing capitalism. The revolutionary flags of freedom, equality and solidarity must be updated through political praxis. and fight us fronts advanced (schools, universities, academic training centers, public opinion bunkers) to contain the destruction of the sustaining values ​​of modern civilization and the ecological balance.

Anti-intellectualism is the cable-stayed bridge in neo-fascism and neoliberalism to barbarism. Intellectuals are members of the resistance to revived irrationalism. They evoke the admirable courage of the brave Dolores Ibárruri (the passionflower) to save the Republic during the Civil War in Spain, in the 1930s, by converting a slogan into an exclamation: “No pasarán!”. After the battle of Madrid, Generalissimo Francisco Franco mocked: “We're in the past!”. It doesn't matter that we didn't always win, it matters that we were on the right side. This is the unavoidable generational commitment, dictated by the categorical imperative.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


See this link for all articles