public-private pendulum

Hansjörg Mayer, square alphabet, 1967


In the East, the acute public vs. competition is not reproduced. private, the terms are not antonyms. Asians recognize the role of the State in the formation of nationalism that crosses the popular segments and the ruling classes.

Albert Hirschman (Berlin, 1915 – New Jersey, 2012) published the essay From consumer to citizen: private activity and participation in public life, forty years ago. In it, he pointed out cycles with the reasonably regular duration of a decade: sometimes with a predominance of public interest, collective growth and social participation; sometimes with a predominance of private interest and a strong emphasis on personal growth. Internal contradictions would induce phase changes. Although the economist does not intend to create a “theory of cycles”, to Kondratieff, planted the idea.

After an era devoted to individual economic expansion in the 1950s, – in Europe, North and South America and Japan, the 1960s were integrated into the war and peace agenda of the mythical “spirit of 1968”. In the subsequent decade, the cyclical relapse was repeated. The rebellion again seemed out of step, uncharacteristic. In the middle of the road there was a rock, neoliberalism.

“The shift from the XNUMXs to the XNUMXs, then to the XNUMXs, and other alternations make us wonder whether societies are somehow predisposed to oscillations between periods of intense concern for public affairs and almost total concentration on development and on individual well-being”, urges Albert Hirschman, knowing the answer. O establishment remained unchanged with the pendulum of values, to all these. The back and forth allowed the system to suspend criticism, absorb refusals and sublimate disputes so that nothing substantially changed.

After the re-democratization initiated at the end of the military dictatorship, Brazil experienced a private boom in the 1990s and, in the first decade of the 2000s, a public boom aimed at vulnerable segments. The 2010 decade oscillated. Privatist hyper-individualism assumes the hegemonic condition, in the parliamentary-legal-media coup that deposed Dilma Rousseff, until Lula da Silva’s cathartic victory for the Presidency of the Republic, between 2016-2022, to recall recent episodes. The commuting behavior under the public-private ideological axis also affected the sociocultural panorama of the country.

cognitive dissonance

To resume the conversation between the Russian aristocrat and the German thinker Immanuel Kant, “dissatisfaction” moves our species. “Activity is the lot of man. He is never satisfied with what he has, he is always striving for more. Give a man everything he wants and yet at that very moment he will feel that this everything is not everything”, pondered the philosopher (Königsberg, 1789). The brave explorers of Peak Everest, the Arctic and Antarctica, following the example of the English commander, Shackleton, in the epic attempt to reach the South Pole, helped humanity to overcome the various obstacles and enrich the geography of the Homo sapiens. The tragedy of Icarus in flying beyond the limits, approaching the Sun and melting his wings did not prevent other incursions into the unknown by land, air and sea.

The Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, the partisans of Sierra maestra, quilombolas, feminists and LGBT groups experienced relief by advocating the creation of new realities against iniquities. If expectations transcended results, this indicates cognitive dissonance in readjustments that our imagination could not decipher. Niccolò Machiavelli defined man as a historical subject of transformations and, for better or worse, responsible for the consequences.

The dimensions of social life – politics, economics, law, culture, morals and customs – do not obey voluntarism, nor do they happen uniformly. Disenchantment can lead to disappointment in the face of efforts that are considered insufficient. The vote, in itself, does not found utopia. In the analysis of the conjuncture, those who abstract the class struggle and the correlation of forces sow illusions. The actors who strive to subvert the order of things condition and are conditioned by the change movement. Former Chilean President Salvador Allende warned: “Socialism is not imposed by decree, it is an ongoing process”. On the left, simplification leads to splits and evolves into sectarianism.

On the extreme right, it slides towards revenge and terror. According to Umberto Eco, classic or modern fascism metabolizes dissent as unforgivable betrayals. See the break in relations between the ineligible person and Gustavo Bebianno, former Minister of the General Secretariat; or with Abraham Weintraub, former Minister of Education; or with Paulo Marinho, the deputy businessman of 01 in the Senate. In a fight, they star in the depressing spectacle of the deconstruction of reputations. Howler monkeys throw feces to defend themselves against intruders in the cage, neo-fascists fire any shit argument to eliminate opponents. Threats of retaliation, archive burnings re-edit the film The Godfather. Hate, resentment and violence translate the dystopian essence of barbarism. It's just business.

transformative practice

In the West, there has been a fierce public-private dispute since the Washington Consensus (1989) made the privatization of state-owned companies a dogma. In the hierarchy of neoliberal capitalism, an entrepreneur has greater prestige than those who exercise a high public vocation. The mercantile mentality contains the bacteria of intolerance and anti-politics. By glorifying particular ambitions, it inscribes them by fire on the tables of the commandments of accumulation, in the perspective of a gear set in motion by the supposedly invisible hand of the economy. “The only social responsibility of companies is to generate profit for shareholders”, pointed out Milton Friedman, in the New York Times. Under the heel of the narrow-minded Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro, Petrobras abused and smeared itself with the recommendation.

In the East, the acute public competition is not reproduced vs. private, the terms are not antonyms. Asians recognize the role of the State in the formation of nationalism that crosses the popular segments and the ruling classes. Hence the need to attenuate the occidentcentric prism in the antinomy of the seesaw. Latin Americans, for comparison, admit the significance of the State for progress since the beginning (Getúlio Vargas, Juan Perón), although the continental elites whose nostalgic Europeanism denies migration never signed the pact in the central power apparatus to encourage initiatives to the “common good”. Proof of this is the disregard for the Human Development Index (HDI) of colonized countries and the disdain for native ethnic groups, indigenous and black people.

In the chapter “From private activities to the public sphere – II” (op.cit.), Albert Hirschman comments on research that reveals that French and English spend more time in fraternal places (bars, restaurants, etc.) than Americans. Instead of interpreting it as a desire for news, gossip or romantic stimulation, the author understands that Europeans flee from intramural occupations, strictly speaking, to address issues of general scope. From sports to scandals, from rent prices to elections and the performance of parliamentarians, “getting involved in issues associated with the public interest”. In individualistic nations, conviviality in leisure socialization spaces occurs on a smaller scale. People talk less about common problems, in a “lonely crowd”.

Although the Participatory Budget (PB) literature is not salient, participation in the polis arouses public happiness, apart from the achievement of goals. Activists enjoy participation in a campaign, regardless of whether the candidate stands successfully at the polls. Intimate gratification comes from contact with voters, debating ideas, solutions, suggestions, joining forces to move forward. Servers reinvent themselves in administrative promptness and institutional solidarity. The fusion and confusion between dedication and pleasure is characteristic of innovative performances, with a radical cosmovision and empathy with the suffering of the people. According to Karl Marx, in 3rd. Thesis on Feuerbach, what educates the educator is the “transforming practice”. If praxis liberates, then socialist ethics feeds back on actions. Good news, because hell is paved with good intentions.

revolutionary reformism

The “one-dimensional society” described by Herbert Marcuse, back in 1964, is the product of reason at the service of irrationality. Eclectically, he articulated Auschwitz and os Shopping Centers, Hiroshima and Disneyworld. Nuclear weaponry, premeditated unemployment, precarious work, outsourcing, concentration of wealth, fiscal adjustments, CO2 in the atmosphere and the destruction of nature make up the symptomatology of “necropolitics”: the sordid project of finance today. The news language of surveillance algorithms acts like magical realism in novels, manipulating affections, consumption and electoral choices. The mega-strike of screenwriters and actors in the temple of entertainment, Hollywood, encompasses salary increases, profits from the streaming and the undefined rules for the use of Artificial Intelligence. It beckons to a profane resilience to capital. Brings to the fore for discussion the technology that frightens the XNUMXst century, the python of the acronym AI.

Technical rationality, anti-democratic, is the market planning standard. Under the pretext of efficiency (antisocial, it should be noted), the legitimization of the World Bank, the Central Bank (Brazil) or the Federal Reserve (USA) gives neoliberalism a content of truth, which proved to be false in the fight against the pandemic. In the game for survival, governments rediscovered the role of inducing the production and distribution of resources, forcing adaptations in areas of industrial production. Fabric factories began to manufacture masks and medical clothing, car assemblers produced parts and equipment for air vents, the beverage sectors produced alcohol gel. National states were reborn. The know-it-alls who swore there was no money, became memes. The media's structural reaction did not reflect the defeat of systemic principles. However, the inadequacy of the financial model in the face of the basic demands of public health has been unmasked.

The left is shy when evaluating what it does in society, without a totalizing character. Small victories are downplayed, as if reforms were inglorious bastards on a battlefield. The future is projected as opposed to the present. The story leaps over the everyday. An error. To avoid the inevitable frustrations, it is necessary to propose a different future, by sharing the perception and pride in intermediate advances in favor of the community. Drummondian “crooked angels” should celebrate their hard-earned contributions to reducing inequalities, and vaccinate themselves against the childhood disease of leftism, arrogance. Increases in the social well-being of the population and in the political consciousness of the masses condense reform and revolution, the minimum program and the maximum program.

With an anti-capitalist bias, Lucien Goldmann calls the interweaving of strategies “revolutionary reformism”. The concept does not refer to the option for a gradualism of struggles and rights, but to a dialectical intersection between intervention in institutions and political-organizational action in social movements. The mention of the undertaking, said to be reformist, praises the perseverance in the wars of position. The important thing is to overcome the designs of reification and oppression. With the climatic, geopolitical and democratic crises engendered in late modernity equated, we will face the brand new public challenges of the later stage. There is no idyllic train station pasargadae, in the human trajectory. On behalf of the hopeless today and the generations to come tomorrow, we are given hope.

* 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.

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