About brutalities and emancipations

Image: Anselmo Pessoa


Life in the “age of transition” is intense and uncertain, which also opens up space for speeches and political proposals often based on the “need for the new” or the “return to order”.

Situations of change, in which we still don't know what's new, but we are no longer satisfied with what was, cause discomfort and afflictions. In general, this is a feature of contemporary societies, which coexist with socio-cultural, techno-scientific and environmental changes, which impact our ways of life, our economy and our expectations for the future, as described by Brazilian sociologist Sérgio Abranches in The Age of the Unforeseen. The pandemic context accelerated some changes, such as the increasingly intense role of technology in our lives, and definitely drew attention to others, such as the effects of human practices on the environment, which ended up putting us in contact with the new virus. . Life in the “age of transition” is intense and uncertain, which also makes room for speeches and political proposals often based on the “need for the new” or the “return to order”, which serve as consolation but collide with a reality which does not take long to show the ineffectiveness of easy answers.

Two short essays published recently in Brazil by Editora Âyiné address this context and its challenges in different ways. In the first of them, entitled Instructions for Becoming a Fascist, the Italian writer and essayist Michela Murgia offers a provocative and perspective look, which involves the fascist response and its risks to the varied tensions of current life. In the second test, radical new enlightenment, the Spanish philosopher Marina Garcés takes up Enlightenment expectations, reviewing their limits and possibilities, for the construction of a new proposal for enlightenment, based on criticism and emancipation. These are relevant publications for current circumstances, which stimulate important reflections on possible responses to the challenges of our time. Either through irony, which puts us face to face with a fascist voice, or through the invitation to emancipation, which invites us to a new attitude, they are readings that make us think about the limits of our way of life.

Em Instructions for Becoming a Fascist Murgia presents the successive steps towards the purpose that the title of the essay points out. However, the imaginative exercise involves a perspective movement, which addresses the ways in which the fascist attitude reacts to the contemporary world. And it is a very detailed approach: simplification of reality, indication of enemies, brutalization of politics and discourses, idealization of a “glorious” past, identification of a “people” to be defended, the destabilization of public debates, denial of knowledge and science, as well as a “fascistometer”, which evaluates the reader's advances through a test. The brutalizing process involved in “building a fascist” finds spaces in the complexity of the contemporary world, with its changes and uncertainties. In this way, Murgia makes us think about the reasons for the rise of worldviews close to fascism in the contemporary world. Even though many of his provocations involve the context of his native Italy, the practices and discourses cited are also close to other countries, whose democracies face similar challenges.

The author ironically deals with the theoretical debates about the nature of fascism, which often deny the connection between the leaders of today's nationalist and populist rise with the Italian fascist movement of the first half of the twentieth century. One of the tips in the “manual” involves precisely taking advantage of terminological confusion to gain ground. At the end, a chapter “to avoid misunderstandings” recognizes that the book is an ironic-perspective exercise, while recognizing that the contemporary political field brings worrying tensions. By showing us what could be understood as the “attractiveness” of the fascist posture, and how it stimulates the worst tendencies of humanity, the essay serves as a warning and as a “mirror”. And, paradoxically, it stimulates concern with the trivialization of the term, because “if everything is fascism, nothing is fascism”. However, the proximity of some “instructions” with speeches given by current political authorities and everyday speeches stimulates reflections on the health of democratic regimes.

Already in New Radical Enlightenment, Marina Garcés departs from this scenario in which something close to the fascist posture reappears in the contemporary world. She then proposes means by which the emancipatory objectives of the Enlightenment can be retaken. The author revisits Zygmunt Bauman's concept of “retrotopia”, which shows how the current populist, conservative and nationalist wave involves a “utopia in relation to the past”, a glorification of a time when “everything was in order” and that deserves to be revived. However, according to Garcés, this “will to the past” is a response to the challenges of a world with many uncertainties, where subjects can be co-opted by brutal political projects, which take advantage of their frustrations and resentments. A sign of these tensions is what she identifies as the “posthumous condition” of our time, “where everything ends”, including the world itself. This condition involves unsustainability and catastrophes, which end up increasing the level of insecurity in life. The essay was published before the new coronavirus pandemic, which turns out to be an example of the “posthumous condition” in which we are inserted, after all, few of us are certain about the post-Covid-19 world.

The answer to this diagnosis is what Garcés identifies as “enlightened radicalism”, an overcoming of current emancipatory credulities and denials. This posture involves a “transition of the humanities”, in a program that connects “knowledge and emancipation”, overcoming the “enlightened illiteracy” typical of the compartmentalized and capitalist vision of education, which opens space for fascist brutality. Another need is to overcome the dividing tensions between the academy and the sciences, in search of a “reciprocal universe” of information between investigations, together with overcoming the tensions between “nature and culture”. Between the renunciation of freedom and reflection offered by the fascist posture and the invitation to think cooperatively and criticize the confused world around us, Garcés suggests the second path, even with all the insecurities and uncertainties. It seems little, but at a time of “civilization crisis”, resuming the best expectations of radical enlightenment is one of the few paths contrary to brutality.

Michela Murgia and Marina Garcés are important thinkers today, who provoke and encourage us to think about everything we experience from other perspectives. In the "Age of Transition", when brutality beckons and beckons in response, the emancipatory program of enlightenment needs to be reinvigorated and stimulated. In times of credulity and hopelessness, it is important to remember that “leaders” and “myths” will not save us. And that any possibility of changing the current state of affairs depends on ourselves.

*Jose Costa Junior Professor of Philosophy and Social Sciences at IFMG –Campus Ponte Nova.



ABRANCHES, Sergio. The Age of the Unforeseen: The Great Transition of the XNUMXst Century🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2017.

BAUMAN, Zygmunt. retrotopia. Translation by Renato Aguiar. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2017.

GARCES, Marina. radical new enlightenment. Translated by Vinícius Honesko. Belo Horizonte: Editora Ayiné, 2019. (2017)

MURGIA, Michela. Instructions for Becoming a Fascist. Translated by Júlia Scamparini. Belo Horizonte: Editora Ayiné, 2019. (2018)



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