Bifo on the crisis of European civilization and the cognitarian insurrection

Excerpted from The New Significance:

1. The Problem of Europe

“There is no European identity. No ethnic identity, no religious identity, no national identity. This is the strenght and the beauty of the European project. Europe can only be the product of our mind.

I would say also: a product of our imagination. And the problem of Europe nowadays is exactly here : the European leading class, and also the European intellighentzia, if something like this still exists, has lost any vision, any imagination of the future, and is only able to reassess the old failed dogmas of capitalist accumulation and of mandatory economic growth and financial profit. This is clearly leading European society to the catastrophe.

What has been Europe in the past century? As Benda predicted, it has been the product of a vision.

In 1945 Europe was the vision of a political construction overcoming the philosophical opposition of Enlightenment and Romantik, the opposition of Universal Reason and cultural identity. It was the vision and the dream of a word of peace, the dream of a post-national process. This was the strenght and the attraction of the European idea.

Then, in the ‘70s and in the ’80 Europe was the project of overcoming the opposition between East and West, between socialism and democratic values. It was also the expectation of prosperity for everybody. The upheaval of 1989 and the following unification was the fullfillment of this European dream.

Prosperity has been the common ground of identification for old and new European citizens. But when the decline of the Western dominance on the world economy started to jeopardize European prosperity, what happened of the European political expectations ? Europe, once viewed as a symbol of hope and an object of desire, suddendly has turned a symbol of economic oppression and the harbinger of impoverishment.

In an article published by the New York Times in 2010 when the European crisis started to be perceived in all its seriousness, Roger Cohen wrote some far sighted words. What is more frightening in the current European situation, he said, is not the danger of a financial collapse, but the absence of a vision in the words of the European leaders. What they are only able to repeat is that the Maastricht criteria have to be honoured, and the debts have to be paid and the banks have to be protected, at the expenses of salaries and pensions and public education.

Where is creative thought in nowadays European space ? Where the thinkers, the poets, the creators who may produce the vision and the imagination that according to Julien Benda is the vital prerequisite of Europe?

European thinkers are an extinct species. Conformity and dogmatism are the prevailing features of the public discourse. In the ‘70s French philosophy was able to prefigure the evolution of Neoliberal capitalism and the establishment of biopolitical control on social life. But the last generation, the generation of former Stalino-maoist turned apologists of market democracy, is incapable of creative thought. It’s a generation of journalists at best, of repentants and cynicist at worst – not philosophers, not thinkers, not creators.

Europe needs thought, not subservient dogmatism. But creative thought seems something of the past.”

2. The solution

As Europe is not a democracy, and the decisions are never taken by a democratically elected organism, what can happen in the coming months and years ? European Parliament is just a symbolic place, that has no influence on the Central Bank, which is the real decider (better, the mere interpreter of monetarist rules that are embedded in the financial governance machine). Therefore the only way to stop the race towards the abyss is insurrection. Only European insurrection can dispel the fogs and miasmas of recession, violence, impoverishment, and fascism, and open a new story, which is within our reach.

The new story is based on unleashing the potency of the general intellect, the potencies of research, technical innovation, scientific creation. Basic income, redistribution of wealth, expropriation of the properties hoarded by financial corporations.

At this point I think that we should redress a certain idealism and voluntarism that may be detected in the Julian Benda’s words, when he says that Europe will only be the product of the mind. Now we know that mind is not something that belongs to the isolated individual, something that acts in a purely abstract space. Mind is the network of cognitive labor: general intellect, core of social production.

Intellectual labor is under aggression, and financial capitalism is trying to disactivate the force of millions and millions of cognitarians who are the true resource of Europe. European people are marching towards the insurrection. Only who is obscured by dogmatism is unable to see this. What has happened in London and Rome in december 2010, what has happened in Spain in May 2011, what is happening every day in Athens is only the beginning of an expanding wave, that will necessarily radicalize.”

Bifo concludes in very p2p fashion:

Our task is not to organize insurrection. Insurrection is in the things.Our task is to arouse the consciousness of precarious cognitarians, to organize their political collaboration, to make possible the autonomy of their activity outside the market rules. For this we need to mobilise resources: money, spaces, technical tools. Insurrection is the process that will give to the precarious cognitariat what we need.

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