Are We Happy Yet?

Political Therapy

The art of mass disassociation.
Political Therapy: The art of mass disassociation

Nick Whalen

What if society can no longer resist the destructive effects of unbounded capitalism? What if society can no longer resist the devastating power of financial accumulation?

This article is available in:

We have to disentangle autonomy from resistance. And if we want to do that, we have to disentangle desire from energy. The prevailing focus of modern capitalism has been energy: the ability to produce, to compete, to dominate. A sort of energolatria, a cult of energy, has dominated the cultural sense of the West from Faust to the Futurists. The ever growing availability of energy has been its dogma. Now we know that energy isn’t boundless. In the social psyche of the West, energy is fading. I think we should reframe the concept and practice of autonomy from this point of view. The social body is unable to reaffirm its rights against the wild assertiveness of capital because the pursuit of rights can never be dissociated from the exercise of force.

When workers were strong in the 1960s and 1970s, they did not restrict themselves to asking for their rights, to peaceful demonstrations of their will. They acted in solidarity, refusing to work, redistributing wealth, sharing things, services, and spaces. Capitalists, on their side, do not merely ask or demonstrate, they do not simply declare their wish: they enact it. They make things happen; they invest, disinvest, displace; they destroy and they build. Only force makes autonomy possible in the relation between capital and society. But what is force? What is force nowadays?

The identification of desire with energy has produced the identification of force with violence that turned out so badly for the Italian movement in the 1970s and 1980s. We have to distinguish energy and desire. Energy is falling, but desire has to be saved. Similarly, we have to distinguish force from violence. Fighting power with violence is suicidal or useless nowadays. How can we think of activists going against professional organizations of killers in the mold of Blackwater, Haliburton, secret services, mafias?

Only suicide has proved to be efficient in the struggle against power. And actually suicide has become decisive in contemporary history. The dark side of the multitude meets here the loneliness of death. Activist culture should avoid the danger of becoming a culture of resentment. Acknowledging the irreversibility of the catastrophic trends that capitalism has inscribed in the history of society does not mean renouncing it. On the contrary, we have today a new cultural task: to live the inevitable with a relaxed soul. To call forth a big wave of withdrawal, of massive dissociation, of desertion from the scene of the economy, of nonparticipation in the fake show of politics. The crucial focus of social transformation is creative singularity. The existence of singularities is not to be conceived as a personal way to salvation, they may become a contagious force.

When we think of the ecological catastrophe, of geopolitical threats, of economic collapse provoked by the financial politics of neoliberalism, it’s hard to dispel the feeling that irreversible trends are already at work within the world machine. Political will seems paralyzed in the face of the economic power of the criminal class.

The age of modem social civilization seems on the brink of dissolution, and it’s hard to imagine how society will be able to react. Modern civilization was based on the convergence and integration of the capitalist exploitation of labor and the political regulation of social conflict. The regulator state, the heir of the Enlightenment and socialism, has been the guarantor of human rights and the negotiator of social equilibrium. When, at the end of a ferocious class struggle between labor and capital – and within the capitalist class itself – the financial class has seized power by destroying legal regulation and transforming social composition, the entire edifice of modern civilization has begun to crumble.

I anticipate that scattered insurrections will take place in the coming years, but we should not expect much from them. They’ll be unable to touch the real centers of power because of the militarization of metropolitan space, and they will not be able to gain much in terms of material wealth or political power. Just as the long wave of counterglobalization’s moral protests could not destroy neoliberal power, so the insurrections will not find a solution, not unless a new consciousness and sensibility surfaces and spreads, changing everyday life and creating Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones rooted in the culture and consciousness of the global network.

The proliferation of singularities (the withdrawal and building of Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones) will be a peaceful process, but the conformist majority will react violently, and this is already happening. The conformist majority is frightened by the fleeing away of intelligent energy and simultaneously is attacking the expression of intelligent activity. The situation can be described as a fight between the mass ignorance produced by media totalitarianism and the shared intelligence of the general intellect.

We cannot predict what the outcome of this process will be. Our task is to extend and protect the field of autonomy and to avoid as much as possible any violent contact with the field of aggressive mass ignorance. This strategy of nonconfrontational withdrawal will not always succeed. Sometimes confrontation will be made inevitable by racism and fascism. It’s impossible to predict what should be done in the case of unwanted conflict. A nonviolent response is obviously the best choice, but it will not always be possible. The identification of well-being with private property is so deeply rooted that a barbarization of the human environment cannot be completely ruled out. But the task of the general intellect is exactly this: fleeing from paranoia, creating zones of human resistance, experimenting with autonomous forms of production using high-tech low-energy methods – while avoiding confrontation with the criminal class and the conformist population.

Politics and therapy will be one and the same activity in the coming years. People will feel hopeless and depressed and panicky because they are unable to deal with the post-growth economy, and because they will miss their dissolving modern identity. Our cultural task will be attending to those people and taking care of their insanity, showing them the way to a happy adaptation. Our task will be the creation of social zones of human resistance that act like zones of therapeutic contagion. The development of autonomy is not totalizing or intended to destroy and abolish the past. Like psychoanalytic therapy it should be considered an unending process.

Franco Bifo Berardi is a revolutionary Italian philosopher and activist. This essay originally appeared in his newly translated book, After the Future.

39 comments on the article “Political Therapy”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 39

Page 1 of 4


Do you have any idea how pathetic your tiny comment looks next to 10-11 paragraphs of essay? I could generate 10 paragraphs to explain why and how it is pathetic. Dude, look at you. There is this hyper intellectual statement above you, a statement with many paragraphs, and then there's you. You are throwing an ice cube at the sun. You are like... a comatose person next to 40,000 people. YOUR statement was BORING AS FUCK. I could come up with your statement. Hell, anyone could. You didn't add shit to anything. Not even one original sentence out of two, except for spelling errors, was original, or interesting, or thought provoking, or intellectual. It was dumb babble. What you'd expect from a stereotype of an extremely stupid athlete, or that ogre from the Potter movie who doesn't understand the most simple events of his reality. You failed utterly on proving yourself right. You failed utterly on getting me turned off to Adbusters. You failed utterly on starting your own movement. You have failed your family, your teachers, your friends, and any offspring carrying your DNA into the future. Hopefully some tadpole of yours, far into the future, will manage to build a time machine and come back to where you were February 1st, 2012, and punch you right in the mouth to try and save your entire family from your embarrassing argument you made here today: to stop you from making such an ignorant and naive attempt to critique an Adbusters article that you couldn't comment on intellectually because you have no intellect. The meager and desperate two sentences you formed will permanently condemn you to a future of failure every time you comment on anything. "Fark off", sir, you are hereby an irrelevant troll, a nonsense maker, and a baboon.


So few people are going to understand this article! It's sad. Franco Bifo Berardi is a genius and so many people will come on here, read him, not understand any of it, and say something idiotic as though their comment is profound compared to the article. If it's not on equal intellectual grounds than it is just useless to comment.


Go for Felix Guattari (ecosophy) and Gilles Deleuze, two french philosophers for more equal grounds.


I like this article, almost completely. I say 'almost' because isolation from the 1 percent and mindless conformists; 1. stops us from becoming acquainted with new trends within those groups that can help or hurt us, 2. isolates us keeping us from growing as groups, 3. assumes we know whereas the fact is we are learning and to be cut off from information paralyzes us, 4. assumes there is no entry point to provoke change within the 1 percent and their followers--I think there are entry points when we understand how their physical and mental lives are organized & I think they are educable once we understand their weaknesses in both area. That being said, establishing our ideal selves and communities will help guide us in our assault on the delusion that the rich and their minions cling to.

As an addendum: the attacks on Occupy are continuing and the latest one I've noticed is, from my point of view, rather subtle. When searching on the internet under the word 'occupy', mostly U.S. references come up and when other countries' web sites are mentioned, clicking on those web sites, for the most part, results in articles referring the reader back to the U.S. The remaining references contain a few pictures and no articles. A query with the word 'occupy' and 'Spain' gives no results even though, one can argue, in a sense 'Occupy' itself began there. The U.S. Occupy movement is being isolated from the international movement and the potential to build a new form of consciousness is diminishing.


Add a new comment

Comments are closed.