Hidden Potencies

Mobilizing the erotic body of the intellect.

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2011 was the first year of the European uprising, when European society entered into a deep crisis that seems to me much more of a crisis of social imagination than mere economics. Economic dogma has taken hold of the public discourse for three decades and has destroyed the critical power of political reason. The collapse of the global economy has exposed the dangers of economic dogmatism, but its ideology has already been incorporated into the automatisms of living society.

Political decision has been replaced by technolinguistic automatisms embedded in the interconnected global machine, and social choices are submitted to psychic automatisms embedded in social discourse and in the social imagination.

But the depth of the catastrophe represented by the collapse is awakening hidden potencies of the social brain. The financial collapse marks the beginning of an insurrection whose first glimpses were seen in London, Athens and Rome in December 2010, and which became massive in the May-June acampada in Spain, in the four August nights of rage in the English suburbs, and in the wave of strikes and occupations in the US.

The European collapse is not simply the effect of a crisis that is only economic and financial – this is a crisis of imagination about the future, as well. The Maastricht rules have become unquestionable dogmas, algorithmic formulae and magical spells guarded by the high priests of the European Central Bank and promoted by stockbrokers and advisors.

Financial power is based on the exploitation of precarious, cognitive labor: the general intellect in its present form of separation from the body.

The general intellect, in its present configuration, is fragmented and dispossessed of self-perception and self-consciousness. Only the conscious mobilization of the erotic body of the general intellect, only the poetic revitalization of language, will open the way to the emergence of a new form of social autonomy.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi is an important thinker of the Italian Autonomia Movement. In the 1970s, Berardi fled to Paris for political reasons and became a close friend and collaborator of Félix Guattari, philosopher of schizoanalysis. Berardi is a media theorist and media activist who currently teaches Social History of the Media at Accademia di Brera, Milan. This essay is adapted from his newest book The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, to be published by Semiotext(e) in November.