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Bifo: "After the European Union"

At the Verso blog, Bifo has a piece declaring the death of the European Union project. It was killed, he writes, but the unaccountable financial bodies that imposed austerity across Europe—the same austerity that has led to a resurgence of fascism. Contrary to calls by Marine Le Pen and others, the solution is not a return to national sovereignty, writes Bifo. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Is there an exit-route?

Only idiots could point to the path of returning to national sovereignty, national currencies. This recipe would lead us to repeat the Yugoslav civil war on a continental scale.

The exit-route certainly does not lie in the never-explicit, weasel-word self-criticism that comes from the mouths of the leaders of the German, French and Italian Left. Nor does it lie in an improbable commitment to citizen income in a country – France – where the Socialists have almost no choice of reaching the second round (and even if their candidate Benoît Hamon did reach the run-off, the citizen income would be the very first thing he would cross out of his programme).

The exit-route does not lie in the campaign against Brexit launched by Tony Blair, the war criminal and executor of the neoliberal devastation of British society. Many voted for Brexit precisely because of their hatred for this Left, and out of revenge against it.

But is there, then, a way out of the European civil war?

The way out can lie only in a gigantic movement, in a conscious reawakening of the thinking part of European society. All that remains is the hope that a significant minority of the first connective generation will find the path of solidarity and sabotage. Only the occupation of a hundred European universities, only an insurrection of cognitive labour could drive a re-invention of the European project. This is improbable – but the possible is no friend of the probable.

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There’s a passage from an interview with Vilém Flusser from 1988*. Flusser explains his media centered concept of cultural history as one of humans’ activity of abstracting from physical reality (4 dimensions: time, depth, height, width), bodies (3 dimensions: “timeless” sculptures/ objects), pictures (2 dimensions: paintings/ “shallow surfaces”), text (1 dimesnion: linearity), bits (zero dimensions: ‘total’ abstraction). He goes on:

“[…] I’ve [We’ve] stepped into the most extreme abstraction. Progress is therefore – from a dimensional perspective – done. […] now it’s not about abstracting from the world anymore, which is what history of human progress has been about, now it’s about projecting this abstraction back. Suddenly we change from subjects to projects. We are not subject, subordinated to the world, but projects on [upon/ onto] the world. We go back from total abstraction to concretion. Instead of abstracting we concretize [substantiate]. I don’t think, that you can grasp this change more radically than I just did: We stop being subjects. To us the world is not an object, which we bounce against, anymore. The world is a layer, a screen, a field of possibilities, onto which we project meaning. We don’t bend over the world to decipher it anymore, but instead we shape it according to our own meaning.” (own translation)

Without knowing Flusser’s writing this might seem utopian, or maybe problematic, elitist – people are subjected to “the world” and/ or other people. (Flusser fled from Nazi occupied Czech, so he knew this.) It may also contradict what Berardi says in some ways. I think though it’s more of a perspective from a different way of thinking. The last part for instance can be read both as criticism and also as a point of leverage. In his conception projecting back onto the world mainly happens through media and its autonomous apparatuses, or rather autonomous apparatuses and their media. But part of his message is that we need to learn to think in the „category“ of possibilites and act in improbable ways. I think in this regard Berardi might agree.

*“Alle Revolutionen sind technische Revolutionen, Vilém Flusser im Gespraech mit Florian Roetzer”, in: Kunstforum International 097 / “All revolutions are technological revolutions

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Thanks for that post. It’s an invitation to a very interesting meditation on what does it really mean to “project the abstraction back”. How can we go from total abstraction to concretion. This is in fact very empowering concept to realize that the era of new media brought us the transition from subjects to projects. Behind the projects exists a powerful though vulnerable individual, often unaware of it’s own meaning in an abstract realm and so far existing more as a logarithm, a number for statistics or a pray for manipulations. It’s exposed to trolling but also caught in a narcissistic need of protecting its ego. Therefore “projecting the abstraction back” is working in western culture at the moment on a very simplistic and almost unconscious level. The abstract realm is dominated by misinformation and manipulative rhetoric that uses simple tricks like fear and blame. On an individual level, the abstract realm works - unfortunately most of the time - as a way to channel and feed our bigger than ever egos. As much as that is ungraceful, that is a characteristic of our human condition in XXI century: a very strong need of success, being recognized and apprieciated. Existing in an abstract realm, even though it is builded on an idea that there is someone else out there who receive us, is in fact a very alienating experience. Projecting the abstraction back to concretion could be a very empowering act, if only we truly recognized that we unconsciously letting rheroric confuse and manipulate us and individually we prefer to remain in the abstract and project back to the abstract itself.

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