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Bifo on "the coming global civil war"


In the January issue of e-flux journal, Franco “Bifo” Berardi surveys the global landscape of sluggish economies, growing fanaticism, and widespread desperation to suggest that we may be entering a new epoch of planetary war. However, this war will not take place between two clearly defined antagonists. It will be dispersed, informal, and potentially endless. An excerpt:

Are we heading toward a global war? Not exactly: no declarations of war are being issued, but innumerable combat zones are proliferating. No unified fronts are in sight, but fragmented micro-conflicts and uncanny alliances with no general strategic vision abound. “World war” is not the term for this. I would call it fragmentary global civil war.

And the fragments are not converging, because war is everywhere.

Now, as US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter claims, “destructive power of greater and greater magnitude falls into the hands of smaller and smaller groups of human beings.”

When war is privatized, no geopolitical order in the world can be imagined, no arrangement among the conflicting religious tribes can be pursued. No beginning and no end—an endless war, as Bin Laden promised. From the Paradise in which he certainly dwells, Mr. bin Laden must be looking upon the rise of the Caliphate of Death with a smile: so far, he can easily claim that the Army of Allah is winning the war.

Some American Republicans claim that the killings are related to mental illness. In a way, they are right. But they misunderstand the causes and the extent of what they label mental illness. Mental illness is not the rare malady of an isolated dropout, but the widespread consequence of panic, depression, precariousness, and humiliation: these are the sources of the contemporary global fragmentary war, and they are spreading everywhere, rooted in the legacy of colonialism and in the frenzy of daily competition.

Image: Michele Fiore, a Republican assemblywoman from Nevada, poses with her family for her Christmas card, 2015.


[I just realized that this links back to the editor’s note by Paul Mattick in the Brooklyn Rail posted earlier [in this forum]1.]

I was thinking about the reconcilability of what Berardi calls the "social body transformed into abstract interaction among disembodied digital agents [, the social body is detached from the general intellect]" opposed to the idea of a “techno-poetic platform for the collaboration of cognitive workers”.

First the quotes in greater length:

Globalization has brought about the obliteration of modern universalism: capital flows freely everywhere and the labor market is globally unified, but this has not led to the free circulation of women and men, nor to the affirmation of universal reason in the world. Rather, the opposite is happening: as the intellectual energies of society are captured by the network of financial abstraction, as cognitive labor is subjugated to the abstract law of valorization, and as human communication is transformed into abstract interaction among disembodied digital agents, the social body is detached from the general intellect. The subsumption of the general intellect into the corporate kingdom of abstraction is depriving the living community of intelligence, understanding, and emotion.

And the brainless body reacts—on one side, a huge wave of mental suffering, and on the other side, the much-advertised cure for depression: fanaticism, fascism, and war. And at the end, suicide.

[earlier it reads:]

Nevertheless, this is the only prospect we can pursue in such an obscurantist time: to create solidarity among the bodies of cognitive workers worldwide, and to build a techno-poetic platform for the collaboration of cognitive workers for the liberation of knowledge from both religious and economic dogma.

If the abstract and complex level in our communications and the general political situation as difficult as it already was with conventional mass-media (the gulf between spectator/ the everyday and the mediated/ global and political sphere)¹, is intensified by digital means (hypercomplexity, hyper-reality, de-realization²) - how then can media be used to bridge this gap or liberate knowledge, and consequently be put into action beyond electronic circuits? For one thing finding solutions probably won’t work omitting media, as they are intrinsically and dialectically embedded in the process of how-things-came-to-be-this-way:

… emanating, receiving, realizing, analyzing, communication, informing / generating, dislocating, connecting, creating, banishing, paralysing / emanating, receiving, realizing, analyzing, communication, informing / generating, dislocating, connecting, creating, banishing, paralysing …

However I personally have not come to terms how this liberation can “practically” be put under way or have actual effect. How do we act collectively out of an electronically mediated community?³ Despite of the internet opening up new ways of net-working, co-working, re-organizing and “rallying”, and the relevance of people re-politicizing and re-socialzing locally from my reckoning this remains an important question. (Note to self: revisit Forget Fear!)

¹ stemming from Guy Debord’s - “Critique de la Séperation” and “Society of the Spectacle” and Martha Rosler’s “Domination and the Everday”.
² Jean Baudrillard: “The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact”
³ Debord: co-isolation through the spectacle of the media [reminding me of: co-isolation through individualism - housing, consumption, competition].


Yes interesting response. Is not eflux itself representitive of a techo-poetic platform? Do we not have the tools in the here an now? Should we not be examining whether this platform is a living example in the present of how to challenge existing structures/ideas and develop new ones rather than looking to an eternally projected future?


I like the idea of stopping to project things into the future. Although I don’t know (yet^^) if this forum is it. I’m not a philosopher so I don’t know if you can call such an attitude existential, but I sometimes think it’s all about realizing what means are at your hand/ in your reach (your bare mental and material facilities!) and using your brain to put them to use. The hard part is the how.