The idea of a society without qualities is an indictment of a state that fails to provide a life of quality for its citizens. The society without qualities is one in which a systemic pressure on cultural and democratic institutions results in a whittling down of civil liberties. Where post-fascism is on the rise and where those who revolt are regarded by the elite as expendable. Where human relations are corroded in profitable ways and the future of the youth is mortgaged. And so you are turned into your own limit: you are your own weakest link because it is up to you to hold things together. It is a society without the historical teleology that the twentieth century had as an “American century.”
Of course, the society without qualities is a consequence of the evacuation that has taken place. Having realized itself to the extent that it has shed its historical constraints, capitalism is now free—victorious when identified with the state, when it is the state (Fernand Braudel). And so the idea of the state as a caretaker and an educator, an alleviator of pain, is no longer believable. The state has been presented with a new role, which it has accepted. Capitalism’s convergence with the state dissolves society—this was what Margaret Thatcher spoke of with the honesty of an executioner.
The rise of the society without qualities comes as a bigger surprise on the European side of the Atlantic. The European welfare state has been dismantled by a right wing that incredulously considers it to be a vestige of socialism, and by ideologically homeless social democrats ready to liquidate what was once commonly owned.
The welfare state is a model of economic redistribution that is frequently mistaken for a social community—perhaps because of the mental (libidinal?) economy that it also is: a psychic investment in, or occupation of, other people through the state apparatus. Because the welfare state maintains infrastructure, education, health care, and so forth, it is believed to guarantee tolerance, trust, and empathy. But we must strip the state of its sham human qualities. After all, if modern man and woman are anyhow without qualities, why should the state possess them?
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