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#1 What is to be done?

Felix Guattari // Remaking Social Practices

A few weeks before his sudden death on August 29, 1992, Felix Guattari sent to Le Monde Diplomatique the following text. Counting on additional weight conferred upon it by its author’s tragic disappearance, this ambitious and all-encompassing series of reflection takes on, in some sense, the character of a philosophical will or testament.

Translated by Sophie Thomas

…How could we reconnect the head to the body, how could we join science and technology with human values? How could we agree upon common projects while respecting the singularity of individual positions? By what means, in the current climate of passivity, could we unleash a mass awakening, a new renaissance? Will fear of catastrophe be sufficient provocation?

A few weeks before his sudden death on August 29, 1992, Felix Guattari sent to Le Monde Diplomatique the following text. Counting on additional weight conferred upon it by its author’s tragic disappearance, this ambitious and all-encompassing series of reflection takes on, in some sense, the character of a philosophical will or testament.

Translated by Sophie Thomas

…

How could we reconnect the head to the body, how could we join science and technology with human values? How could we agree upon common projects while respecting the singularity of individual positions? By what means, in the current climate of passivity, could we unleash a mass awakening, a new renaissance? Will fear of catastrophe be sufficient provocation?

Emphasis must be placed, above all, on the reconstruction of a collective dialogue capable of producing innovative practices. Without a change in mentalities, without entry into a post-media era, there can be no enduring hold over the environment….

The world market does not have to lead the production of each group of people in the name of a notion of universal growth. Capitalist growth remains purely quantitative, while a complex development would essentially concern the qualitative. It is neither the preeminence of the State (in the manner of bureaucratic socialism), nor that of the world market (under the aegis of neo- liberal ideologies), that must dictate the future of human activities and their essential objectives. It is thus necessary to establish a planetary dialogue and to promote a new ethic of difference that substitutes for current capitalist powers a politics based on the desires of peoples.

But wouldn’t such an approach lead to a chaos? On the whole, democratic chaos is better than the Chao is that results from authoritarianism! The individual and the group cannot avoid a certain existential plunge into chaos. The main question is to know what we gain from this plunge: a sense of disaster, or the revelation of new outlines of the possible?

Who is controlling the capitalist chaos today? The stock market, multinationals, and, to a lesser extent, the powers of the state! For the most part, decerebrated organizations! The existence of a world market is certainly indispensable for the structuring of international economic relations. But we cannot expect this market to miraculously regulate human exchange on this planet.

The real estate market contributes to the disorder of our cities. The art market perverts aesthetic creation. It is thus of primordial importance that, alongside the capitalist market, there appear territorialized markets that rely on the support of substantial formations, that affirm their modes of valorization. Out of the capitalist chaos must come what I call “attractors” of values: values that are diverse, heterogeneous, dissensual [dissensuelle].

Marxists based historical movement on a necessary dialectical progression of the class struggle. Liberal economists blindly placed their trust in the free play of the market to resolve tensions and disparities, and to bring about the best of worlds. And yet events confirm, if that were necessary, that progress is neither mechanically nor dialectically related to the class struggle, to the development of science and technology, to economic growth, or to the free play of the market ….. Growth is not synonymous with progress, as the barbaric resurgence of social and urban confrontations, inter-ethnic conflicts and world- wide economic tensions cruelly reveals.

Social and moral progress is inseparable from the collective and individual practices that advance it. Nazism and fascism were not transitory maladies, the accidents of history, thereafter overcome. In various forms, a microfascism proliferates in our societies, manifested in racism, xenophobia, the rise of religious fundamentalisms, militarism, and the oppression of women. History does not guarantee the irreversible crossing of “progressive thresholds”. Only human practices, a collective voluntarism, can guard us against falling into worse barbarities. In this respect, it would be altogether illusory to leave it up to formal imperatives for the defense of the “rights of man” or “rights of peoples”.

Rights are not guaranteed by a divine authority; they depend on the vitality of the institutions and power formations that sustain their existence.

Felix Guattari, 1992

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