June 2015

Bifo: After the future


Though it may seem that the line of inquiry presented in this series has already nose-dived into a debilitating, dystopian paralysis, there is nevertheless some hope that may be embraced on the noopolitical frontier, even though we are surrounded by Intermorphs, living in a simulation, and are deep in the process of selling our souls. Franco “Bifo” Berardi—a key figure in the Italian Operaismo movement and a philosopher-activist of utmost contemporary relevance—discusses in this interview some key terms from his 2011 book After the Future. The future, Bifo argues, no longer exists—today, we have a futurism without the future. Futurism has always been about power, speed, violence, and acceleration. Advanced capitalism, however, has destroyed intelligence and creativity, the environment, the atmosphere, and even the soul. Its greedy, insatiable logic of more-more-more can only be counteracted from a post-futurist position, one that denies the future, putting its foot down and saying: no more! Post-futurism means choosing a slowness of pleasure, to accommodate the fullness of time, to take joy in the decomposition of the self. To be a body again. To become-other, which means to be yourself without always protecting your “self,” which may, Bifo suggests, be exactly what it takes to become-human. We do not need more things, we need more time. Our ultimate existential problem, our most pressing survival concern is, how do we find a way to enjoy everything we already have? How can we ask for more life, more time, more pleasure, without in turn demanding more “things” to consume, more material promises leading to empty satisfaction? Advanced capitalism is highly trained in its ability to hijack desire, as it has successfully managed to extend its operations to a disembodied “General Intellect,” the concept that Bifo uses to address the fragments of human intelligence that compose the abstract machine of production. The body is forgotten, overexertion of the physical is ruthlessly promoted, and disembodiment as an ideal is offered by the network society. Our capitalism no longer needs to produce things; it makes concepts into things—it is semiocapital, the production of projects, figures, words, and ideas, the producer of illusions. The more signs there are, the less meaning there is. The more information, the less understanding. Bifo’s political resolution to this mess is the Singularity, not as a techno-somatic hybrid convergence of man-machine, but as the psycho-spiritual ability to withdraw from the Sameness Project and to find joy in becoming-yourself. This process of becoming doesn’t involve any other realization than that of having a body on its way through time and space towards death. This is a joyful Spinozist politics of immanence, one that earnestly asks: how can we create composite bodies that give us more power, through pleasure, rather than forcing together incongruent assemblages that generate long-term weakness through systemic sadness? In short, this is a politics that asks: how can we finally become human?

Franco Berardi, aka “Bifo,” founder of the famous “Radio Alice” in Bologna and an important figure of the Italian Autonomia Movement, is a writer, media theorist, and media activist. He currently teaches Social History of the Media at the Accademia di Brera, Milan.

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