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The techno-nihilistic capitalism, interview with Mauro Magatti

Ivo Quartiroli: Prof. Magatti, how would you define techno-nihilistic capitalism, the subject of your book, Libertà immaginaria: Le illusioni del capitalismo tecno-nichilista (Imaginary freedom: The illusions of techno-nihilistic capitalism), and what are the differences with the previous stages of capitalism?

Prof. Mauro Magatti: The idea is to give a complete picture of the last 30 years which began with the coming of so-called neo-liberalism in the Anglo-Saxon countries. My book traces and develops the hypothesis of authoritative colleagues, especially the works of Boltanski in France, Bauman in England and Beck in Germany.

The idea is that those 30 years represent something as unitarian, which is detached from the previous stages (which I call “societal capitalism”), and is based not only on the nation state, but on the social and economic effects which the nation state is not able to load and which are usually referred to as “the welfare society.” The fundamental peculiarity of techno-nihilistic capitalism is a kind of new vision of the world, a new weltenshaung, which makes nihilism, traditionally a philosophy which expresses itself in stages of decadence when the established values had to be destroyed, a useful vision for accelerating both economic and technological growth on a planetary scale.

There’s a capitalism which tries to free itself from the cultural background which the national state established. This capitalism defines itself in an alliance between a technique which is supposed to be intangible, in a very thin cultural setting, or even when it is absent and, on the other side, a full availability, a full manipulability of every cultural meaning, which has to be continuously redefined, transformed, and overcome.

Quartiroli: You affirm that technology gives an imaginary freedom, yet many people, based on this very interview, could well say the opposite. I came to know about your book on the Net, sent you an email and you graciously agreed to be interviewed by me. We use Skype for the interview and then I will publish it in my blogs. This gives us a broad freedom. We don’t have any editorial limitation regarding space or length and we don’t have a director to approve our conversation. Online, we don’t even need to publish it before a certain date. And even better, we can reach hundreds or maybe thousands of readers in every corner of the world directly.

Kevin Kelly, one of the most passionate supporters of technology, in his recent article “Expansion of Free Will” says that, “Technology wants choices. The internet, to a greater degree than any technology before it, offers choices and options.” And more, “the technium continues to expand free will as it unrolls into the future. What technology wants is more freedom, expanded free will.” The idea of freedom and expansion of our possibilities is chased by every technological gadget and by every software which interacts with us. All seems very pleasurable, free and fulfilling, so what’s wrong in this expansion of our options?

Magatti: Kelly’s quote is excellent and gets to the point. Techno-nihilistic capitalism, passing the previous stage of societal capitalism, legitimates itself through this increasing of possibilities, which then is connected to the expansion of choices.

Nobody can deny that, in general terms, to go from a condition where we have less opportunities and choices to one where, instead we have the possibility of expanding our doings, in a way expands our freedom. For instance, when we can move easily and quickly from one part of the planet to the other, we get more chances to “do.”

The point is, what happens in a world where the freedom of choices, where this increase of opportunities is being produced with the speed we experience in our personal and collective lives? We should ask ourselves whether this increase has any effect on the very freedom we want to achieve.

A tangible example to make the point: freedom is somehow like the eye. The eye opens to what is in front, is a sense organ somehow indeterminate since it is connected to what is being seen. The fast-increasing choices in the individual experience give us an excess of things we can see, as fundamental changes in our way of seeing, and we are even subject to the powerful systems which are there to put things in front of our eyes.

This brings the risk of becoming people who are driven from the outside: something is being presented as a choice, which is pleasurable and which increases our power and our fulfillment, but with the risk that freedom implodes on itself and that will deliver us completely to something which is external of ourselves.

To this first problem there’s a second one: all of those opportunities presented to us aren’t as real for most people as they are supposed to be. Therefore, the opportunities in front of us are kept only in an illusory and fantasized state and we withdraw them in. To give a banal example, miraculous or even magical solutions, as would be winning 130 million euro on the Lotto which would allow us to do anything we wanted to, at least in our fantasy.

Because of those two reasons, that world with expanded possibilities which is theoretically associated with an increased freedom, then carries the risk of encaging freedom again. In the book I don’t envision a world where we go back in limiting our opportunities, but to ask ourselves about our freedom and understanding if we are as free as we think we are.

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Not being able to stop

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A couple of years ago I started to write this short essay on the inner motivations and the addiction to production. At that time the environmental problem was already full-blown, but the crisis of energy sources which will be with us for a long time wasn’t felt yet.

I asked myself what the psychological roots would be and what conditioning was at the base of the addiction to production in the West, exported thereafter around the whole planet.

The origins of the compulsion for production and the resulting devastation of the planet date back to the interpretation of the messages spread by religions, particularly the Judaeo-Christian religions.

Christianity propagates messages regarding original sin and the impossibility of reaching the divine in human form. Those and other messages produce psychic double binds, like short circuits.

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The only way out for human beings was to redeem themselves, re-creating heaven on Earth through “virtuous” acts, ruling over nature for this purpose, as authorized by the Bible itself.

Religious statements made a sense originally as tools for the spiritual path, but those messages have been misunderstood by the ego in other ways.

Since this article is quite long, is available as a free e-book which can be downloaded clicking on the cover.

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Avevo iniziato a scrivere questo breve saggio sulle motivazioni interiori che stanno alla base della dipendenza a produrre due anni fa. Il problema ambientale era già conclamato ma ancora non si avvertiva la crisi delle fonti energetiche che ci accompagnerà per lungo tempo.

Mi sono interrogato sulle radici psichiche e sui condizionamenti alla base della dipendenza a produrre in occidente, poi esportata in tutto il pianeta.

Le origini della dipendenza a produrre e della conseguente devastazione del pianeta risalgono all’interpretazione dei messaggi diffusi dalle religioni, in particolare della tradizione giudaico-cristiana.

Il cristianesimo ha propagato i messaggi concernenti il peccato originale e all’impossibilità di raggiungere il divino in forma umana. Questi e altri messaggi hanno prodotto dei doppi vincoli psichici, dei corti circuiti.

senza potersi fermareL’unica via d’uscita per l’essere umano era rimasta quella di riscattarsi ricreando il paradiso in terra, tramite azioni “virtuose” e dominando la natura a questo scopo, autorizzati dalla Bibbia stessa a utilizzare la natura per i fini umani.

I messaggi della religione avevano un senso originario come strumenti per la ricerca spirituale, ma tali messaggi sono stati interpretati sul piano dell’ego nei modi che questo poteva.

Poiché l’articolo è piuttosto lungo, l’ho impaginato in forma di e-book gratuito che si può scaricare facendo clic sulla copertina.

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Echoes of a global tribalism

Mirò. Ciphers & Constellations in Love with a Woman[en]

Just before the spread of the Internet, around 1995, we experienced the mobile phone boom in Italy, two media which have transformed our lives. One of the first things I noticed with the advent of the mobile was the transformation of our inner relationship with the territory.

People weren’t “there” anymore where they were physically, but in some other place. Human beings have always inwardly estranged themselves from reality, getting lost in thought, distracted by their mental convolutions, but with mobiles, “not being there” took on a more physical connotation. In the beginning it was amazing to look at people walking alone on the street talking through earphones and gesturing.

Walking in the streets will never be the same as before any more. Our relationship with the “here and now” has got further distanced. At that time I observed how mobiles changed the way people related with each other.

I am used to giving dinner parties at home for several friends. People connect between themselves through long talks and we stay together till late. A sort of collective energy field is created that frequently brings depth to a friendship which was just sensed between people who knew each other less.

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Poco prima della diffusione di Internet, intorno al 1995, in Italia è avvenuto il boom dei telefonini. Due mezzi che avrebbero trasformato la nostra vita. Una delle prime cose che avevo notato con l’avvento dei cellulari era la trasformazione del nostro rapporto interiore col territorio.

Le persone non erano più veramente “lì” dove si trovavano, ma in qualunque altro luogo. L’essere umano si è sempre estraniato interiormente dalla realtà tramite l’essere soprappensiero, distratto dalle proprie spirali mentali, ma con il cellulare il non essere “lì” assumeva una connotazione fisica. All’inizio faceva quasi impressione vedere le persone camminare da sole per strade e parlare con gli auricolari gesticolando.

Camminare per strada non era e non sarà più la stessa cosa di prima. Il nostro rapporto con il “qui e ora” si era ulteriormente distanziato. In quel periodo avevo anche notato in prima persona come i telefonini avessero cambiato il rapportarsi tra le persone.

Sono solito organizzare delle cene a casa mia con diversi amici. Le persone si connettono tra di loro tramite lunghe chiacchierate e si rimane tutti assieme fino a tardi. Si crea una specie di campo energetico collettivo, che frequentemente porta ad una sentita amicizia anche tra persone che si conoscono poco tra di loro.

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