Franco Berardi: And: A Phenomenology of the End

Franco Berardi in his work And: A Phenomenology of the End remarks that the mutation and shift through which our world is moving is the conjunctive ‘and, and, and…'(Deleuze) of “the dissolution of the political order inherited from Modernity, and the vanishing of the rational  foundations of Western philosophy; and, that there is both a synchronic and diachronic aspect to this shift:

This shift is diachronic as it happens as a transition and extends over the span of various human generations, transforming throughout time cognitive patterns, social behavior and psychological expectations. But I want to investigate as well the synchronic frame in which the shift happens: I want to describe composition, conflict and coevolution of different psycho-cultural regimes that simultaneously approach, collide, interweave in the process of globalization.1

Berardi has followed Guattari’s diagramatic notions in his last few works, trying to find a viable way of integrating both Deleuze and Guattari’s work together, along with their separate work into his own autonomist vision. Even though in my own estimation that vision is limited, his work is still worth investigation. Overshadowed by his predessesors he is still one of the best commentators on their work, for the simple reason that he builds on it, puts it to work in his own projects.

Developing his Phenomenology of Sensibility he’ll see the diachronic (temporal) axis as a transition from the mechanic to the digital order, and the effects of this transition in the psychosphere. While at the same time seeing the synchronic (structural, spatial) axis as providing for the coevolution of different cultural regimes of subjectivation in the contemporary sphere of globalization.(11)

Berardi will provide a diagnosis and genealogy of this transitional process of mutation. In so doing he will investigate the shift from conjuctive to connective modes of being in the world. The conjunctive he will describe this way:

When I speak of conjunctive concatenation I mean that no original design is to be restored: conjunction is a creative act because the conjoining act is able to create an infinite number of constellations without following the lines of a pre-conceived pattern, or an embedded program. At the beginning of the act of conjunction there is no design to fulfill, there is not a model at the origin of the process of emergence of the form, and beauty does not correspond to any hidden harmony embedded in the universal spirit or in the mind of god. Nor is there any code to comply with. Conjunctive concatenation is source of singularity: it is event, not structure, and it is unrepeatable because it happens in a unique point in the net of space and time.(12).

But when it comes to connection the conceptual frame changes completely. When he uses the word “connection” he means the logical and necessary implication between two segments, the inter-functionality between segments. But connection does not belong to the kingdom of Nature, it is only a product of the logical mind, and of the logical technology of mind.(14).

Berardi will follow the work of both William S. Burroughs and Paul Virno on the notion of language as the enemy, a viral agent and machine of production of subjectivity. William Burroughs (in Ah Pook is here) says that language is a virus that spreads as a mutation in the human environment. Virno adds that the content of this virus is “negation”, a laceration in the canvas of the shared perception and projection that we call reality.(15) As he states it:

Empathy is the source of conjunction. During the history of civilization
and of techno-evolution the syntactization of the world (the reduction of
the common world to the syntaxis of linguistic exchange) slowly erodes the
traces of empathic understanding, and slowly enhances the space of syntactic
conventions. Linguistic mediation develops technologies that are shaping the
Umwelt, the surrounding environment.(15).

For Berardi human civilization as we’ve known it is over, we are migrating from the temporal realms of history into another form to Time, a technical time of accelerating strangeness in which the lines between the artificial and natural are blurring and humans are taking on more and more the look and feel of their technological creations. The Age of the Swarm is beginning:

The technical transformation of the last decades of the twentieth century, the infinite proliferation of information sources and flows, unleashed by the accelerating network technology, has made impossible the conscious elaboration of information by the individual mind, and the conscious coordination of individual agents of will.(23)

The loss of effectiveness of political action is essentially an effect of change in temporality: because of the acceleration and complexification of the Infosphere, reason and will, the essential tools for political action, are unable to process in time and to decide in time. The technical transformation has changed the conditions of mental activity and the forms of interaction between the individual and the collective sphere.(24)

Now the distinction between individual and collective has been blurred. Crowds and multitudes are involved in automatic chains of behaviour, and driven by techno-linguistic dispositives. The automation of the behaviour of many individuals traversed and concatenated by techno-linguistic interfaces results in the effect of Swarm. Man is the animal who shapes the environment that shapes his/her own brain, the swarm effect therefore is the outcome of human transformation of the technical environment leading to automation of mental behavior.(24)

I’m still working through this specific work and will probably add further notations down the pipe…

We are in that site that Deleuze and Guattari described in the intro to A Thousand Plateaus, the Rhizome… and, and, and… the conjuntive movement of a mutation in-between two assemblages, a topsy-turvy chaotic period when things seem on the one hand to be speeding up, acclerating out of control, deterritorializing the world of technosocial systems; but, at the same time, there is a reverse process of decelleration, of certain older systems of territorialization that have like Luhmann’s operational closure drawn a distinction in the sand of time, closed themselves off from time’s movement in a fake utopia of timeless instances, seeking to reterritorialize even as their power base is slowly eroding into the infosphere… it’s these two forces that are vying with each other over the (I never get tired of saying it) ‘body-without-organs’… do we yet know what that is yet?

Berardi will tell us that some decades after the publishing of Rhizome we understand now that the rhizomatic metaphor can be seen as a way of mapping the Neoliberal process of globalization, and the implied precarization of labor. Furthermore, the rhizomatic metaphore refers to the interminability of the philosophical task. Does the philosopher have a task? And what, in that case, is the philosopher’s task? Mapping the territory of the mutation, forging conceptual tools for orientation in the everchanging deterritorialising territory of the ongoing mutation, these are tasks for the philosopher in our times. (10)

  1. Franco “Bifo” Berardi. And: Phenomenology of the End (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e) (November 6, 2015)
  2. see Alan Goldfein’s intro to Closing Time on Commentary (April, 1, 1974)

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