Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Thatcher and Baudrillard

Franco “Bifo” Berardi,  in Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility… (below)

Baudrillard wrote In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities in the same era when Margaret Thatcher was taking control of the Tory Party, beginning the triumphal progress that prepared her victory in the national elections of 1979, and launching the project that we have come to know as the neoliberal reformation. Echoing Baudrillard’s concepts, in a 1987 interview Thatcher said:

What irritated me about the whole direction of politics in the last thirty years is that it’s always been towards the collectivist society. People have forgotten about personal security. And they say: do I count, do I matter? To which the short answer is, yes. And therefore, it isn’t that I set out on economic policies; it’s that I set out really to change the approach, and changing the economics is the means of changing that approach. If you change the approach you really are after the heart and soul of the nation. Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.

The final goal of Thatcher’s revolution was not economic, but political, ethical – almost spiritual, we might say. The neoliberal reformation was intended to inscribe competition into the very soul of social life, up to the point of destroying society itself. This cultural intention has been clearly described by Michel Foucault in his 1979–80 seminar published under the title The Birth of Biopolitics:

the subjection of individual activity to the spirit of enterprise, the overall recoding of human activity in terms of economic rentability, the insertion of competition into the neural circuits of daily life.

These are the trends that Foucault foresaw and described. Not only economic profit, but moreover the cult of the individual as economic warrior, the harsh perception of the fundamental loneliness of humans, the cynical concession that war is the only possible relation among living organisms on the path of evolution: this is the ultimate intention of the neoliberal reformation. Margaret Thatcher said, ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.’ The concept here is interesting but not accurate: society cannot disappear at the very end; sociability may be dissolving, but not society.

Over the last thirty years, society has been transformed into a sort of blind system of inescapable obligation and interdependence, a prison-like condition of togetherness in which empathy is void and solidarity is forbidden. The social space has been transformed into a worldwide system of automatic connections in which individuals cannot experience conjunction but only functional connection. The process of cooperation does not stop, it is transformed into a process of abstract recombination of info-fractals that only the code can decipher and transform into economic value. The mutual interaction is not negated outright, but empathy is replaced by competition. Social life proceeds, more frantic than ever: the living, conscious organism penetrated by dead, unconscious mathematical functions.


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