WITH UMBERTO GALIMBERTI
A. Fonda: Nowadays we mainly talk about globalisation in reference
to the organisation and development of wealth. The outcome of
the conflict between capitalism and communism, or rather between
capitalist organisation and Marxist organisation, has contributed
decisively to this process. It is a process which began a lot
earlier, but whose outcome was already known. What are the consequences
of this decade’s change on society?
U. Galimberti: The fact is that globalisation is a capitalist invention, which considers goods to be superior to man. The triumph of capitalism has truly meant the end of Marxist thought. What was it that Marx said? That man must be considered as the ends and goods as the means, exactly repeating Kant’s proposition. However, capitalism is the exact opposite, and so today we are seeing that goods are freer to move in the world than people and even more crucially that people have effectively become functionaries of goods. I don’t understand why Marxist thought was muted after the fall of the Berlin wall, as globalisation is the exact fulfilment of Marx’s expectations, affirming the power of goods over man. Only that the primacy of merchandise was limited to Europe where goods were produced. However, today the entire world has become substantially merchandised and people can subsist and have the right not to the dignity of life, but only to being functionaries of merchandise.
A.F.: Separating the parts and specialisation, these seem to be two characteristics of our era: how are they effecting the individual and his/her relationship with others?
U.G. Well, specialisation is a requirement of technology, because technology doesn’t interest man, but it does interest the specialised wo/man, or rather his or her own specialisation is of interest. As technology is an apparatus which, in order to function, needs everyone to do her/his job. This job doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult or complicated – on the contrary, it’s better if it’s simple, because as everybody knows technology is interested in efficiency, but above all in inter-changeability. The weak link of technological apparatuses are people, who are looked at as competent and working in a speciality. This determines a change of identity, in the sense that my identity is no longer that of who I am, but of what I do. Even when we have to attend a meeting and people have to say their names, this name means nothing until they tell us their job, and only when we know their function do we begin to have a topography of these gatherings. Now this means that function has priority over identity. This is the effect of technology going global. I count because of my function and I count a lot less because of my identity. On the contrary, my identity has to be kept under wraps, at the most I’m allowed to let it out at the weekend, but on the other days of the week I have to act like a functionary of the apparatus, and therefore I have to use the language of the apparatus, whether I am at the bank or asking how your aunt is, but I have to speak their language and adapt to how the apparatus wants me. Therefore we cannot think that our identity remains unchanged if it works five days a week at exposing only a specialised part of itself.
A.F: Science and technology can move freely, without limits!? Why is technology the horizon and faith of contemporary man?
U.G.: Because technology is the universal condition for the realisation of any goal. This means that technology today is not a means, but an end in that in order to reach any end I need a technological apparatus. The first thing I want to do is create this technological apparatus. I’ll give you an example: when the soviet technological apparatus was stronger than America’s in the 60s, nobody talked about the fall of communism. Communism fell when the soviet technological apparatus was no longer able to realise communist aims, which included its globalisation, and therefore it abandoned its goal due to technological insufficiency. Communism fell due to technological insufficiency, not because of ideological revision. This means that technology, being the universal condition for achieving any goal, is no longer a means, but the first objective for realising it is subordinated by the realisation of other aims.
A.F.: Isn’t Christianity one of the oldest forms of globalisation in the West?
U.G.: No, because otherwise the same thing could be said for Buddhism, or Islam. Christianity is the religion of the West and is also what unified it, because it gave the West its form. And the form which Christianity gave it is a laic form, because Christianity is the only religion which contains the principle of atheism. Unlike other religions in which God is God and man is man, in Christianity God becomes man, which equals beginning to think that man is the creator of himself, his very maker. In containing the principle of atheism, Christianity has determined the aspect of the West, which is educated in Christianity but also laically and atheistically. But this is because in Christianity there is the principle of the negation of God’s transcendence.
A.F: And what about our bodies, which are so bound by their limitations?
U.G.: Our bodies have been reduced to nothing more than a mannequin, in that our bodies support merchandise. We have a body for clothing, for beauty, a body for sexuality and also for illness. The body is the great supporter of the medical business, for example. The body is no longer the subject of existence, but is the supporter of other subjectivities which are the technological apparatuses. There is the fashion apparatus, the cosmetic apparatus and the health apparatus. There is even an apparatus of spirituality, in the sense that even the mortification of bodies produces enough merits to organise salvation. The body is no longer the subject of what I am in the world, but is the object through which scientific apparatuses express their power.
A.F: Identity, nationality, traditions, which role do these values still have?
U.G.: Well, identity, nationality and territoriality disappear with globalisation in the sense that we have to begin thinking of a new man who is no longer characterised by his territory or by the defence of that territory. Thus the man of character and territory is no more and a type of man who has few connotations of racial, ethnic and regional identity emerges, in spite of the protestations made by Bossi or Haider, who just aren’t interesting, they are the waste of history. Here there is now a generic man who cannot be recognised by where he comes from, but by his social-economic standing. Thus a generic man can be in New York or the Congo indifferently, because he represents a socio-economic apparatus from which he receives legibility. Globalisation naturally has emigration as its parallel in the sense that where everything is open, the migratory influxes will move from poor zones to zones of wealth, until reaching the point when these zones will become wealthy. This creates another type of man who confirms that a territorial man no longer exists, but only what I call a wayfaring man, who stays here for a bit and then there for a bit, gradually resolving problems without an ethical basis in which the practice of cohabiting can be deduced. He is an increasingly nomadic man, because territory, identity and character no longer work.
A.F.: In spite of the process of globalisation, the opening up towards countries which haven’t experienced a Western evolution is still seen as an analogous curiosity, like that of a nineteenth century explorer in contact with foreign populations for the first time, or like a coloniser. This is also the case of Eastern European countries and for all of those countries which are not part of the so-called industrialised nations. This is because it is commonly thought that the Western way is the only and the best. How can we expose this illusion?
U.G: The Western way is not the best, it is the most efficient. It is more efficient and the most consistent with the form of our times, which is the technological form. It is therefore clear that all populations want to and must be emancipated because they no longer have a territory symbolic of their living conditions, but are merely a mass of people dispersed in anonymous land, because this is the world beyond the West. Anonymous lands with dispersed masses. It is clear that to create a structure and find a sense of belonging they must enter into the technological and economic circuit that the West proposes as the present form of the world. Therefore we will increasingly have a passage of these subjects from dispersed and anonymous lands because there are no longer any traditions, cultures or symbols. Look at Africa. There are more tribes than symbols. There is a wandering belligerent mass in which only those who are able to assimilate themselves to this cultural way can find an identity. A cultural way which dominant categories are efficiency, functionality and profit.
A.F.: Is in the globalisation question not possible to reveal something positive from a philosophical point of view? Or is this idea of a united world governed in perennial peace by Enlightenment, national unification and the revival of a United Europe just an idea that hides the game of homogenisation under technological domination?
U.G.: Homogenisation is inevitable, in the sense that we found ourselves in a situation in which technology is the greatest force which circulates around the world, but also the most fragile. However, technology is a phenomenon that involves only a fifth of humanity. There are four fifths of humanity that are not technological. So now there are two problems: either technology, which today is the greatest force, is able to be diffused and imposed on the other four billion inhabitants, or the four billion inhabitants invade the Western world by degrees, as the Romans did with the barbarians, and instead of assimilating themselves they found another type of humanity unknown to us. All I can say is that the West and its culture is definitively defunct, not because the barbarians have arrived but because technology has. Technology has produced a kind of man capable of only one thought, and it is thought which calculates, not thought which thinks. The results can already be seen in the reduction of schools as well as in the form of thought production, in individual formation, but also in the form of technological competence. Therefore we only need two generations educated in technological competence, which I have deconstructed as humanity, as we know it. In my opinion, Europe will be finished within the next thirty years. First due to technology and then due to emigration, which will become part of technology or will found another kind of humanity.
A.F.: If art is a means of gathering together fundamental aspects of the human situation and the world, how will globalisation make its mark on artistic representation in the future?
U.G.: Negatively, in the sense that art has always lived through the spirit and the spirit has been nourished by either a familiar or a strange environment. Art needs this dimension, in which the spirit alternates between the familiar and protected and the disquieting and exposed. Art is this great oscillation which plays on these extremely powerful anthropological categories from which the relationship between belonging, friendship and intimacy are born. Art plays on this. Because of the way in which the world is becoming homogenous I can’t see what can enchant us. Art can’t be the antithesis of technology, but can only be a niche conceded by technology, like an ornament to the technological apparatus, but not like poetic production and even less like linguistic creation.
A.F.: And if we have to find a different way of looking at art or a new form of art?
U.G.: In this case, it becomes very technological and if it becomes extremely technological it is no longer art. There is a great temptation in art to assimilate to the lady of the house, which is technology. For all that it is assimilated to the lady of the house it stops being art and never becomes the lady of the house, because technology knows how to be a lady of the house. However, for all its disassociation, it is still a niche. It is a valuable niche because being a niche certainly isn’t negative, but it isn’t the discourse around which the world is organised either. Thus it merely becomes the objection against the technological world.