Textos, mercado y revolución / Massimo Desiato

Texts, Market and Revolution

What do certain conceptions of neoliberal economy and revolution have in common? Both intend to disregard intellectuals, who are considered a form of bubonic plague, idlers who waste time among books, those texts located outside the world. As if the world did not contain texts, as if the world were not also word and, still worse, the "armed word," that is, ideology.

Neoliberalism's preferred metaphor is that the market regulates itself by means of the "invisible hand" and because of that, while there is a need for intellectuals-technicians, there are more than enough intellectuals-critics. Revolutionary radicals, those who hate theory (among other things because if they were to consider it valuable they would have to study it and to study Marx is not an easy task, just to name the "father" of Marxism) reject intellectuals because, like Mao, they believe that "the masses, only the masses are the driving force of universal history."

It seems to me that these "masses" are as "invisible" as the hand of the market, but then I would hear a protest from some who would point out to me the spontaneity of the revolutionary process and, others, the punctual transactions of the market. Of course, in neither case does injustice disappear, nor is there more real freedom, not to mention the brotherhood that has long since disappeared, if it actually ever existed. In this, we are stuck in 1789, and if we've advanced it's merely up to the "Restoration."

The fact of the matter remains. There's a marked anti-intellectualism that stains the conservative right and the reactionary left.

It's easy to understand the reasons for this fight against anyone who might put together a couple ideas in a coherent manner. After doing so, that individual becomes critical, uncomfortable and ostracism falls upon him: "Shut up, you unproductive intellectual!" will be heard from the right. From the left we'll hear: "Shut up, you bourgeois intellectual! Go eat books, since you've never transformed reality and you've only dedicated yourself to interpreting the world from your cubicle!" Under the light of this double attack, it's worth asking if it makes any sense to write. My answer is that it does, but it's about "producing" a "text" and doing so "productively" in order to guide the inhabitants of a culture in a stimulating and promising manner. But how does a text "act"? At first, nothing seems further from action than writing. It is conceived as "theory" and this is opposed to "practice," to action itself.

Contrary to this conception, I believe there are "texts" that are part of the "action." It's not that they serve as a prelude, but instead that the "action" would not be what it is without them. There are, even, "texts" thought up for that purpose, to begin an "action" or, better yet, to "continue" an action, so as to give it another slant, another consistency, another density, another light. It's undoubtable that in this regard Marx's "texts" are very different from those of Saint Thomas. Even in the specific sense in which the "responsibility" of the Marxian "text" in relation to the events it inspired is greater than that of the philosopher Aquinas in relation to the reality of his particular time.

In this manner, against the criticisms from the market and from the revolutionaries who only love the masses and who tend to consider anyone who "only reads books" an "amateur" who knows nothing of "mundane experience," as if "world" and "text" were air-tight compartments, as if there were no "texts" within the world and as if knowing the world and having a complete "experience" of it did not include reading books, and as if "texts" did not speak of the world, even more, as if they didn't "open worlds" while they produce more senses than those that already exist, I'll reply that the world itself can be taken as a text and the text can be taken as the world. Moreover, I'll add that whoever has not lived the "world" knows little about "texts" and whoever has not read, thought, dwelled and, finally, loved within books has not lived the "world."

{ Massimo Desiato, El Nacional, 9 January 2005 }

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