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Reactivating the Social Body in Insurrectionary Times: A Dialogue with Franco 'Bifo' Berardi

  • Author(s): Hugill, David
  • Thorburn, Elise
  • et al.
Abstract

The Italian theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi has spent a lifetime participating in revolutionary movements and thinking through their complexities. He is best known in the English-speaking world for his association with the Italian autonomist movement Operaismo (“workerism”) and its prominent attempts to transform communist politics by resituating the “needs, desires, and organizational autonomies” of workers at the foundation of political praxis (Genosko and Thoburn 2011: 3). This text assembles excerpts from three interviews we conducted with Berardi over the course of the insurrectionary year 2011. Each of our conversations coincided with notable developments in last year’s mobilizations and our interviewee’s enthusiasm about those events is evident at certain points in the transcript. Yet while Berardi is generally optimistic about the revolts and the “reactivation of the social body” that they seem to imply, he reminds us that protest alone will not be enough to win the genuine kinds of autonomy that he suggests are necessary. He argues that dogmas of growth, competition and rent have so colonized every sphere of “human knowledge” that they have begun to threaten the very survival of what he calls “social civilization.” The hegemonic grip of this “epistemological dictatorship” has altered our capacity to feel empathy towards one another, severing fundamental bonds of inter-personal connection. Yet in spite of this dark diagnosis, Berardi is not a doomsayer and he always leaves open the possibility of transformation and escape. He counsels that our best shot at deliverance lies in the development of new strategies of withdrawal, refusal, sabotage, and the negotiation of new “lines of flight” from the late-capitalist forms of domination.

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