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Inicio arrow ¿Qué significa hoy pensar políticamente? arrow What does thinking politically mean today?

What does thinking politically mean today?

Venue: International University of Andalusia (UNIA). Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas, Av. Américo Vespucio 2. Isla de la Cartuja (Sevilla)
Date: 3rd >> 6th May 2005
Participants: Sandro Mezzadra, Santiago López Petit, Margarita Padilla, Franco Berardi, Claude Lefort, Esteban Molina, Belén Gopegui, Santiago Alba Rico
In collaboration with: Editorial Archipiélago




Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel FoucaultIf, like Hannah Arendt, we believe that political action is not instrumental action towards pre-established ends but the creation of a new reality, not the art of what is possible but the substantial modification of the coordinates of what is possible, we will agree that during the last two centuries revolutionary political action has been the highest form of political expression. However with the downfall of the Utopian project of the industrial proletariat, the forms of intellectual and political commitment that dominated the 20th century i.e. the professional revolutionary (Lenin), the workers' agitator (Rosa Luxemburgo) and the organic intellectual (Gramsci) have evaporated.

The new philosophy, the academic post-modern left and single thought, harmonising absolutely with a determined " disenchanted" sensitivity after the political defeats of democratic and revolutionary movements have very clearly announced that the "great stories" of totalitarianism which of necessity are graven into strong political concepts, the lesser evil of representative democracy and the market-based economy as well as the end of history are now dead. The belle époque of neo-liberalism and capitalism once again held out the promise of happiness for human beings in the form of stock options in the "new economy" and the intellectual world abandoned the space of the great confrontations. Only one threat seemed to loom on the horizon of these wonderful dreams: the resurgence of fundamentalism, a dangerous and strangely persistent "old fashioned" notion. However great faith was placed in the combination of a "self-regulating market", "openness towards diversity" and "humanitarian interventions", a combination that would soothe these last irritants in what would finally be a level historical and political space.

Yet the post-modernist hegemony as a cultural expression of neo-liberal globalisation is now past. We will still feel its weight for a long time, but cracks are beginning to appear in several places simultaneously in the façade of the idea that the "end of history" has arrived and that we are now in a period of mere post-political administration: the 9/11 kamikaze attacks, the Bush administration's permanent global war and, tangentially, the development in society's catacombs of a parallel world, an immanent choral narration that is now under way, bringing with it the "return of politics" to the public sphere. The stitches first of new philosophy and then of weak thought that attempted to close old wounds are bursting open and this enables - as Nietzsche had asked for - blood itself [to be injected] into ideas. Gradually a new wave of politicisation is opening a space for a radical criticism, a criticism that is on the margins yet is not marginalised.

Once more, there is a lot to be thought. But, what does thinking politically mean today? Where is it done? With whom? To what end? Nobody denies the capacity that social movements have to construct their own problems and propose practical solutions. Our period is going through a healthy "crisis of experts". But, has the role of the intellectual in the collective intelligence disseminated through social networks ceased to exist? There remains however, a very visible constellation of classical references in the public ambit of contemporary thought. Perhaps therefore the intellectual has become a "practical knowledge technician" who places a "toolbox" at the disposal of others. Other voices however are raised to warn of the catastrophes that the utilitarian habit of judging ideas by their immediate contribution to political action. In a universe operating on the nihilistic principles of the mass media and the collapse of representations, what autonomy do the producers of debate enjoy? In a world where life can become a work of art based on pills, gymnasiums, and surgery, what relationship is there between aesthetics and politics? How can certain genres be renewed in order to be turned into instruments of social transformation?

UNIA arteypensamiento, and Archipiélago present four conversations (a format that of necessity entails risk, openness and exposure) in order to examine all of the above doubts.



Tuesday, May 3rd 2005
· 19:30 h. In Conversation. Sandro Mezzadra and Santiago López Petit:
What is a political life made of?

Wednesday, May 4th 2005
· 19:30 h.
In Conversation. Margarita Padilla and Franco Berardi, Bifo:
The intellectuality of the masses and the non-State public sphere.

Thursday, May 5th 2005
· 19:30 h.
Conference by Claude Lefort introduced by Esteban Molina:
Law, power, knowledge. Democratic uncertainty and the role of the intellectual.

Friday, May 6th 2005
· 19:30 h.
In Conversation. Belén Gopegui and Santiago Alba Rico:
War and Language: what do intellectuals think about?



Santiago Alba Rico
Philosopher and essayist, he is author of the book Dejar de pensar y Volver a pensar [Stop Thinking and Think Anew]. His book Las reglas del caos [The Rules of Chaos] was a finalist in the 1995 Anagrama Essay Prize. Between 1992 and 2003 his television scripts of "Los Electroduendes" [The Electro spirits] (1984-1988) were published by Ediciones Orates y Virus under the titles ¡Viva el mal! [Hail to Evil] ¡Viva el capital! [Hail to Capital!] and ¡Viva la economía, viva la CIA! [Hail to the Economy, Hail to the CIA!]. He has also published El islam jacobino [Jacobin Islam], La ciudad intangible [The Intangible City] and Torres más altas [Higher Towers] among others. Resident in the Arab world for the last 16 years, he has translated the works of the Egyptian poet Naguib Surur and Iraqi novelist Mohamed Jydair. All of Santiago Alba Rico's production revolves around the massive social phenomenon we know as capitalism, a phenomenon that has exacerbated the divide between culture and technicality that has made us return, in cultural terms, back to the caves while technologically making us advance to the stars. This is a phenomenon that is drawing us towards the point of no return where the most primitive barbarism is linked to the most refined technology and the most sublime instruments of destruction.

Franco Berardi, Bifo
He was one of the promoters and founders of A/Traverso magazine and of Radio Alice, Europe's first free radio station. These were two of the most important initiatives in the cycle of struggle in Italy known as the "long May of '68". During the 80s and 90s, Bifo focused his work on reflections concerning transformations in the world of work and on the topography of the contemporary media. These reflections continue to be linked to experiments in communication and the politics of the global movement; his Rekombinant Project for example ( and his telestreets, web-federated street television broadcasters who puncture Berlusconi-style media despotism. In Spanish, Bifo has published La fábrica de la infelicidad [The Factory of Misery] (Madrid, Traficantes de Sueños, 2004), Telestreet: máquina imaginativa no homologada [Telestreet, a Non-Regulated Imaginative Machine] (Barcelona, El Viejo Topo, 2004) and El sabio, el mercader y el guerrero [The Wise Man, The Merchant and The Warrior] (Madrid, Acuarela Libros, 2005).

Belén Gopegui
She is a Madrid-born writer. Since the publication of her first novel, La escala de los mapas [The Scale of Maps] in 1992 that won the Tigre Juan Prize and the Ibero-American Prize for Début Novels, her output has been the subject of extraordinary critical acclaim due to her treatment of plot strategies. Since 1992, she has published Tocarnos la cara [Touch our Face] (1995), La conquista del aire [The Conquest of The Air] (1998), in which she dealt with the destabilisation of human relationships among a group of friends provoked by a material, very concrete factor - money; a theme not usually addressed by novelists. The maturity of her prose and her ideological stance reach brilliant heights in Lo real [What is Real] (2001), a work that puts into question the meaning of words such as morals and justice as well as being an ambitious and experimental exercise in writing and commitment, as indeed is her latest novel, El lado frío de la almohada [The Cold Side of The Pillow] (2004). This polemic novel, warmly received by critics is regarded as a good example of what might be called social literature, something about which Gopegui has a lot to say and which, in a certain manner, can be summarised in these lines from the story: "I do not admire the writer who has recourse to suffering to find meaning… evil is an intelligible organigram and not, as people make great efforts to say, the final remnants of we know not what immaterial, seamless substance that takes flight and then perches. Why do they make such an effort to say this? It is probably the law, the law of human interest, an economic law just like any other that some have formulated more simply: he who pays the piper calls the tune".

Claude Lefort
He was Director of Studies at the EHESS (1975-1989), he also collaborated in Les Temps modernes, which he left after a discussion with Sartre. Together with Cornelius Castoriadis, he was co-founder of Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949) magazine, leaving it in 1958 after reflecting upon his commitment to Marxism. He participated in editorial work in the magazines Textures (1971-1975), Libre (1976-1980), Le Temps de la Reflexión (1981-82) and Passé Présent (1982-1985). He collaborates assiduously with Esprit magazine and is at present directing the publishing house of Belin's "Literature and Politics collection. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the University of Tilburg and the New School of Social Research as well as with the Hannah Arendt International Prize and the Grande Ville de Paris Award. His work has aimed to construct a line of thought about politics and general and about modern democracy in particular based on the experience of 20th-century totalitarianisms. He maintains that modern democracy can only remain intact by combating any discourse that from a proclaimed position of absolutism, be it religious, moral, political, scientific, legal etc. that sets out to destroy society's radical heterogeneity and plurality; in other words any ideology that dreams of returning society to a set of dogmatic certainties. Among his works are Machiavel [Machiavelli] (1972), Les formes de l'histoire [The Shapes of History] (1978), Éléments d'une critique de la bureaucratie [Elements of a Critique of Bureaucracy] (1978), L'invention démocratique [The Democratic Invention] (1981), Essais sur le politique [Essays upon Politics] (1986), Écrire. À l'épreuve du politique [Writing. Proof against Politics] (1992), La complication. Retour sur le communisme [Complication. The Return to Communism] (1999).

Santiago López Petit
He is a chemist and lecturer in Barcelona University's Department of History of Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Philosophy. He has published Entre el ser y el poder [Between Being and Power] Una apuesta por el querer vivir [A Commitment to The Will to Live] (1994), Horror Vacui. La travesía de la noche del Siglo [Horror Vacui, The Journey through The Night of The Century] (1996), El Estado-guerra [The War State] (2003) and El infinito y la nada. El querer vivir como desafío [The Infinite and Nothingness. The Will to Live as a Challenge] (2003), where philosophical reflection and political practice cross and where he traces a genealogical tree of the concept of life that enables us to finally want to live. This militant philosopher - if he can be defined at all - has an obsession: to construct a process of radical thought able to liberate the will to live from its cage of waiting. This journey has not been, nor indeed is, a solitary one: in the 1970s he was involved in the workers' struggles, particularly in the occupation of factories. Today he works in various political initiatives together with the groups Oficina 2004 and Espai en Blanc.

Sandro Mezzadra
He studied Philosophy and Political Sciences in the universities of Genoa and Bologna, receiving his Doctorate in Turin University in 1993. As Professor of the History of political Theory, he has been giving classes in Contemporary Political Theory and Post-Colonial Studies in Bologna University as well as European History organised by this university in Buenos Aires. For many years his research has been focused upon the history of German political and legal social sciences during the 19th and 20th centuries. In recent years he has been working upon the concept of citizenship, both from a historical perspective and from the point of view of present debates. He has explored, in several essays, translated into various languages, the relationships between citizenship, migration and globalisation. He is a member of the editorial boards of various Italian newspapers and magazines such as Filosofía Política, Multitude, Historical Materialism, etc.

Esteban Molina
He is a Doctor of Philosophy and holds a Diploma from the EHESS in Paris. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of Mexico's Metapolítica magazine and of the Editorial Board of Res Publica magazine (Murcia, Spain). He is author of La incierta libertad. Totalitarismo y democracia en Claude Lefort [The Uncertain Liberty. Totalitarianism and Democracy in Claude Lefort] (2001) and of Le défi du politique [The Challenge of Politics], soon to be published by L'Harmatann in Paris. He has edited and translated La incertidumbre democrática. Ensayos sobre lo político [Democratic Uncertainty. Essays on Politics], to be published by Anthropos in Barcelona and at present he is working on the translation of Lefort's most important works.

Margarita Padilla
She is a computer technician and the director of a periodical publication specialising in free software. Her political career has evolved from her early experience at a factory in Barcelona in the seventies, to her work at El Laboratorio, a social centre in Madrid which was squatted in the nineties. She has spent long years preparing a defeat which, in her opinion "will never be sufficiently analysed". She has been involved in the construction of the telematic space Sindominio since its beginnings as well as in various activities related to free software. Some years ago she started broadcasting radio programmes on the Internet through Radiopwd, a radio station run by a women's group which is based at the hacklab in Lavapiés (Madrid). She has written various articles on political activism and new communication technology which include Agujeros negros en la red (Black holes in the Net) in the Archipiélago magazine, and Penélope, tejiendo y destejiendo la red (Penelope, weaving and un-weaving the net) for the book Ciberguerrilla de la comunicación, (Cyberguerrilla of communication) which is to be published by Virus, as well as several others which have been published on the Internet.

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