Franco Berardi

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Berardi being interviewed by Ràdio Web MACBA in 2013.

Franco "Bifo" Berardi (born 2 November 1948) is an Italian communist theorist and activist in the autonomist tradition, whose work mainly focuses on the role of the media and information technology within post-industrial capitalism. Berardi has written over two dozen published books, as well as a number of essays and speeches.

Creative work and activism[edit]

In 1962, at the age of 13, Berardi became a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation, but was expelled due to "factionalism." He participated in the events of May '68 at the University of Bologna, where he graduated with a degree in Aesthetics. During this time he joined the extra-parliamentary Worker's Power group and met Antonio Negri. Berardi founded the magazine A/traverso in 1975 and worked with the magazine until 1981, when it reached its high point of publishing. He was also part of the staff of Radio Alice, the first free pirate radio station in Italy, from 1976 to 1978.

Like others involved in the political movement of Autonomia in Italy during the 1970s, Berardi fled to Paris, where he worked with Félix Guattari in the field of schizoanalysis. During the 1980s, Berardi contributed to the magazines Semiotexte (New York), Chimerees (Paris), Metropoli (Rome) and Musica 80 (Milan). During the 1990s, he published Mutazione e Ciberpunk (Genoa, 1993), Cibernauti (Rome, 1994), and Félix (Rome, 2001). He has also collaborated with artists such as Warren Neidich and publications such as e-flux in the contemporary arts field. Currently he is working with the magazine Derive Approdi as well as teaching social history of communication at the Accademia di belle Arti in Milan. He is the co-founder of the e-zine rekombinant.org and of the telestreet movement, founding the channel Orfeo TV.[1]

Theories[edit]

Unlike orthodox Marxists, Berardi's autonomist theories draw on psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis and communication theory to show how subjectivity and desire are bound up with the functioning of the capitalism system, rather than portraying events such as the financial crisis of 2008 merely as an example of the inherently contradictory logic of capitalist accumulation.[2] Thus, he argues against privileging labour in critique and says that "the solution to the economic difficulty of the situation cannot be solved with economic means: the solution is not economic."[3] Human emotions and embodied communication becomes increasingly central to the production and consumption patterns that sustain capital flows in post-industrial society, and as such Berardi uses the concepts of "cognitariat" and "info labour" to analyze this psycho-social process.[4][5] Among Berardi's other concerns are cultural representations and expectations about the future — from proto-Fascist Futurism[6] to post-modern cyberpunk (1993). This represents a greater concern with ideas and cultural expectations than the determinist-materialist expression of a Marxism which is often confined to purely economic or systemic analysis.

The Uprising[edit]

One of Berardi's books is The Uprising, a series of essays critiquing the global financial crisis and finance capitalism from a left-wing perspective.[7] Berardi rejects contemporary economic discourse, asserting that economics itself is not a science, but rather a form of political ideology.[a] Consequently he further rejects the notion that neoliberal economic policy is based in the objectivity of science, but is instead merely a political program and an undesirable one. Against the mathematical language of economics (which he alleges masquerades as scientific) Berardi opposes a speculative (and also unscientific) rhetoric of poetry, which he intends to disrupt the conventional wisdom of contemporary economics.

Berardi decries the automation and standardization of language via computer technology, which he alleges results in an impoverished language as experienced by the human subject, with the result that it is more difficult to conceptualize another form of life apart from the current economic/political situation.[b] He also criticizes the fragmentation of precarious work (e.g. seasonal work, telecommuting) which leads to social atomization and precludes social solidarity, and further rejects neoliberal and conservative economic views.[10] As remedies, Berardi proposes both a rediscovery of poetic language which speaks directly to humans, and also a redirection of the general intellect—a Marxist term referring to the cognitive capacity of society—away from capitalism, and towards social solidarity. The book also touches on the early 21st century protest movements resulting from the financial crisis, such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.

Berardi stresses respiration and oral communcation throughout, including breathing, speech, speech acts, and song; this theme is taken up again in Breathing, a later work.

Breathing[edit]

In Breathing, Berardi—himself asthmatic—uses respiration both literally and metaphorically to examine contemporary political life, for example by citing the death of Eric Garner.[11][12]

Bibliography (selected)[edit]

Books[edit]

  • The Second Coming Polity, 2019.
  • Breathing Semiotext(e) / Intervention Series, 2018.
  • Futurability - The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility, Verso, 2017.
  • And: Phenomenology of the end, Autonomedia, 2015.
  • Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide Verso, 2015.
  • The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Semiotext(e) / Intervention Series, 2012.
  • Ed. Gary Genosko and Nicholas Thoburn. After the Future. AK Press, 2011.
  • The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. Trans. Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia, with preface by Jason E. Smith. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotexte, 2009.
  • With Marco Jacquement and Gianfranco Vitali. Ethereal Shadows: Communications and Power in Contemporary Italy. London: Autonomedia, 2009.
  • Precarious Rhapsody. Semio-capitalism and the Pathologies of the Post-Alpha Generation. London: Autonomedia, 2009.
  • Skizomedia. Trent'anni di mediattivismo. Untranslated: Schizomedia: Thirty Years of Media Activism. Rome: Derive Approdi, 2006.
  • Il sapiente, il mercante, il guerriero: dal rifiuto del lavoro all'emergere del cognitariato Untranslated: The Warrior, The Merchant, and the Sage: the Emergence of the Cognitariat Refusal of Work. Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2004.
  • With Jacquement e Vitali and Baldini Castoldi Dalai. Telestreet. Macchina immaginativa non omologata. Untranslated: Telestreet: Machine Imagination Not Approved. 2003.
  • Alice è il diavolo. Storia di una radio sovversiva. Untranslated: Alice is the Devil: Story of a Subversive Radio. Shake, 2002.
  • Un'estate all'inferno. Untranslated: Summer in Hell. Ed. Luca Sossella. 2002.
  • Felix. Narrazione del mio incontro con il pensiero di Guattari, cartografia visionaria del tempo che viene. Translated: Félix Guattari. Thought, Friendship, and Visionary Cartography. London: Palgrave, 2008.
  • La fabbrica dell'infelicita'. New economy e movimento del cognitariato. Untranslated: The Factory of Unhappiness: New Economy and Movement of the Cognitariat. Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2001.
  • La nefasta utopia di Potere Operaio. Untranslated: The Ominous Utopia of Workers' Power. Castelvecchi, 1997.
  • Exit, il nostro contributo all'estinzione della civilta. Untranslated: Exit - Our Contribution to the Extinction of Civilization.
  • Cibernauti. Untranslated: Cybernauts. Castelvecchi, 1995.
  • Come si cura il nazi, Neuromagma. Untranslated: How is the Nazi, Neuromagma. 1994.
  • Mutazione e cyberpunk. Untranslated: Mutation and Cyberpunk. 1993.
  • Piu' cyber che punk. Untranslated: More Cyber Than Punk. 1990.
  • Infovirus. Untranslated. Topia. 1985.
  • Enfin le ciel est tombè sur la terre. Untranslated: Finally the Sky Fell to the Earth. Seuil, 1978.
  • Contro il lavoro. Untranslated: Against Work. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1970.

Essays and speeches[edit]

Filmography[edit]

  • The Move (documentary). Directed by Renato de Maria. 1991.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "It is difficult to believe that something like 'economic science' really exists. What is a science? Without embarking on epistomological discussions, I would simply say that science is a form of knowledge which is free of dogma, which is able to extrapolate general laws from the observation of empirical phenomena (and consequently able to predict something about what will happen next), and finally which is able to understand those kinds of changes that Thomas Kuhn has labeled paradigm shifts. As far as I know, the discourse named 'economics' does not correspond to this schema."[8]
  2. ^ "The techno-linguistic machine is giving language to human beings, and also taking the place of human beings in language for the current generation. The first generation that learned more words from a machine than from their mothers has a problem concerning the relationship between words and the body, between words and affection. The separation of language learning from the body of the mother and from the body in general is changing language itself, and is changing the relationship between language and the body."[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Biography at Generation-Online.
  2. ^ Berardi, Franco. The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. Trans. Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia, with preface by Jason E. Smith. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotexte, 2009.
  3. ^ Berardi, Franco. "Franco 'Bifo' Berardi about crisis" on YouTube. Lithuania: Alytus Art Strike Biennial, 2009.
  4. ^ "Info Labour and Precarity". Trans. Eric Empson.
  5. ^ Il sapiente, il mercante, il guerriero: dal rifiuto del lavoro all'emergere del cognitariato. Untranslated: The Warrior, The Merchant, and the Sage: the Emergence of the Cognitariat Refusal of Work. Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2004.
  6. ^ "Futurism and the reversal of the future". London: May 2009.
  7. ^ Berardi, Franco "Bifo" (2012). The Uprising. Semiotext(e) Intervention Series. 14. Semiotext(e). ISBN 9781584351122.
  8. ^ The Uprising, p. 72.
  9. ^ The Uprising, p. 101.
  10. ^ The Uprising, pp. 44-48.
  11. ^ Berardi, Franco "Bifo" (2019). Breathing. Semiotext(e) Intervention Series. 26. Semiotext(e). ISBN 9781635900385.
  12. ^ Tremblay, Jean-Thomas (28 February 2019). "Breathing: Chaos and Poetry – Franco "Bifo" Berardi". Full Stop.

External links[edit]