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Franco "Bifo" Berardi

Franco Berardi, aka “Bifo,” founder of the famous “Radio Alice” in Bologna and an important figure of the Italian Autonomia Movement, is a writer, media theorist, and media activist. He currently teaches Social History of the Media at the Accademia di Brera, Milan.

Titles by This Author

On Poetry and Finance

The Uprising is an Autonomist manifesto for today’s precarious times, and a rallying cry in the face of the catastrophic and irreversible crisis that neoliberalism and the financial sphere have established over the globe. In his newest book, Franco “Bifo” Berardi argues that the notion of economic recovery is complete mythology. The coming years will inevitably see new surges of protest and violence, but the old models of resistance no longer apply. Society can either stick with the prescriptions and “rescues” that the economic and financial sectors have demanded at the expense of social happiness, culture, and the public good; or it can formulate an alternative. For Berardi, this alternative lies in understanding the current crisis as something more fundamental than an economic crisis: it is a crisis of the social imagination, and demands a new language by which to address it.

This is a manifesto against the idea of growth, and against the concept of debt, the financial sector’s two primary linguistic means of manipulating society. It is a call for exhaustion, and for resistance to the cult of energy on which today’s economic free-floating market depends. To this end, Berardi introduces an unexpected linguistic political weapon--poetry: poetry as the insolvency of language, as the sensuous birth of meaning and desire, as that which cannot be reduced to information and exchanged like currency. If the protests now stirring about the world are to take shape and direction, then the revolution will be neither peaceful nor violent--it will be linguistic, or will not be at all.

From Alienation to Autonomy

We can reach every point in the world but, more importantly, we can be reached from any point in the world. Privacy and its possibilities are abolished. Attention is under siege everywhere. Not silence but uninterrupted noise, not the red desert, but a cognitive space overcharged with nervous incentives to act: this is the alienation of our times....
—from The Soul at Work

Capital has managed to overcome the dualism of body and soul by establishing a workforce in which everything we mean by the Soul—language, creativity, affects—is mobilized for its own benefit. Industrial production put to work bodies, muscles, and arms. Now, in the sphere of digital technology and cyberculture, exploitation involves the mind, language, and emotions in order to generate value—while our bodies disappear in front of our computer screens.

In this, his newest book, Franco "Bifo" Berardi—key member of the Italian Autonomist movement and a close associate of Félix Guattari—addresses these new forms of estrangement. In the philosophical landscape of the 1960s and 1970s, the Hegelian concept of alienation was used to define the harnessing of subjectivity. The estrangement of workers from their labor, the feeling of alienation they experienced, and their refusal to submit to it became the bases for a human community that remained autonomous from capital. But today a new condition of alienation has taken root in which workers commonly and voluntarily work overtime, the population is tethered to cell phones and Blackberries, debt has become a postmodern form of slavery, and antidepressants are commonly used to meet the unending pressure of production. As a result, the conditions for community have run aground and new philosophical categories are needed. The Soul at Work is a clarion call for a new collective effort to reclaim happiness.

The Soul at Work is Bifo's long overdue introduction to English-speaking readers. This Semiotext(e) edition is also the book's first appearance in any language.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)