The Big Switch

From Evernote:

The Big Switch

This is a translation of a recent post by Raimundo Viejo Viñas, from his blog On The Wobbly’s Road.

Antagonist pills, 3: fear changing sides

Among the many slogans that became famous due to 15M, the one that says "we have lost our fear" stands out in the current pre-strike context. Other phrases chanted by the multitude, in the manner of "they don’t represent us", perhaps identify more readily the rupture with the liberal regime under which we live. "We have lost our fear"’ however, stands out because of its strategic implications.


And the rule over society that makes the neoliberal project possible is based precisely on fear. More on fear than on violence, even. Fear carries with it something primal that violence lacks. Violence is a political reality of the second order when compared to fear: its only end is that of inspiring fear.


Fear is something that has always been with us, it is something present already in the animal we are. It is just that ruling institutions have managed with the passage of centuries to remove it from the privileged by inspiring it among the oppressed. It is an equation that remains operational today and brings results of great success.

We should not be surprised, therefore, that the declaration "we have lost our fear" secretly causes more worry than "they don’t represent us" (do we think they want to represent us?). With fear it is not the same as with representation. The representative can get along without representing the whole of society, and even without representing a majority of society. Ask long as they manage to represent (and or receive the electoral support of) a sufficient minority they can call themselves "representatives".

But representative of what? At the end of the day, few among the governments of liberal democracies have a social majority. They only have electoral majorities. And often not even that. And this is thanks to the paradox of being representatives of a social body (the so-called "people") whose representation entails expelling part of the whole that is supposed to be represented. 


The device of political representation does not end here. In fact, it is perfected via mechanisms of varying subtleness which filter preferences so as to produce a composition best suited to the smooth functioning of rule. Such has been and still is the task of the electoral law and its workings (and especially the d’Hondt law)

But if even the most cursory analysis renders the problem of representation obvious, the decisive importance of the matter of fear becomes even more obvious as soon as one dares to consider it. And it is precisely here that we encounter the problem: in daring to consider it. To overcome the fear to speak becomes the first theoretical problem confronting us and revealed to us by the importance of the place of enunciation from which the question is formulated:

Who can speak about fear?

The answer is simple: whoever inflicts fear. The ruling powers never stop doing so. The ruling powers speak of terror, terrorism, terrorists. They identify the "enemy" and make it responsible for the fear that they themselves inject. They manage to do so with the paradoxical advantage that, in their illocutionary position -from the place they occupy- they manage, by merely naming the fear ("terror"), to bring it forth in whomever they wish to make obey. This is how power has always worked, power in its functionalist sense, power as domination, power as the upper hand derived from intimidation. 

It doesn’t require a great deal of imagination to visualise what we are talking about. One need only call to mind the power of the mafioso godfather, the power of the improper suggestion made by the head of human resources to the temp worker, the power of the potential informer on the undocumented immigrant, the power of the friend who brings you into an office and warns you of the position in which "others" are putting you on account of your own boldness, your recklessness, your simple failure to remember the fear that you should remember. Fear, always fear.

Today the phenomenology of fear is as complex, extensive and effective as the fragmentation of the social body subjected to labour. If we want to live in a society without fear it is urgent for fear to switch sides. That is the first step: the antagonistic confrontation that displaces risk and the perception of imminent harm onto ruling institutions should they threaten social rights.

But that will not be all. At the same time as we seek to make fear switch sides, what must also be changed is the conception of politics as domination in favour of a politics as cooperation. The most revolutionary of movements is worth nothing if it ends in dictatorship (in fear as the paradigm for government).

As well as getting fear to switch sides, we also have to destroy the possibility of fear. We need the liberation from fear to allow for the production of institutions based on symbiosis, federalism and cooperation. It is only this way that the political regime of the commons can be established in a way built to last.

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