Notes to “Memories of the Future”


[1] Lukács, Georg.  The Theory of the Novel: A Historico-Philosophical Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature.  Translated by Anna Bostock.  (MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 1971).  Pg. 29.

[2] As necessitated by the production of relative surplus-value.  Postone, Moishe.  Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2003).  Pgs. 289-291, 293, 347, 350.

[3] “If it did not come to end in 1989, as conservative critic Francis Fukuyama expected, this is because, in Hegel’s sense, as freedom’s self-realization in time, History had already ceased.  Long before the new geopolitical configurations and institutional forms of the post-Soviet world, a new and unprecedented, though scarcely recognized, political situation had taken shape: The last threads of continuity connecting the present with the long epoch of political emancipation were severed.”  Leonard, Spencer.  “Going it Alone: Christopher Hitchens and the Death of the Left.”  Platypus Review.  (№ 11: March 2009).  Pg. 2.

[4] On the “chain of presents,” Postone, Moishe.  “Deconstruction as Social Critique: A Review of Derrida’s Specters of Marx.”  History and Theory.  (Volume 37, № 3: October 1998).  Pgs. 371, 386.

[5] Berardi, Franco.  After the Future.  Translated by Arianna Bove, Melinda Cooper, Eric Empson, Enrico, Giuseppina Mecchia, and Tiziana Terranova.  (AK Press.  Oakland, CA: 2011).  Pg. 18.

[6] On the dotcom crash: ibid., passim, pgs. 80-82; on September 11th: ibid., passim, pgs. 12-13, 78, 95; on the global economic downturn: ibid., passim, pgs. 71-73, 75, 139-143.

[7] “Progress opened up a future that transcended the…predictable, natural space of time and experience… The future contained in this progress is characterized by two main features: first, the increasing speed with which it approaches us, and second, its unknown quality.”  Koselleck, Reinhart.  “On the Relation of Past and Future in Modern History.”  Translated by Keith Tribe.  Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time.  (Columbia University Press.  New York, NY: 2004).  Pg. 22.

[8] “The idea of the future is central to the ideology and energy of the twentieth century, and in many ways it is mixed with the idea of utopia.”  Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 17.

[9] “The decisive threshold had been passed when change began to be ascertainable and measurable by the scale of an individual lifespan; when in the course of a single individual life the change was evident enough to demand a drastic adjustment of cognitive and moral standards.  Then it was duly reflected in the new and novel sense of history as an endless chain of irreversible changes, with which the concept of progress — a development which brings change for the better — was not slow to join forces.”  Bauman, Zygmunt.  Socialism: The Active Utopia.  (Routledge.  New York, NY: 2010).  Pgs. 18-19.

[10] Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 18.

[11] For Bifo, the year 1977 is significant for a variety of reasons.  It’s about as close as he comes to the Hegelian idea of the world-historical event.  This year saw the brief flowering of the Italian autonomia movement, which grew out of its apparently earth-shattering revelation that “the personal is political.”  It is a bit odd attaching such significance to this date; compared with 1917 or even 1968, 1977 was a flash in the pan.  In terms of Berardi’s biography, however, 1977 serves as something of an origin myth: everything that came before is understood as leading up to it, everything that came afterward as being shaped by it.

Large sections of After the Future are lifted, almost unedited, from earlier collections like The Soul at Work: “1977 is a turning point in the history of humanity; it is the year when a post-human perspective takes shape.”  Berardi, Franco.  The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy.  Translated by Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia.  (Semiotext(e).  Los Angeles, CA: 2009).  Pgs. 93, 111, 113-114, 175.

[12] Berardi, After the Future.  Pgs. 17, 44-49.

[13] Ibid., pg. 25.

[14] Ibid., pg. 164.  Bifo concludes with a rather uninspired “Manifesto of Post-Futurism,” pgs. 165-166.

[15] To list just a few: post-ideology (Bell’s End of Ideology, 1962), “postindustrial” society (Bell’s Coming of Postindustrial Society, 1976), post-aesthetics (Danto’s “End of Art,” 1978), postmodernism (Lyotard’s Postmodern Condition, 1979), “post-political” politics (the Post-Political Politics of Negri, Guattari, Bifo, and Tronti, 1980), post-Marxism (“Post-Marxism without Apologies” by Laclau and Mouffe, 1987), post-history/posthistoire (Fukuyama’s End of History, 1989), etc.

[16] Ibid., pgs. 47-48.

[17]“‘Postmodernity’ as the ‘end of grand narratives’ is one of the names for [the] predicament [of a lost] universality.”  Žižek, Slavoj.  In Defense of Lost Causes.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2008).  Pg. 33.

[18] Schulman, Jason.  “In Defense of Grand Narratives.”  Jacobin.  Spring 2011.

[19] Lyotard, Jean-François.  The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.  Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi.  (Manchester University Press.  Manchester, England: 1984).  Pg. xxiv.

[20] Berardi enthusiastically participates in the production and reproduction of concepts extolled by Deleuze and Guattari — i.e., the creation and perpetuation of the outlandish neologisms so common in postmodern theoretical discourse.  Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix.  What is Philosophy? Translated by Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson.  (Columbia University Press.  New York, NY: 1994).  Pg. 159.

Bifo relies heavily on categories borrowed from other philosophers, which appear at once underspecified and conceptually overwrought.  For instance, the hazy concept of “semiocapital,” introduced by Baudrillard several decades back, shows up frequently side-by-side with thought-figures of Deleuzoguattarian origin (“schizoanalysis,” “the baroque,” “deterritorialization,” “rhizomes,” “chaosmosis”) that are no less opaque.  On “semiocapital,” see Berardi, After the Future.  Pgs. 35, 55, 90, 93-94, 99, 106-107, 114-115, 132-133, 139, 143-144, 150, 156.  On “schizoanalysis” and “schizoid” tendencies: ibid., pg. 48, 130, 159, 179; on “the baroque”: ibid., pgs. 99-101, 115; on “deterritorialization”: ibid., pgs. 50, 53; on “rhizomes”: ibid., pgs. 40, 48-49, 128; on “chaosmosis”: ibid., pgs. 78, 159-162, 175-176.

Berardi also freely indulges in the coinage of new terms and concepts.  He proposes the “cognitariat” of “infolabor” as a “virtual class” that might replace the industrial proletariat as the post-futuristic subject of history.  On “cognitive labor,” “cognitive workers,” “infolabor,” “neuromobilization,” and “cognitariat” (or “cognitive proletariat”), see ibid., pgs. 36, 55, 80, 82, 83-87, 89, 92, 102, 129-131, 144, 163, 170.

[21] On resignation: ibid., pgs. 156-157.  On “thera-poetry”: ibid., pg. 163.  On radical passivity: ibid., pg. 177.  On suicide: ibid., pg. 148.

[22] “Bifo’s politics could be described as a kind of ‘lifeboat communism.’  As the crisis ripples, mutates, and deepens, Bifo sees the role of communism as the creation of spaces of solidarity to blunt [its] worst effects.  Gone is the demand for a better world for all, the liberation of our collective social wealth, or the unlocking of the social potentials of technology.  Rather, Bifo’s politics are based around insulating a necessarily small portion of society from the dictates of capital.”  Lear, Ben.  “Lifeboat Communism: A Review of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s After the Future.”  Viewpoint Magazine.  May 18th, 2012.

[23] Adorno, Theodor.  “Aldous Huxley and Utopia.”  Translated by Samuel Weber and Shierry Weber.  Prisms.  (The MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 1997).  Pg. 117.

[24] Though to be fair, Frase only really discusses two futures qua futures — i.e., as substantial departures from the present.  Insofar as what he calls “rentism” (hierarchy + abundance) and “exterminism” (hierarchy + scarcity) already exist throughout most of the world, these would just be continuations of the present.  But this is quibbling.  Frase, Peter.  “Four Futures.”  Jacobin.  Winter 2012.  Pgs. 27-34.

[25] Mohandesi, Salar and Haider, Asad.  “Is There a Future for Socialism?” Jacobin.

The line, which the authors leave unattributed, runs as follows: “Postmodern would be understanding according to the paradox of the future (post) anterior (modo).”  Lyotard, Jean-François.  “An Answer to the Question: What is the Postmodern?” Translated by Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas.  The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982-85.  (University of Minnesota Press.  Minneapolis, MN: 2003).  Pg. 15.

[26] “[The angel of history’s] face is turned toward the past…But a storm…drives him irresistibly into the future.”  Or later: “The Jews were prohibited from inquiring into the future: the Torah…instructed them in remembrance.”  Benjamin, Walter.  “On the Concept of History.”  Translated by Edmund Jephcott.  Selected Writings, Vol. 4: 1938-1940.  (Harvard University Press.  Cambridge, MA: 2006).  Pgs. 392, 397.

[27] As hinted at by their repeated offhand endorsements of Mario Tronti’s “strategy of refusal.”

[28] Ajl, Max.  “Planet of Fields.”  Jacobin, Winter 2012.  Pg. 25.

[29] Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 45.

[30] “In the Marxist account of capitalism there is no place for the concept of limits to growth.”  Ibid., pg. 46.

[31] Ajl, “Planet of Fields.”  Pg. 25.

[32] Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 74.

[33] Paul, Ron.  “Deficits Make You Poorer.”  March 15th, 2005.

Worse still, Ajl tries to treat this as a moral issue, arguing that “the notion of limitless growth encourages a presentist morality.”  Ajl, “Planet of Fields.”  Pg. 26.

He almost advocates an ethical consumerism, urging readers to change their “patterns of consumption.”  If only changing the world were as simple as changing one’s shopping habits.  Ibid., pg. 25.

[34] That is, one that is “centered on agriculture,” against Mumford’s megalopolis.  Ibid., pgs. 25-26.

[35] Ibid., pg. 26.

Though apparently, Ajl is not to blame for this grotesque nomenclature; Laura Enriquez first introduced the term in a piece on Cuba from 2003.  Enriquez, Laura J.  “Economic Reform and Repeasantization in Post-1990 Cuba.”  Latin American Research Review.  Pgs. 201-218.

It is almost certain, however, that this is what Ajl had in mind when he spoke of “repeasantization,” as he goes on to praise Cuba for its reforms.

[36] Ajl, “Planet of Fields.”  Pg. 26.

[37] Davidson, Neil.  “Bourgeois Revolutions: On the Road to Salvation for all Mankind.”  Socialist Review.  December 2004.

[38] Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich.  Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Translated by Samuel Moore.  Collected Works, Volume 6: 1845-1848.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1976).  Pg. 510.

[39] Wolfe, Ross.  “Man and Nature.”  Thinking Nature.  (Volume 1: Summer 2011).  Pgs. 19-25.

Thus did Louis de Bonald, the French reactionary cleric, exalt the “essentially monarchical” character of the agricultural family over the radical republicanism of the urban sans-culottes: “Everything improves the intelligence of the farmer and lifts his thoughts towards Him who gives fruitfulness to the earth, dispenses the seasons, and makes the fruit ripen.  Everything debases the intelligence of the worker.”  Bonald, Louis de.  “On the Agricultural Family, the Industrial Family, and the Right of Primogeniture.”  Translated by Christopher Olaf Blum.  Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition.  (ISI Books.  Wilmington, DE: 2004).  Pg. 109.

“Neither Joseph de Maistre nor still less Chateaubriand or Lamennais was the real fountainhead of the anti-democratic thought of the last century.  That responsibility is beyond doubt de Bonald’s, with the clairvoyance of hatred and the cold fanaticism of a scholastic theologian gone astray in the modern world.”  Koyré, Alexandre.  “Louis de Bonald.”  Translated by Leonora Cohen-Rosenfield.  Journal of the History of Ideas.  (Volume 7, № 1: January 1946).  Pg. 56.

[40] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Pg. 488.

[41] “Presenting it in the non-space of the post-future doesn’t disguise that Berardi is looking to an imagined past.”  Harris, Malcolm.  “Bifo Says Relax.”  The State.  May 13th, 2012.

[42] “Technology and industrial production are part of our world — they’ve constituted our present, and contrary to primitivist delusions, the present contains open possibilities.”  Mohandesi and Haider, “Is There a Future for Socialism?”

[43] Ajl, “Planet of Fields.”  Pg. 25.

[44] “When the code becomes the enemy, the only strategy becomes catastrophic.”  Berardi, After the Future.  Pgs. 137-138.

[45] Ibid., pg. 177.

[46] “The age of senilization is here, and Europe is the place where it will first develop.”  Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 155.

[47] «Всякий молод молод молод/Животе чертовский голод».  Burliuk, David.  Утверждение бодростиGazeta futuristov, Ocenniaia antologiia.  (Iskusstvo molodykh.  Petrograd, USSR: 1918).

[48] «У меня в душе ни одного седого волоса».  Maiakovskii, Vladimir.  Облако в штанахPolnoe sobranie sochinenii.  (Гос. изд-во «Художественная литература».  Moscow, USSR: 1989).  Pg. 180.

I owe this brilliant pairing to Paperny, Vladimir.  “Modernism and Destruction in Architecture.”  Ruins of Modernity.  (Duke University Press.  Durham, NC: 2010).  Pg. 42.

[49] “The senile generation of Europe may become the subject of a cultural revolution to prepare Western society for…the redistribution of wealth and resources.  Such a cultural revolution should start with a critique of the energetic juvenilism permeating modern culture.”  Berardi, After the Future.  Pg. 157.

[50] On “UnGrowth,” see ibid., pgs. 156-157.

[51] Berardi, Franco.  “Exhaustion and Senile Utopia in the Coming European Insurrection.”  e-flux journal. № 21: December 2010.  Pg. 6.

[52] “The Senile Dementia of Post-Marxism: Empire, Multitude, and the ‘Death of Communism’.”  Spartacist № 59: Spring 2006.

[53] Clark writes, with exaggerated causticity: “‘Future’ exists only in the stock-exchange plural.”  Clark, T.J.  “For a Left with No Future.”  New Left Review.  (№ 74: March-April 2012).  Pg. 72.

[54] “…our catastrophe…our Thebes…the seventy years from 1914 to 1989…”  Ibid., pg. 60.

[55] Ibid., pg. 61.

Insofar as his claim is that the revolutionary legacy of the twentieth century cannot be redeemed, Clark’s gloominess is no doubt justified.  The twentieth century opened up no fresh avenues for emancipation; its legacy, rather, is the failure to redeem those avenues that had been opened up by the nineteenth: “The 20th century, the period of the emergence, crisis, death, and memory of Marxism, cannot…be re­deemed…[T]he language of redemption…in the Second International doesn’t apply in the 21st century.  The reason that the 20th century cannot be redeemed is that, unlike the 19th century,…the 20th century was one of unnecessary suffering…be­cause the failure of Marxism was unnecessary, which is why it cannot be properly forgotten.”  Cutrone, Chris.  “1873-1973, the Century of Marxism: The Death of Marxism and the Emergence of Neo-Liberalism and Neo-Anarchism.”  Platypus Review.  № 47: June 2011.  Pg. 3.

[56] Clark criticizes “Marx, Raspail, Morris, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Platonov, Sorel, [and] Pasolini” as part of a “tradition…[that is] indelibly…unwilling to dwell on the experience of defeat?” Clark, “For a Left with No Future.”  Pgs. 57-58.  This characterization is, however, demonstrably false of many of the figures who are named.

He adds later that “[modernity] should learn — be taught — to look failure in the face.”  Ibid., pg. 69.

[57] Ibid., pg. 75.  Clark’s emphasis.

[58] Though he refers to Clark’s argument as a “simplified bleak vision,” he endorses some of its sentiments: “Clark sees the reason for [the Left’s] inability to act in [its] ‘futuralism,’ in its orientation towards a future of radical emancipation; due to this fixation, the Left is immobilized…[T]he problem with Marx (as well as with the 20th century Left)…was not that Marx was too utopian in his Communist dreams, but that his Communism was too ‘futural.’”  Žižek, Slavoj.  “Signs from the Future.”  July 25th, 2012.

[59] Žižek treats these “signs of the future” as “limited, distorted…fragments of a utopian future which lies dormant in the present as its hidden potential.”  His criticism of Marx runs as follows: “The problem with Marx (as well as with the 20th century Left)…was not that Marx was too utopian in his Communist dreams, but that his Communism was too ‘futural’…[W]hat Marx conceived as Communism remained an idealized image of capitalism, capitalism without capitalism, i.e., expanded self-reproduction without profit and exploitation.”  Ibid.

[60] Jameson, Fredric.  “Progress vs. Utopia: Or, Can We Imagine the Future?” Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire called Utopia & Other Science Fictions.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2005).  Pgs. 287-288.

[61] Of course, this future cannot be recovered, still less realized, by an act of memory alone.  Being able to imagine a better world than that of the present in no way guarantees that it will come to pass.

[62] Cutrone, Chris.  “Remember the Future! A Rejoinder to Peter Hudis.”  Platypus Review.  № 8: November 2008.  Pg. 3.

[63] “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice.  He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.  Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle.”  Marx, Karl.  The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  Translated by Clemens Dutt, et al.  Collected Works, Volume 11: 1851-1853.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1979).  Pg. 103.

[64] Ibid., pg. 106.

[65] Hatherley, Owen.  Militant Modernism.  (Zero Books.  London, England: 2009).  Pg. 2.

[66] Benjamin, “On the Concept of History.”  Pg. 390.

[67] Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.  Pg. 103.

[68] Marx, Karl.  Economic Manuscripts, 1861-1863.  Translated by Ben Fowkes.  Collected Works, Volume 34: 1861-1864.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1994).  Pg. 397.

[69] Hatherley, Militant Modernism.  Pg. 14.

[70] Jameson, Fredric.  Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire called Utopia and Other Science Fictions.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2005).  Pg.  34.

[71] Benjamin, Walter.  “Excavation and Memory.”  Translated by Rodney Livingstone.  Selected Works, Volume 2, Part 2: 1931-1934.  Pg. 576.

[72] Hatherley, Militant Modernism.  Pgs. 40-42.

[73] Speer stressed the need to anticipate the future deterioration of buildings presently under construction, calculating decay into their design in order to enhance their apparent venerability.  Hatherley incisively diagnoses Speer’s mania: “[O]ne is reminded of the interesting element to Albert Speer’s otherwise utterly banal ‘Theory of Ruin Value’[:]…Rather, the psychotic, suicidal notion of building with the ruins already in mind: a death-drive architecture, where posterity’s opinion is internalized to such a ludicrous degree that…the corpse has been designed before the living body.”  Hatherley, Militant Modernism.  Pg. 49.

[74] Bakhtin, Mikhail.  “Epic and Novel.”  Translated by Michael Holquist.  The Dialogical Imagination: Four Essays.  (University of Texas Press.  Austin, TX: 1981).  Passim, pgs. 13-21, 25-31, 34.

[75] Hatherley, Militant Modernism.  Pg. 8.

[76] Boym also uses ruins as a metaphor for memory and nostalgia, but she is less perceptive on this score.  She ends up unconsciously (and therefore, eo ipso,uncritically) repeating Speer’s doctrine: “The ruin is not merely something that reminds us of the past; it is also a reminder of the future, when our present becomes history.”  Boym, Svetlana.  The Future of Nostalgia.  (Basic Books.  New York, NY: 2001).  Pg. 79.

[77] Huyssen, Andreas.  “Nostalgia for Ruins.”  Grey Room.  (№ 23: 2006).  Pg. 8.

[78] Cutrone, Chris.  “Obama: Three Comparisons — The Coming Sharp Turn to the Right.”  Pg. 2.

[79] Le Corbusier.  The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning.  Pg. 231.

[80] Rowe, Colin and Koetter, Fred.  Collage City.  (The MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 1984).  Pgs. 9-31.

[81] Jameson, Fredric.  “Future City.”  New Left Review.  (№ 21: 2003).  Pg. 76.

[82] In her recent meditation on William Gibson’s Neuromancer, “The Future, Probably,” Laurie Penny makes the point that the apocalyptic disposition of the present may just be wishful thinking.  Against the doomsayers, she warns of the shortsightedness inherent in their “refus[al] to see the future in anything other than the shapes of smoke rising from rubble.”  Penny, Laurie.  “The Future, Probably.”  The New Inquiry.  April 25th, 2012.

[83] Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max.  Towards a New Manifesto.  Translated by Rodney Livingstone.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2011).  Pg. 70.

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