[OPE-L] The New Historical Simultaneity

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Apr 01 2007 - 15:30:07 EDT

The end of the modernization and the beginning of another world history.
Robert Kurz
The debate about the globalisation seems to have arrived currently to a
exhaustion state. This is not due to a weakening of the underlying
process, but to the lack of air for new interpretive ideas. Almost nobody
dares to speak of the end of the history of the modernization. It is
certain that meanwhile whole libraries were already written on the fact of
the globalisation of the capital (the transnational dispersion of the
economic functions) and the separation between the national economy and
the world market and the whole previous referential framework remains
diluted. But the consequences to take out of that recognition were delayed
most of the times up to now. The old concepts still go to tow, although
they no longer correspond to the new reality.
For years the maximum of the critical reflection was considered to defend
the national particularity in front of the abstract universality in the
modern way of capitalist production. In the 70s, the so-called euro
communism affirmed that the Marxist theory had been frequently too
universal and, consequently, should be finally «summarized"in national
terms, in order to create a popular socialism with the "colours" of
France, Germany, Italy etc. But that announcement was already reactionary
in the same moment of its formulation. In the process of the
globalisation, the relationship finally was reversed. The own national
particularity became empty abstraction, though present it is true, but
only as silt of a time already past. The history is national only as
history of the past, but not of the future. From now on there will no
longer be more French, German, Brazilian, Chinese history... The
historical concretion in the immediate referential space of the world
society will no longer refer in the future to the particularities and the
national contexts, but to the transnational ones. That is also applied
(and directly) to cultural identities, social movements and
"post-political" conflicts.
The forced national community is not, however, the only essential
characteristic of the past that becomes obsolete. The spatial structure of
the national particularities reciprocally defined was also chained to a
temporary structure of stages of capitalist development reciprocally
defined. The universe of the nations was an universe of historical
no-simultaneity. Considering that the modern system producer of goods had
only extended gradually from Europe in the XIX and XX centuries, the
diverse ages of the capitalism were followed immediately one after
another. What was still the future for some, was for others the present or
the immediate past. That unevenness of the historical time caused by
itself the paradigm of the "development "that was presented in the
capitalist categories like a recovery race of the historical retarded
ones. Great Britain, Germany and other continental European countries
during the XIX century went through a similar "recuperating
modernization"; in the XX century, in front of the West, Russia, China and
the ex-colonial countries of the global south confined their selves to
repeat the same thing. The nation became the specific space of the
historical no-simultaneity.
The classic western labour movement was also determined by a similar
paradigm; in this case the "recuperating modernization" did not refer, or
at least not in first line, to the position of the own nation in front of
the most advanced nations, but above all the judicial and political of the
salaried worker in front of other social classes, inside the same nation.
It was at stake the "recognition" of the wage earners as juridical
subjects of their work force and as full citizens. The right of universal
and equal vote, women's juridical equality, strike right, association
freedom, meeting freedom and the autonomy in the wage negotiation were
important contents of that "recuperating modernization" bound to the
internal social relationships; was only reached, even in the most advanced
western countries, during the XX century. The external recognition of the
historical retarded ones in the east and the south, as nations in the
world market, corresponded to the political and juridical internal
recognition of the wage-earners as citizens and right subject.
But that recognition was, in some respects, a historical trap. Then, as
the societies of the diverse world regions were confirmed and established
as formal subjects of the capitalism in the same way that the individual
wage-earners, they were also this way condemned inevitably to the national
and social forms of the modern system producer of goods. Both the States
of the "regenerating modernization" and the labour parties and the
national unions suffered a mutation, becoming executioners of the false
"natural laws"of the system. Under the globalisation conditions, all of
them have nothing else to do but to administer in a more or less
repressive way the capitalist crisis. What the social democracy had
already practiced previously from the First World War is now repeated to
global scale.
Perhaps it is thought that this negative development paled the glory of
the "national liberation" and of the national labour parties. In certain
way it is also just like that. All over the world a strong dissatisfaction
burns facing to the political instances of the traditional left that lost
completely its opposition quality, exactly in the moment of the new world
crisis, since they remained linked to the paradigms of the «regenerating
modernization", already emptied of matter. But those paradigms are so
deeply ingrained that they continue being effective even among the
dissatisfied ones. There is something phantasmagoric in the manner of the
new opposition, facing the former-opposition now entered in the
representation of the dominant system, abides blindly to the obsolete
patterns of the submerged universe of the no-simultaneity. The criticism
to the crisis' co-administration in which the old national liberation
movements and the traditional labour parties that arrived to the power
participate, is revealed this way weak and not very trustworthy, since it
wants to repeat in the content, once again, what objectively failed a long
time ago.
This is gaudier in the world movement against the globalisation, with
their protests, social forums and conferences in Porto Alegre, Paris,
Berlin etc. That movement is on one hand organized in a transnational way,
but, on the other hand, paradoxically, it counts apart from its members,
with national partisan articulations next to the groups operating in the
transnational ambit; among them there are even those whose mother
organizations are in the government and they execute exactly the "economic
laws" against its effects the global social movement fights.
But the content of most of the assertions is the one that mainly remains
completely strange to the globalisation process. Partially transnational
at least according to its form, the movement would like to reach a
"political regulation" of the financial markets and the general conditions
of the goods production and distribution, although the logic of such
regulation was bound to the frame of the national State. Therefore they
want to revive, from that moment even in the global ambit, exactly the
procedure that already failed historically in the ambit of the national
State, the only one appropriate for it. It is a hopelessly anachronic and
unreal option.
That reducing criticism implicitly starts with the statement that the
societies could still "grow" in the frame of the bourgeois modernity,
although the globalisation and the third industrial revolution have
already bust (exploded) that frame. That is also applied to the economic
and philosophical fundamental suppositions that are revealed equally
In the economic side the expectation is that the gigantic mass of global
and cheap work force would still represent a reserve for the capital
appraisement, now no longer under the form of a national development but
under the form of transnational globalized capital. Some wait and other
fear that it could arise, once more, an era of traditional exploitation.
Partly that alternative leans on the concept of "average social
productivity". That average degree of production scientification is
relatively high in the developed capitalist countries and relatively low
in the countries of the periphery. It is expected that a new average of
productivity in the mondial ambit takes place with the growing
globalisation that would be lower in comparison with the current western
average and higher in comparison with the current one of the east and
south. Basing on the new standard, it is believed that it will be possible
to absorb a considerable part of the reservation momentarily with no
practical use of the global work force in the process of capital
But that calculation does not work. How is the average of the productivity
measured? It is measured in agreement with the average degree of the
technological scientification of the production. However the frame to
which really refers that average is decisive. It is unequivocally the
economic-national frame of the social production. Only in the inner space
of a national economy are applied the common conditions-limit that can
produce in a general way something like a "social average". A common level
of development of the infrastructure, of the education system etc. is part
of it. In the environment of the world market, however, common
conditions-limit like that do not exist. For that reason, neither a global
average level of productivity can be settled. The relationship of the
nations or the world regions in the world market does not present any
analogy with the companies inside a national economy. Then, in the global
frame it is imposed unavoidably the level of productivity of the oldest
industrial countries in West, more developed in capitalist terms. In the
same measure that the national space becomes objectively obsolete by means
of the globalisation, that level forms the immediate global and filterless
approach for all the market participants. It is illusory the hope that, in
the new transnational system of references, the average of the social
average productivity ends up diminishing and let the work force without
practical use be articulated again, more easily in the production.
In the philosophical aspect, a similarly anachronic expectation determines
the thought of the unsatisfied ones. Because the philosophy of the so
called Illuminism which foundations were settle in the XVIII century, it
is still considered the impassable horizon of the ideas. They pretend that
the world, also in that sense, would continue its development within the
frame of the bourgeois modernity. As for this, the new opposition does not
take any step beyond the old one. But the paradigm of the Illuminism is
equally used up by the economy of the modern system producer of goods, of
which it was simply the philosophical expression. The main ideas of
Illuminism, "freedom ", "equality "and "self-responsibility" of the
"autonomous individual" are, according to their concept, carved for the
capitalist form of the subject of the "abstract work" (Marx), of the
owners´ economy, of the totalitarian market and of the universal rivalry.
Freedom and equality in the sense of the Illuminism were always identical
to the self-submission of the people to the social forms of the capitalist
The fight of the classic labour movement and the national liberation
movements for juridical and political "recognition"could appeal to the
Illuminism philosophy because its single objective was to enter and grow
in those forms whose social condition-limit was formed by the nation
exactly like in the economic aspect. There are only national systems of
bourgeois right. Bursting the national frame, the globalisation makes
obsolete not alone the economic form, but also the juridical and political
form of the bourgeois subject. The Illuminism philosophy is historically
completed with that. It does not make any sense to invoke again the
idealism of the bourgeois freedom, because for that kind of freedom there
is not further space for emancipation. This is also applied to the world
regions that were never beyond the dictatorial beginnings of a
universalization in the subject's modern way. As the economic
productivity, the bourgeois subjectivity is also measured by the
homogeneous global standard, where the most of the human beings do not
Evidently the new social movement all over the world did not still take
conscience of those conditions. The constitution of the capital's
transnational structures is identical to a time of historical
simultaneity. Although the situations were different, from the starting
point, inherited from the past, the problems of the future only can be
formulated as common problems to an immediate world society. According as
much with the form as with the content to the old paradigms of the left is
obsolete: nation, political regulation, bourgeois recognition, Illuminism.
The critic should be deeper and understand the repressive presuppositions
of those concepts instead of claiming its ideals. Otherwise it falls in
the vacuum without any effect.

German original Die neue historische Gleichzeitigkeit. Das Ende der
Modernisierung und der Beginn einer anderen Weltgeschichte. Published in
the newspaper "Folha de São Paulo", Sunday January 25, 2004, with the
headline of A nova simultaneidade histórica. A crítica precisa apreender
os pressupostos repressivos dos obsoletos paradigmas da esquerda.
Translation into portuguese by Luiz Repa.

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