il manifesto

metropolis fritz lang
03/10/2012

A cosmopolitan manifesto for Italy

The attempt to pull Italy away from the edge of the abyss where the European financial crisis and the decade-long combination of missed, mistaken, and even irresponsible governmental choices had pushed the country, is still under way. However, there is a lack of reflection on what measures must be taken in order to begin working on something more than a merely conjunctural recovery – on a recovery capable of providing some exit strategy from a “sleep of reason” that has already given birth to its own “monsters; a recovery that would bring us not only “back to normal” or back to a reinstatement of the status quo, but that would move us towards genuinely new vistas.

As the President of the Republic has authoritatively stressed, this clearly requires a preliminary internal recovery, but also, and perhaps mostly, the adoption of a European political perspective capable of finally registering the regional continental integration not as a strait-jacket, an anchorage, or a utopian final phase but rather as necessary step towards wider forms of a democratic and participatory regulation of both globalization and its conflicts–including military conflicts (not to mention economic ones, or those around the sharing and availability of resources, including primary and exhaustible resources, or cultural and religious confrontations).

Such a shift requires, in our view, a global approach based on cosmopolitanism.
Elsewhere this approach has been under way for quite some time whereas in Italy a quarter century has already been wasted, notwithstanding the clear and combined signals of an epochal change of perspective coming from both the 1989 events and the relentless development of globalization. In this connection, we shouldn’t forget that this temporal space has been filled not only by the eclipse of reason, but also by an empty debate on a locally conceived federalism (localismo federativo), whose consequences are under everyone’s eyes.

The equally evident waning of the nation-states (with the latter often invented from nothing and the former dried-up before they had a chance to blossom) has not been taken into consideration until the current crisis itself called attention to it, thereby showing the King (national politics) in all its nakedness.

It goes without saying that this delay has been the cause of discomfort and sufferings to the point of turning into a catastrophe comparable to war, with the loss (not physical, though certainly moral) of one or two generations. This is proven by the current condition of young people in Italy (as well as elsewhere). Moreover, the century-old cosmopolitan vocation of Italy and the Italians’ ability to act as a leaven and a stimulus for civilization anywhere (just think, to invoke two banal examples, of figures like Leonardo or Matteo Ricci, the Chinese “Li Matou”) has gone to pieces, dispersing itself when faced with the impossibility of reforming its own country.

The scope of “Cosmopolitaly.net”, therefore, is first and foremost to help opening up ways of reasoning and especially of contextualizing vis-a-vis the gap separating us from other societies and countries, which – though starting from material conditions and cultural situations apparently less bright than ours – have managed to maintain or develop an openness and a vitality that among us have long disappeared.
Two centuries have passed since the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant drafted his notes on “perpetual peace” and universal history from a “cosmopolitan viewpoint”.
Yet never before the objective conditions of globalization in terms of communication but mostly in terms of the diffusion and metissage of values, aspirations, and rights have made Kant’s considerations so relevant and applicable, as crisis follows crisis (thereby downsizing hopes and projects) and economic interconnections – not to mention the financial superfetation – continue to less comprehensible to millions of individuals who bear their brunt, and less and less manageable by the few who should solve them.

Deepen such crises, making them less and It is a commonly accepted notion (though rarely discussed and engaged) that the current disorder, or better, the current global “dispersion”, is matched by an eerily paradoxical lack of effectiveness and planning on the part of the global regulatory instruments entitled to control them. This situation invests the whole panoply of permanent universal institutions (those, that is, clustering around the UN such as the Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the WTO, as well as those variously specialized and/or working on single issues) but also regional aggregates like the EU – plunged in a catalectic state following the Lisbon Agreements – not to mention the too often mostly mediatic exercises of either “informal” or top-figures meetings (G7, G8, G20 complemented by bilateral meetings and “trans-oceanic conversations” with two/three/four interlocutors fresh from the previous day’s meeting with Heads of State and of Government).

The last quarter century has witnessed the passing away of the East-West fracture in 1989, along with the crisis of multilateralism, the limits of a closed rather than open regionalism (best exemplified by the case of “Fortress Europe“, whose demographic walls are now being complemented by financial ones), and most importantly the stern self-defense of the generality of nation-states own ruling elites and their often parasitical interests. So much for “the end of history”, incautiously foreseen by some. What we are faced with, rather, is an increasing blindness preventing us, in Europe, from seeing what was already clear fifty years ago when one of the Founding Fathers – Jean Monnet – declared, “We cannot stop when around us the whole world is in motion”.

Preoccupied of defending mostly their The President Napolitano himself, in his current intervention has called attention to the figures: while in 1950 Europe accounted for 20% of the world’s population, that figure is now below the 10% mark, and while the economy was worth 30% it is now down to a meager 10 %.

Such mutations, as we shall see, are not matched by a surplus of projectuality, nor much less by the safeguarding of European achievements (which exist, as is the case with the Welfare system or Europe’s democratic institutions), but instead by an intensification of “therapies” already applied and, as results show, clearly mistaken and even counterproductive. Moreover, for the “many”, forms of social control have become the surrogate of participatory rights, thereby even reaching a stage where the duty to listen of the “few” have been virtually cancelled. And of course, this backing up of history invests the vast majority of developed countries and especially the multitudes of youths, as well as the numerically greater underdeveloped or marginalized areas of the planet.

The direction pursued in confronting the five-year crisis that began in the United States – or more precisely, between London and New York – and by now firmly re-centered in Europe, over Europe, and against Europe, appears as a “full speed astern” when compared not only to the reflection and the measures taken in the aftermath of the 1929 crisis (the “New Deal” with its subsequent global multilateral architecture following World War Two, from the San Francisco Charter onwards), but also in light of two centuries of rational thinking, of struggles and of social transformations within a democratic, participatory, rights-based perspective.

In this way, while during the early phases of the crisis Europe – precisely in light of its welfare and its ensuing social conditions – seemed better equipped to stabilize itself, first, and fully recover, later, has now been singled out as the weak link to be attacked and brought if not to “reason”, at least to a kind of reasonableness, as conceived by this endless revisionism. Indeed, this veritable “full speed astern” is unlikely to prevent the stranding of the common vessel.

This outcome can be prevented only if, moving from a convergence of conservatives and progressives regarding the increasing gap between the global disorder and the multilateral tools meant to regulate it, the nefarious primacy of nation states (which in the past century was the cause of two world wars and hundreds of seemingly local conflicts) will be increasingly replaced by a two-fold initiative meant to revitalize the extant supranational tools, (thereby turning them into “international” ones) as well as to widen and expand forms and experiences of global democracy.

So that the “few” would make room for the “many”.

[Image:"Metropolis", Fritz Lang, 1927]