In this text, I respond to parts of a recent text by Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Three Meditations.
all of this is going to break capitalist dynamics in a way that may be irremediable, irreversible
Why should the virus break the abstract machine of capitalist dynamics? It may certainly result in a purer capitalism with a new momentum gained by being relieved of the burden of its inertial elements.
Why are you giving money to a dead body? Can you revive the body of the global economy by injecting money into it? You can’t. (ibid)
It’s wishful thinking to say “Capitalism is dead” because of the virus. The contagion is a temporary paralysis that will eventually pass. What really did happen is that the virus infected all human bodies in probability if not in reality, and caused a massive de-authorization of these bodies. Since authorization is the concrete basis of usefulness, the virus suddenly reconfigured the meaning of usefulness. But this new configuration is temporary and it will be eventually removed along with the paralysis. The main question is: How will people re-authorize each other ?
people are dying… Right now this cannot be changed by money, because money is not the problem. The problem is: What are our concrete needs? What is useful for human life, for collectivity, for therapy?
Use value, long expelled from the field of the economics, is back, and the useful is now king.
Berardi says “Money has fallen, use-value is king”. There is a logical error here. “Money has fallen” means that the primary effect of the virus is on exchange-value, not use-value. Therefore, what matters most is not the useful as such, but the determining factors of usefulness, that is, the real and symbolic exchanges between people. The virus makes people afraid of the conventional modes of exchange, so they are inventing other modes of exchange that support other ideas about usefulness (other authorizations). So theory should focus its attention on the new practical exchanges that dynamically determine the usefulness of things (by authorizing them). We shouldn’t get stuck on a static view about the true or ideal usefulness of things. In my theory about the symbolic order, what determines usefulness is authorization, which is associated to a body, grounded on a will, and based on a system .
So money is impotent now. Only social solidarity and scientific intelligence are alive, and they can become politically powerful.
Easy to say, hard to do. In my terms: After the fall of the fetishes, real authorization (self-authorization) should replace the symbolic authorization of fetishes .
the possible is contained in the breakdown of abstraction, and in the dramatic return of the concrete body as a bearer of concrete needs.
The useful is back in the social field. Usefulness, long forgotten and denied by the capitalist process of abstract valorization, is now the king of the scene.
It is very unfortunate that Berardi opposes concrete things to abstract processes. Let me just recall the Marxist concept of “real abstraction”, which indicates the concreteness of the abstraction. Usefulness is “back in the social field” only because the virus entered the social field as a powerful new abstraction and reconfigured the prevailing modes of exchange (authorization) that determine the meaning of usefulness.
 See “The Coronavirus Crisis”
 See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?”