fredag, maj 20, 2005

Två gamla bokrecensioner av Toni Negri

Att Negri förtjänar att publiceras elektroniskt kan vi vara överens om, här följer en sammanhängande bokrecension han skrev på sin kollega Norberto Bobbio 1989. Mycket nöje!
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Norberto Bobbio’s

Future of Democracy
samt
Which Socialism?: Marxism, Socialism and Democracy.


Två recensioner skrivna av Toni Negri, (Capital and Class 1989:37).

Polity Press presents to its Anglo-Saxon readers two collections of studies by Norberto Bobbio: Which socialism?, comprising essays written between 1968 and 1978, concerning the decade which followed from the Italian '68', and The Future of Democracy, which deals with the period following 1978. One is not particularly struck by the fact that different periods are being considered, however, and for many years in fact Bobbio has insistently re-stated his theoretical positions with little sensibility to the shortcomings that result from this stasis, given the singularly vital dynamic changes which characterize tin historical periods examined. What, then, is the fundamental theoretical-political thesis which runs throughout these studies? It can be stated in the following terms: only pluralist and representative democracy is a 'correct form' of state, and only on this basis can be constructed 'more' socialist relations, or in Bobbio's terms, 'more harmonious and participatory relations.' Consequently there exists a logical continuity between demo­cracy and socialism — but not conversely. Without distorting the meaning of this proposition, one can conclude that while for Bobbio democracy is a constitutional form of state (among other possible alternatives), socialism is not — not to mention com­munism. Socialist and communist are only adjectives to be added to democracy.

In terms of the polemical arsenal of the philosopher, it is apparent how important such a definitional refutation is. For Bobbio, by this line of reasoning both socialism and communism fall. There does not exist, nor can there exist a juridical theory of socialism; only democracy can be defined. Better still: only democracy can be defined conceptually as an ideal paradigm, while socialism can only be described as a practice — and what a rude practice at that! In the first of the two volumes, during a period in which the class struggle was particularly acute in Italy, Bobbio does not hesitate to continually argue that socialism is essentially a non-democratic practice. Then, in the second of the volumes considered, during the 1980s when the class struggle was less intense, the discussion is a bit more prudent. Socialism is now granted permission to serve as a qualifying adjective for democracy, as a prize for workers incorporated into the state as citizens, as the realization of an innocuous fable about 'more participation' and 'more solidarity'. Bobbio adds that in any case, however one understands socialism, it cannot be discussed other than in terms of disillusionment, while democracy, however compromised, can be discussed in terms of the teal, in a Hegelian sense. In sum, the epistemological status of socialism and democracy are radically different, and democracy has more ontological dignity than socialism. The two books are completely dedicated to demonstrating this to be the case.

For those familiar with Bobbio's activity both as a politician and a philosopher of law, the message of the two books is absolutely clear and predictable. In fact, in contrast to what Richard Bellamy argues in the English preface of these writings by Bobbio, the Turin professor has never been a democratic socialist, nor a social democrat — he is simply a neo-Kantian philosopher with a faith in liberalism. What does this definition signify? It signifies that Bobbio is, from the perspective of juridical theory, a formalist who (in the tradition of the neo-Kantian school of Marburg like Hans Kelsen, of whose teachings Bobbio has been one of the most faithful interpreters) considers rights a formal scheme for the guarantee of liberty. From the perspective of political theory, Bobbio is an individualist who considers liberty a completely inalienable attribute of the citizen which, in opposition to society as an abstract sphere, acquires meaning only if understood in terms of standards of individual validity. Finally, from an ethical and epistemological standpoint, he is a pessimist who considers science an instrument to guarantee the efficiency of a 'realistic govern­ment', in the belief that 'to be governed' is probably the only possible and attainable goal for political society. In his introductions Bellamy insists on the specificity of the situation in Turin after World War I and the liveliness of the cultural and political debates taking place there. He reminds us who Bobbio's masters were: Gioele Solair, Luigi Einaudi and Gaetano Mosca. He reminds us of the great political and demo­cratic figures who were students in Turin at that time, as Bobbio himself would be later the Rosselli brothers whom, though liberals. Mussolini had murdered in Paris; Gramsci who died from his imprisonment in a fascist jail and condemnation by Stalin; and Gobetti killed by the blows of the fascists and the betrayal of his liberal comrades. What he forgets to add, however, is that between the masters of political science and the students of politics there existed a larger difference than that which the common anti-fascist position could conceal, i.e., the difference between the juridical liberalism and political cynicism of the former and the active participation in the class struggle of the latter. If Solari was moved by the political philosophy of Kant, the Rosselli brothers declared that only the class struggle could give new life to the term liberty. If Einaudi accused fascism of denigrating individual rights, Gramsci discovered in the social hegemony of the working class the only remaining source of economic and political productivity in society. If Mosca constructed a cynical and aristocratic theory of political elites, Gobetti rejected any such 'realism' and identified in class consciousness and cooperative worker production the only possible foundation of a democratic society. Bobbio has much more in common with his philosophical masters than he has with their students. In his scientific career, Bobbio moved from the phenomenological formalism of Max Scheler and his juridical followers to existential individualism. He thus became the Italian proponent of the various brands of English empiricism, concluding with functionalism and the pessimistic defense of democracy. It is true that his long professorial voyage has been marked by a continuous dialogue with the leaders of Italian com­munism, from Togliatti and Amendola to Foa and Occhetto. But it must be noted that this exaggeration of Bobbio's commitment to democracy derives more from the mediocre defence of communism on the part of his interlocutors than to the capacity of Bobbio to transcend the limits of liberalism. Thus what can this neo-Kantian professor of liberty teach us? Nothing but that history of socialist and communist political thought already taught by the neo-Kantians, in which the real movements of the class struggle are subjected to the regulative criticism of bourgeois reason, in an effort to emphasize the progressive element, in a bourgeois and rational sense, in opposition to the particular worker and proletarian element. The particularity of working class interests are relegated under the universality of bourgeois right when possible, or else the interests of the working class are simply rejected. Bobbio is first and foremost a priest of the constitutive values of the bourgeois state, and all of his political science and his life have been carefully dedicated to this task, with neo-Kantian precision and formalistic objectivity. One need only observe that Bobbio has always lived in Turin, and yet in the entire corpus of his writings there is not a single mention of the Turin working class, despite its role as a protagonist in recent Italian history.

But it is really on the terrain of the philosophy of law properly speaking that the true nature of Bobbio's thought reveals itself for what it is — a vigorously normative philosophy. Just as in juridical epistemology he from time to time opposes formalism to historicism, the dialectic, and the crisis of the system, and just, as we will see in a moment, in political theory he opposes representative democracy not only to direct democracy but to any suggestion involving the possibility of direct democracy, thus in 159 juridical philosophy he opposes positivistic 'realism' (that which in the countries in the Napoleonic tradition we call 'institution-alism') and the most rigid normativism to the jurisprudence of open systems. For Bobbio, on the terrain of law, the 'lesser evil' (towards whose defense all of his philosophy is realistically directed) is not the democratic state but the state tout court, insofar as it is the source of all rights. There is no dynamic interpretation or analogical method which can free us of the rigidity of form. No, only formalism can assure us that rights will be protected. The relation of force, once established and institutionalized as law, must be respected in its formal validity. Every innovation is transgression. Here Bobbio is without doubt a counter­revolutionary, though not necessarily a reactionary — since the two concepts do not overlap at all — but rather someone with a fetish for legality and a horror of all change. To say that Bobbio's position with regard to legal philosophy is 'anti-communist' does not go far enough. Other well-known anti-communists such as Arendt and Habermas have worked toward a more optimistic political and communicative project without showing any sympathy for legal positivism. By contrast, Bobbio is so steeped in it, that when he ventures out of his own sphere of interests he winds up 'flirting' with the blatant functionalism of Niklas Luhmann. Let's return to the charge that Bobbio is a counterrevolutionary, which is neither exaggerated nor unjust. On the contrary, scientific conservatism is the direct result of the entire evolution of his thinking. Without doubt, in the university courses (in which he excelled) Bobbio consistently developed, as he does in the volumes in question, a defence of the 'rule of law' against the 'rule of men'. He thus appears to be in the great tradition of republicanism of the Spinoza or Harrington type. But this is not the case with Bobbio, in whose writings republi­canism loses all of its freshness and the law is exempt from any possibility of popular renewal. The 'rule of law' over the 'rule of men' signifies that the foundations of legal stability will not accommodate the needs and actions of the masses. Yet legality is transformed not by dint of the power of the state, but as an expression of popular sovereignty. In the history of contemporary public law two schools are in direct conflict. The first, of German origin, has always considered the state as the substance of the law. The other, of atlantic origin, has established a dialectical relation between legality and popular sovereignty. In the books we are reviewing Bobbio reveals himself to be, in continuity with what he has always been in the long years of his teaching, a proponent of German public law. It is paradoxical, though only to a certain point, that one can say this of a man who, more than anyone else, has attempted to bring Italian philosophical and legal culture to the atlantic school.


If all of what we have said so far is true, it follows that Bobbio's legal and political thought borders on being (or perhaps is without a doubt) yet another variety of the 'reason of state' theories: a theory of the state that is not menacing, that has shed all its Germanic resonance, yet which re-asserts itself as an actualized reason of state and as a theory of token democracy. In order to save the state and maintain a minimum of democracy, Bobbio tells us that 'we must, given the lack of plausible alternatives, defend the rules of the game: formal democ­racy, despite its contradictions and short­comings, that is to say its guarantee of the right of freedom, periodic elections by universal suffrage, majority rule, or however it is to be understood amongst the parties concerned. All other promises about popular sovereignty, equality, transparence of power, equity, etc, were and are simply excessive and vain promises which could not be maintained ... In other words, let's keep this democracy as it is, as a lesser evil. Thus we can do no more than make an appeal to certain values, such as the ideals of tolerance and fraternity, that fraternity which unites all men in a common destiny, all the more ominously so today given the threat of nuclear weapons.' Evidently, we can avail ourselves of the ecological argument against nuclear weapons and their catastrophic effects to stress the profound consensus concerning the 'contractum subjectionis'.

Finally and definitely from a logical perspective, Bobbio theorises his fundamental argument in relation to the opposition between direct democracy and representative democracy. The former is the real 'bete noire' of our author. Bobbio warns us in fact that direct democracy encourages a conception of the state that implies a project of practical construction on the part of the political subjects of the state, and this has more to do with a 'form' of the state than with a 'method' for the choice of representation. With extreme pedantry Bobbio seeks to demonstrate that direct democracy is not only a Utopia incapable of realisation (es­pecially in societies as complex as ours), but is in fact a dangerous machine for the construction of totalitarianism — or in the best of cases, a scheme for plebiscitary consensus. What can one say? The 'critic' does not stop here. Not only is the direct democracy of Rousseau and the Jacobins subjected to the most ruthless criticism - he must go further still. Both consensus and participation reveal themselves to be highly problematic determinations in democracy. They comprise his so-called 'broken promises', broken because they were incapable of being kept in the first place. What is to be done, then? Even in this case we must satisfy ourselves with what is possible and realistic. Thus the principle of frustration dominates the science of constitutional and public law. Further, political representation, in the form of delegation, more than an unshakeable foundation of democracy, is part of the 'social division of labour' which constitutes the fabric of liberty in our contemporary societies. As is evident, without hypocritical distortions, this so-called 'pluralism' (laws: division of labour) is wedded to this so-called 'representation' (the transformation of the contract of union into that of subjection), thus generating the 'free world'. However, Bobbio asks, would we prefer socialism like the Russians have? I confess a certain discomfort before the finesse of such derivations.

Is it, however, legitimate to ask what remains of representative democracy once the critique of direct democracy has been taken to such extremes? Following Bobbio’s writings and what he says, one remains struck by the fact that his 'realism' (more appropriately called 'soft Machiavel­lianism) leads inexorably from defeat to defeat. What we have is a continual growth of a species of political and intellectual masochism, with which he guides us through his critique, which by now has become 'critical criticism'. His argument constantly turns on the same theme, democracy, fetishising it and revealing the ideological inconsistency of the concept itself. But in the face of this nihilism he does not affirm the necessity of life and the revendication of subjectivity against the eternal reflux of useless events, which would be the ultimate conscious act of revolt of the free and conscious man, but rather the virtues of obedience.

Thus how strange it is that Bobbio insists on connecting the names of other democratic authors to his obstinate and empty reiteration of desperate faith in democracy! Why on earth does he do this? Let's look at Bobbio's writings on Gramsci. Leaving out the polemics of another time period, it seems to me that Gramsci emerges in an optimal critical perspective as the author of a 161 vigorous synthesis of democratic radicalism and Leninist voluntarism. Why then does an historian of Bobbio's intelligence fail to understand that direct democracy, even in the form conceived by Gramsci in the desperate solitude that afflicted him (and the entire working class under fascism), is worth more than all of the 'realism' that the state can conceive of and Bobbio can ideologically justify? That direct democracy, in the form conceived by Gramsci as the social pro­ductivity of the exploited classes, is the true, perhaps only force that moves and propels the historical process? And finally that fascism was not destroyed by liberalism, by the virtuous unity of pluralism and representative government, but by the desire of the masses for direct democracy? In contrast to Bobbio, I believe that in working for direct democracy we will succeed in responding to the needs of our time: to destroy the capitalist state and build com­munist democracy, and perhaps in that way even save formal democracy.


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