At Aperture Gallery, Miguel Benasayag called for a kind of engagement freed from the messianic perspective that has more often lead to the bitterness and disappointment of "sad militants" than to glorious new mornings. (Download the French version here)
"Individualism, dominant today, causes us to believe in the existence of something called “the individual,” a sort of free electron that can (and must) wander about against the backdrop of reality without roots, elective affinities, or belonging. An era that has made the individual its default myth portrays society as a collection of simple, elementary units having no relation to the world other than that which their “full liberty” advises them to establish in the form of limited utilitarian contracts. This myth, which portrays each of us as a self-promoting entrepreneur with a certain endowment of capital to manage (for some, this endowment may take the form of a factory or stock portfolio, while for most it consists of labor power, time, health, and body), treats the individual as the site where a certain action potential develops (as CEO, politician, or citizen/consumer—the “consum’actor” typical of the developed countries of the northern hemisphere).
This belief in the individual as the subject of action—which, though structurally determinant in a cultural and anthropological sense, is not in fact very robust—is directly responsible for what I will call the obscurity of the age: although the challenges we face are relatively clear, the representation of the subject of a possible action is far less so. Although many of our contemporaries agree on the goals of defending the living, the environment, and culture against the destructive forces of economism, utilitarianism, and individual serialization, there is great confusion when it comes to specifying what sort of agent might engage in such action. In other words, the “obscure” character of the age is evident in the objective fact that, given the challenges that our societies face and the dangers and threats to life, there is no transcendent horizon. It is the “unhappy passions,” the passions associated with impotence according to Spinoza, that make an era obscure and disquieting. And the rarer the concrete possibilities for resolving the threats to life in all its forms, the more obscure the era will be for contemporaries.
In what follows, I will offer a number of hypotheses concerning the subject of action specific to the current era—neither individual nor centralized power but perhaps situation or multiplicity of interrelated situations—in an attempt to clarify what commitment in an obscure era is and in the hope of identifying instruments for action.