Monday, December 3, 2018

.....There was an anarchistic streak in all critical theorizing: all power was suspect, the enemy was espied only on the side of power, and the same enemy was blamed for all drawbacks and frustrations suffered by freedom. Dangers were expected to arrive and the blows to fall from the 'public' side, always eager to invade and colonize the 'private', the 'subjective', the 'individual'. Less and altogether little thought was given to the dangers residing in the narrowing or emptying of public space and the possibility of the reversed invasion: the colonization of the public sphere by the private. And yet that underestimated and underdiscussed eventual­ity has turned today into the principal impediment to emancipa­tion, which in its present stage can only be described as the task of transforming the individual autonomy de jure into autonomy de facto .

Public power portends incompleteness of individual freedom, but its retreat or disappearance augurs the practical impotence of legally victorious freedom. The history of modern emancipation veered from a confrontation with the first danger to facing the second. To deploy Isaiah Berlin's terms, one can say that, once the 'negative freedom' had been struggled for and won, the levers needed to transform it into 'positive freedom - that is' the freedom to set the range of choices and the agenda of choice-making - has broken and fallen apart. Public power has lost much of its awe­some and resented oppressive potency - but it has also lost a good part of its enabling capacity. The war of emancipation is not over. But to progress any further, it must now resuscitate what for most of its history it did its best to destroy and push out of its way. Any true liberation calls today for more, not less, ofthe 'public sphere' and 'public power' It is now the public sphere which badly needs defence against the invading private - though, paradoxically, in order to enhance, not cut down, individual liberty.

As always, the job of critical thought is to bring into the light the many obstacles piled on the road to emancipation. Given the na­ture of today's tasks, the main obstacles which urgently need to be examined relate to the rising difficulties in translating private prob­lems into public issues, in congealing and condensing endemically private troubles into public interests that are larger than the sum of their individual ingredients, in recollectivizing the privatized utopias of 'life-politics' so that they can acquire once more the shape of the visions of the 'good society' and 'just society' When public politics sheds its functions and life-politics takes over, prob­lems encountered by individuals de jure in their efforts to become individuals de facto turn out to be notoriously non-additive and non-cumulative, thereby denuding the public sphere of all  sub­stance except of the site where private worries are confessed and put on public display. By the same token, not only does the indi­vidualization appear to be a one-way-street, but it seems to destroy as it proceeds all the tools which could conceivably be used in implementing its erstwhile objectives.