Returned from Rome – not only known as Santa Sede, but also known as one of the main “sites of antiquity”, seen as cradle of civilisation. Sure, it may be contested if such a claim is actually legitimate – there had been many antiquities and consequently there are many places that can be equally seen as such main sites. Having been there – this time actually not as long as on other occasions – I had been drawn immediately and tensely into this question. Perhaps it is our new office, if you want you may say the ultimate tension between times: an old building (though not reaching as far back as antiquity, a most elegant interior: with columns, arches and nearly monumental vases and statues, and at the same time accommodating one of the most modern social and economic research institutes. But all this …, does it go hand in hand? Is it compatible at all? On my facebook-site I surely made several disrespectful remarks – and I am not tempted to deny them. And I also made several remarks that simply reflect some general criticism: immeasurable wealth in the face of increasing world-poverty … With all this one should surely not simplify things – even personally I know a reasonable number of people: honestly faithful, honestly working for human rights, for combating poverty, trying to build up a just society. Actually the other day a leading figure of the Italian catholic church plead for a stronger influence of his organisation in politics – let us even assume that he is a god-willing, honest person. But there we are in the middle of a first fundamentally critical point: This organisation claims not only influencing the state – we surely have to admit that there are several organisations, with different political couleurs, claiming the same. But this organisation, the Holy See as calls itself, calims TO BE the state, at least a state. What we easily overlook begins – symbolically – with the Vatican’s own Euro coins, and being surely expressed by the huge number of embassies. Actually walking through Rome, in most varied places, you find the embassies, the Diplomatic Mission to the Holy See. Btw., I think our Finish embassy has the most stunning location, overlooking Rome … Sure, btw. – but there is another point to it: next to it, there is a wall – narrow, just a small protection for the tourists that are roaming across this space: in memory of Garibaldi. On the wall you can read the Roman constitution – and there is surely a reason to mention and celebrate Garibaldi and the modern constitution in one breath. Literally, standing there, looking across the city, the Holy See is at your back – and you may want to say, it is in a position that is left behind. But you have to say: the church is a kind of backbone of this current system. There is no simple answer – on the cover of a book I bought in the Gallery of Modern Arts (Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna), I read:
Ogni epoca, per trovare identità e forza, ha inventato un’idea diversa di “classico”. Cosí il “classico” riguarda sempre non solo il passato ma il presente e una visiona del futuro. Per dar forma al mondo di domini è necessario ripensare le nostre molteplici radici. (Salvatore Settis: Futuro del “Classico”; Giulio Einaudi editore; 2004 [nuova edizione])
I think it is in some way remarkable that I bought the book in an arts gallery: arts seems to be much better able to reflect its origins without sticking to it like the fly in the trap, sweetened by honey, pleasing like Adonis, in Greek mythology the god of beauty and desire and dazing like opium. If life, real life, would support us in every day to live history in this “dialectical way”: keeping the valuable, but push the overcome part on the rubbish heap of history, mutual respect would surely be easier to reach. But as long as organisations claim to be states … All this has surely another dimension too: if and to the extent to which the church did have a legitimate role society it had been at times that are in social science frequently looked at in terms of cooperative, associational, communal … . There is much transfiguration going hand in hand with this – the golden ages of harmonious communities have never been really prevalent, at least not during those times that we may consider as sufficiently known. Nevertheless, there surely had been times preceding the modern state. and this brings us to a critical point, looking at many of today’s political movements, not least some of those claiming very critical positions against the current mainstream. Again. I do not want to question the credibility of these claims. Nor do I want to claim knowing the answers. To be honest, I am still looking for the exact question. At least I feel uncomfortable, looking at solutions based in values, in good will, in general feelings and partial analysis, not considering the fundamental changes of the productive systems. New quest for salvation: in old religions, revived Evangelism or new claims of excellence are unlikely to help. As said, I had been in the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna. Entering the exhibition-hall, there is first a fascinating …, installation: The floor of the entire hall is a mirror, a broken mirror. Old statues standing on it … Can we say: Antonio Allegretti’s “Eva dopo il peccato” (1881) in desperation of what she lost? Giacomo Ginotti’s “Euclide” (1883) not understanding that the blueprints he made, didn’t work out? Alfonso Balzico’s “Guiletta” (1884-1886) hesitatingly-amused by looking at what emerged and could have been known by everybody? And the same Balzico’s “La Civetta” (1856-1860) even openly positioning herself beyond these worldly trivialities? Still, for all of them it is still very much a game – a bright light still shining – not victims like those who did the actual work, the ones, for which the hope of the regeneration of the soul, which is supposed to happen every seven years, doesn’t exist. It may be pure incidence that I communicate these days with Rainer about an article he sent in connection with some debate on some writing on religion: Hearing the Voice of God. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann studies how American evangelicals experience the friend they have in Jesus (article by by Jill Wolfson; July/August 2012). He asked me for my opinion on it:
…. In the meantime I have had a look at the text you sent. It looks as if there is quite a lot in the book in question that is in one or another way complementing the book “Gewinn in alle Ewigkeit” (Fleischmann). The first impression is striking: “Society outside [outside of the life of the sect] doesn’t exist.” And subsequently there is immediately a second point for debate: In which way did “our generations” – at least some of us – supported a development which is actually at least in analytical terms well reflected in Thatcher’s statement that “there is no such thing as society.” It is this question, so difficult to answer and even so difficult to ask: the search for personality as social being, linked to the point that the social is not just subordination and adaption. Looking at it in terms of class analysis: How can we understand Marx’ notion of a “class for itself” as development towards respecting personality, avoiding that everybody has to look individually for meaning in some dialogue: bound to an authority, without necessarily being a religious issue but easily being religious. ….
Is that really so different from how he interprets the text? His thoughts are mainly concerned with the freedom of thought, the freedom from dogmatic incrustation and the nearness to or distance from the state. Yes, indeed, the critic of the history of religion needs surely a new approach. And surely it is about how we produce and reproduce out daily life: the goods we need, the means we use and the way we produce and live together – in a way, distribution is only second stage here. That is part of what real critique of political economy is about.