FUSARO: The Capitalist Destruction of the Family

By Diego Fusaro

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By Diego Fusaro,  Italian Marxist philosopher

“Capital behaves in front of each limit as [if it was] a barrier”: as such is read, in a lapidary way, in the Grundrisse of Karl Marx1. By these reason, the dialectic logic of the development of capital, in the last fifty years, has been that of a progressive and each time of faster toppling of each real and symbolic limit capable of resisting the Omni-lateral extension of the “mercantile form” in each area of reality and thought.

Just as it has been tried to clarify in our study Mínima mercantalia. Filosofía y capitalismo [2012] (Minimal merchandise. Philosophy and capitalism), capitalism today is absolute not only because it is in resonance with its own concept (it could be finally watch itself being reflected in each determination of what’s real), but also because it is “detached of” (ab-solutus) every residual limit; and this in two diverse and reciprocally united and intertwined senses: in first place, in today’s matters, capital has freed itself of every single value (moral, religious, etcetera) which could stop it or at least exhaust its development. In this sense which must explain the dismantling of bourgeois culture (impregnated of values adjacent to the reproduction of the market) that capital has been realizing since 1968. The destruction of bourgeois culture up to its limits, annihilation of the socialist systems in 1989 and today surpassing, by means of the European Union, of the National States as the places of primacy of the political over the economical, constitute the decisive moments of this logic of development which finds in nihilism of the un-limitation its own ubi consistam.

In second place, capital is absolus already, which means, it is “realized” in the sense that it has led its own premises and its own promises. It has been autonomized in an integral way in spite of all social subjects. It has no longer to backtrack to its labor mediation: with the Hegelian formula, has become to all effects the new “Lord of the World” (Herr der Welt), independent and a means for itself2. Everything becomes merchandise and the economical rises as the only well of sense, in the form of the monotheism of the market, in a real level, and from there one goes to the so called globalization; a symbolical level, one goes to the colonization of the imaginary on behalf of the “mercantile form” (debts and credits in schools, affective investments, Azienda Italia3, human capital, etcetera).

Just as Costanzo Preve has shown in his Storia dell’etica [History of Ethics]. From his foundational look, capital promotes acquisitive individualism: Aspires to destroy every community estranged to the algid hyper-individualist nexus of the do ut des [“I give in order for you to give”] and of the axiomatic of utility. The capitalist subject is in first place the “me abstract” and formal (of the cogito of Descartes to the Ich Denke of Kant, of the homo lupus of Hobbes to the “me owner” of Locke), after the “me de-structured”, bundle of perceptions and desires, impregnated of the flailing movement of the market (from Hume to Nietzsche, up to Deleuze); up to the actual “minimal me”(Lasch), redefined unstable forms and precarious by the Heraclitean flux of the circulation of merchandises. Reduced to the hedonistic atom, the “me” finds itself already lacking of critical spirit and of personality, relieved as it is of each symbolic ligament which is not coded in the “mercantile form”.

Between the obstacles which capital aims to demolish is, above all, the community of solidary individuals which related to one another according to eternal criteria to the nexus and to the “Robinsoninan me” which enters in a relationship with the sore Friday shift with the only goal of maximizing its own bleak and predatory egotism. Capital aspires, today more than ever, to neutralize every still existant community, replacing it with isolated atoms incapable of speaking or understanding any other language that is not that of the Anglophonic language of free market economy.

According to a dynamic started back in 1968, the individualist pulverization of the society transforms the associated citizens into individualized consumers and united only by the consumerist creed: from it spreads the individualized society from which we all are inhabitants, atomized in pure serialization of wishing machines differentiated only by the acquisitive power they confine in their pockets.

The equality of forced homologation and inequality caused by the more common iniquitous distribution of goods coexist dialectically in the restructured landscape of contemporaneity. The actual “historic bloc”, in order to say it as Gramsci, is that in which, in the name of individual liberty, on the one hand, the most nefarious inequalities are legitimized and, with them, the restoration of old classist hierarchies previously attenuated or torn down by old struggles; and, on the other hand, the exodus of uprooted individuals is promoted from the community to the massification of bodies and consciousness, so to speak, from ways each time more vulgar of homologation and conformism.

That is how it could be imposed sovereignly, without the obstacles which traditional communities represented, the dynamic of universalization of the acquisitive individual, such which is called punically “globalization” by today’s safeguarded by the millimeter neo-language. Digits of the anthropology of the market, the dynamic of universalization of acquisitive individualism sustains itself over the two instances reciprocally united and intertwined of the loss of work (the homo precarious, the precariat4 is the authentic coronation of every individualism) and the disintegration of previous ethnic, familiar, religious and state communities. Explained as, from this view, the ultra-capitalist function of the incessant defamation to which the family, the religion and the State are subdued by the action of organized manipulation and of the “one must say” politically correct.

Individualism unhinged and the homologation under the sing of the merchandise are revealed, once again, supposedly antithetical phenomena and, in reality, secretively complementary of the first society of human history which, in name of the tutelage of the differences and of the irreducible character of the individual, has leveled completely humanity to an amorphous grout of serial and reciprocally interchangeable atoms, in the anonymous flock of the last satisfied and happy men of the vulgarity made world.

The same destruction of the family, which is been verified today with always more intensity, is inscribed in this horizon. If the family implies, by its nature, affective and sentimental, biological and occupational stability, its destruction results plainly coherent with the already going process of precariousness of the existences.

Also in this, incidentally, the Hegelian thought reveals itself dissonant regarding the present. As we know, in effect, Hegel theorizes occupational stability and the affective one of familiar type as founding to ethicity. There where absolute capitalism dissolve both, more precisely, removing working stability through the precariat, makes impossible, in fact, the constitution of the family nucleus. In this sense, with its battles against the traditional family, the so called progressive forces have not stopped working for the King of Prussia, favoring the same dynamic of the market and its logic of antibourgeois development. Today’s family, if it still exists, is disordered and stratified, lacking of a nucleus and structured according to the most heteroclite ways: from pregnancies through an external person to the couple up to adoptions in homosexual couples, from the always growing separations up to artificial insemination.

Following the Rasgos fundamentales de la filosofía del derecho (1821) [Elements of the Philosophy of Right] from Hegel, the family is the first moment of the Sittlichkeit, of the “ethic life”: ethicity is the “idea of liberty, on behalf of the living good” (§142), “concept of liberty which has been turned into an existent world and in nature of the self-consciousness” (§142). Ethicity, in the Hegelian lexicon, designates such complex of institutions (Family, society, civility, State) in which liberty is realized by cultivating it, so to speak, pass gradually from its abstract individualistic expression to the historically concrete universality. Hegel says regarding the life sittlich: “the ethical powers are the ones which rule the life of the individuals and in these, regarding all of their accidents, have their representation, their phenomenal figure and their reality” (§145). Robinsonian abstract individualism is inverted into a concrete, communitarian and historically determined ethics: in such ethics, the individual is projected into the concrete of the intersubjective and communitarian nexus which makes of him a zoon politikon. As it was remarked by the Politics of Aristotle, the family is the first community: it is the proof –against modern Robinsonianism, from Hobbes to Margaret Thatcher– that man is a communitarian animal, who only in community can exist and that in community comes to the world.

Economic fanaticism aspires to destroy the family. Capital wants to see everywhere atoms of consume, nullifying every form of solidary community foreign to the mercantile nexus. With the words of the Elements of the Philosophy of Right from Hegel, “marriage, and essentially monogamy, is one of the absolute principles in which the ethicity of a community rests (die Sittlichkeit eines Germeinwesens) reciprocate un-divisive gift of such personality. The institution of marriage is presented for that reason as one of the moments of divine or heroic foundation of the States” (§167).

The ethicity of the community is exactly that which integrism of the economy and its irresponsible neoliberal agents aim to deconstruct. Since ’68, the so called progressive forces maintain the same antibourgeois cultural logic of capitalism, always through new crusades against the family, the State, the religion and the bourgeois ethicity: capitalism must destroy the bourgeois world, which limits it with its values; and the lefts, fighting against the bourgeois world and not against capitalism, favor the same logic of development of capitalism. In order to adduce to a unique example, the actual defense of homosexual couples on behalf of progressive forces does not base its center of gravity in the fair and legitimate recognition of the civil rights of the individuals, but instead in its patent aversion –proper of absolute capitalism– of the bourgeois normality and of all the forms still incompatible with the unlimited extension of the “mercantile form” to each area of existence and of thought.

We know that precarious and flexible ultra-capitalism is by its own nature “youthful”, given the difficult compatibility of the non-young fringes with the new flexible logic (see The flexible man by Sennet). This last one has created rapidly a new human model, the homo precarious, for this instability, risk and uncertainty to be integrated into daily life; and this according to a union, never experimented before, of anomic disorganization and of capillary control which coincides, de facto, with the goal of that which has been defined as “organized capitalism”.

The technological larvae of the logic of precariousness is oriented to the transformation –through the untold “forced elaboration of a new human kind”5 (Gramsci) and a real “anthropological mutation”6 (Pasolini) – of precariousness into a natural dimension: and this in such a way that everything (from jobs to profession, from sentimental relationships to existential ones) into a flexible and precarious deviation.

The disarticulation of the two bourgeois institutions of the school and the family –promoted by the capitalist structure and sanctified by the leftist and post-modern superstructure– is inscribed in this logic and, even more, denotes its fulfillment. To that the paradox of the young that manifest in the plaza in order to protest against the family is added and concretely are disabled to build one from the path of the precariat and of unemployment: the courtship of all of those who work for the King of Prussia has no end. Capital impedes them the young to stabilize their professional and sentimental life: they are not given jobs nor the necessary stability required to build a family. And then, above the ideological level, the so called progressive forces combat against permanent jobs and against the institution of the family: in such they reveal as organic to capital and its dynamic, which since 1968 up to this day is an antibourgeois dynamic and, as such, ultra-capitalist.

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Neoliberalism dominant of today is an eagle with its two wings spread: the “right-wing of the money” which dictates the structural laws, the “left-wing of the custom” provides the superstructures that justify them above the symbolical level. Thus, the “right-wing of the money2 decides that it is necessary to abolish borders in name of the unique worldwide free market, of the delocalization of the work and the volatilization of capitals, the “left-wing of custom” cooks up the praises of globalization as the reign of low cost travels, of the deterritorialization, of nomadism and the absence of fixed norms; if the “right-wing of money” establishes that work has to be precarious, in such a way that rights and guarantees would be removed, the “left-wing of custom” will justify it by means of the defamation of bourgeois stability and of labor monotony; even more, if the “right-wing of money” decides that the family has to be removed in name of the creation of the atomistic of consumer solitudes, the “left-wing of custom” will justify it by the delegitimization of the family as a bourgeois form worthy of being abandoned.

In the family, properly as in the love studied by Hegel in his youth writings called “theological”, and in particular in his “fragment on love” [1717], the individual unit stops being as such, against the disintegrating logics of modernity. If these last ones separate the individual of the community, in love and in family life, a dual truth is experienced. And then, in a true and proper dual opening a type of rupture of the self takes place because the other goes through it. From that sprouts a vivid life which is no more from the point of view of just one, but from the point of view of both, in the form of a molecule of the community.

Love is the recognition that only through the nexus with that which in appearance if another from himself and the self can be constituted. Love is, Hegelianly, the proof that the individual finds his real truth in the living intersubjective nexus and not in his own abstracted solitude. Love, in the youth writings, is the overcoming of the laceration, re-conduction of the multiplicity to the unity, necessity of unity. Love, says Hegel, is “the sentiment of everything”.

In a loving relationship, unity and duality belong to one another mutually and fund a nexus in which the individual does not disappear, but instead he is realized in a plural nexus, in which there is space for the other: “in the love of life one finds himself again as a duplication and as concordant unity of oneself”. And even more: “in love what’s separate subsists yet, but not as not separate yet, but instead as united; and the living feels the living”.

The family, assumed in the Elements as first moment of ethic life is the concrete realization of love, its condensation in the ethic plane: “the objective starting point is the free consent of the people and precisely in order to construct a person (Person auszumachen), in order to renounce to his natural and singular personality, which, according to this consideration, is a self-limitation, but precisely, because they obtain in him their substantial self-consciousness, he himself is his liberation (Befreiung)” (§162). Are released by self-limiting himself, instituting a ligament which takes them to build one unique person: it is the dual truth of which we spoke before. And continues: “the disposition of having the self-consciousness of his individuality in this unit regarding essentiality which is in itself and for himself, for being inside it, not as a person for himself, but as a member” (§158). It is installed, precisely, a micro-community in which the individual does not disappear, but instead he transforms into a member of a totality in which he can realize himself plainly as an individual.

The family then can present itself as the communitarianism taken to its minimal cell, so to say, to the dual relation: for this, just as for communitarianism, also for family love the principal enemy is the irresponsible egotism, which forgets about all the others and the world in name of that Robinsonian individual “me” which wants to impose its identity against the difference and its world against the common world.

On their behalf, love and family life are disinterested and altruistic. With the words of Julieta [Giulietta] which stricken Hegel so much: “the more I give to you, the more I have”. In the nexus of love, but finally also in the ligament which unites the mother with the son, there is no space for logic of fanaticism of the economy and for the do ut des: valuable is a nexus of pure gratuitous solidarity, the donative logic which already rejects, by its nature, the free market economy and the commodification of every relationships. Because of this, capital hates the family and love; the family is substituted by atomized individuals unified only by the liturgy of the free-exchange (the “system of the atomistic” denounced by Hegel); love gets replaced by that surrogated alienation which is “the liquid love” and intimately autistic, those relationships of pure individual enjoyment in which the other always is portrayed uniquely as a pretext for self-referential pleasure of the crushed “me”.

Capitalism paralyzes today, thus, humanity in the aesthetic face of Kierkegaardian tradition: impedes each jump to ethic stability and to a religious transcendence. It wants us as a Don Juan: in absence to any limit and any authority, there is no more reason to oppose the pure enjoyment as a goal in itself and with no future, to the vulgar satisfaction without limitations or delays, so to speak, with the numbers of the petty hyper-hedonist moral of a system which must induct to tantalic consumerism7 without inhibitory breaks, in the search of a novelty which is always the same one. Following the myth of novelty, Don Juan, just as his contemporary post-modern successors, repeat always and solely the same experience of brainless and autistic enjoyment, which never stabilizes in ethic manners.

All of the opposite happens with ethical familiar life: in it, natural difference of the sexes –which for Hegel are two, reason why we shouldn’t be astonished if one day or another we would see him defamed with the label of “homophobic” – an ethical sense is developed, it is settled in a form which transcends simple pleasure and assumes a sittlichstructure: the duality reaches a synthesis superior into a new unit –the unit of family life–, which does not neutralize, but instead, on the contrary, values the individual realizing his communitarian potentials. Hegel writes: “The natural determination of both sexes receives, by its rationality, intellectual and ethic signification. This signification is determined by the difference, in which ethical substantiality, as a concept, is settle by itself, in order to acquire from this perspective its vitality as a concrete unit” (§165).

Family stabilizes in due time the sentiment of the partners, subtracting it from the pass of time. Just as Bauman remembers in Amor Líquido [Liquid Love], in the time of universal transience there is no ligament which would be stable and solid; and even the amorous experience each time more than often becomes “on short term”, structurally precarious and unsatisfying. The romantic formula of “until death do us apart” is eclipsed. In its place, a disproportionate delay of the borders of the so called love experiences exists; it occurs as it is also a transient relationship of one night improperly tagged as a “love relationship”.

On its behalf, true love, institutionalizing itself in the ethicity of married life, resists time and, at the same time, introduces in it the unique experience of the absolute and the eternal being possible in the plane of immanence, so to say, that ligament of love with the other understood as irreplaceable, in the form of a relationship which aspires to last forever. For this reason, just as Lacan knew, the magic word of love is the encore in which fidelity to it is condensed. True love grows while it consumes itself: it assumes the form of an unspeakable wanting the same without ever feeling it is enough. The beloved person becomes irreplaceable and, through marriage, such fidelity institutionalizes oneself.

Just as Massimo Recalcati remembers in Non è più come prima [It is not like before anymore], ours is the time for the “ideology of the new”, in which no sentiment or any ligament can be stabilized. They are lived, under the criteria of the circulation of currencies and merchandises, as transient and never definitive satisfactions. Love, on its behalf, regarding fidelity to the same ideal, but also as confirmation and duration, constitutes a way of resistance to illogical logics of present day, capable of experimenting only the brainless enjoyment of isolated trends and antics.

In love, just as Hegel remembered, there is unity and duality. Hegel writes: “The unity of marriage, which regarding substantial unit is only interiority and dispose of mood, but regarding its existence in both subjects it is separated […]” (§173). They feel one only thing and, together, remain as two. The unity, however, is reached concretely as synthesis of love in the born of the children, who are the unity in which spouses transform in reality their aspiration towards complete union: “[…] this comes to be in their kids, in so as unity itselfan existence which is for itself (eine für sich seiende Existenz) and object, to those who they love as their beloved, as their empirical substantial existence” (§173).

This speech, here barely pointed out, and developed in an impressionist way (giving the times), allows us to conclude that, in the actual “night of the world” of the monotheism of the free market and of the fanaticism of the economy, the family, anywhere it still might exist, constitutes an heroic form of resistance to the lethal dialectic of development of capitalism. While there is family, there is community; and while there is community, there is still hope.


  1. The expression of Marx is found in his IV notebook of the section “The chapter on the Capital” of the Grundrisse [1857-1858]. This chapter was written between mid-December of 1857 and mid-February of 1858 (MEW 42, 337).
  2. The expression of Hegel belongs to chapter VI. The Spirit (A. The true spirit, the ethnicity, c. The juridical State) of The Phenomenology of Spirit.
  3. Generic equivalent of the quoted case by the author could be mentioned as the notion coming from marketing known as “country brand”.
  4. The concept of “precariat”, originally coined by Guy Standing in The Precariat (2011), references the wide social sector which, emerged as result of the processes of globalization in benefit of financial capital, would be characterized by occupational, material insecutity, and identitarian insecurity, existential. The precariat would be composed, in first place, by the old industrial working class, today pauperized, but also by the working class which cannot access to a stable work and by the professional small-bourgeois which suffers occupational flexibilization. In the vision of Fusaro, the precariat also is composed by the old urban national bourgeois which cannot oppose the processes of trans-nationalization of the economy.
  5. The quote was taken by the author of the first of The Prison Notebooks.
  6.  The Passolinian syntagma and its original sense appear since 1974 in diverse notes published in newspapers and which, in part, are recovered in his Corsair Writings [Scritti corsair] (1975).
  7. Tantalus is, in Greek mythology, a representative figure of human vanity and the challenging of the gods. King of Sipylus, in Lydia, was recognized by the Olympians regarding his qualities, and invited to eat at the table with Zeus. He insulted the immortals in many ways, divulging their secrets, stealing nectar and ambrosia from their table and distributing it with his earthly companions, among other offenses. Lastly, he invited the gods to a banquet and, in order to test their omniscience, he sent for his son Penelope to be sacrificed, and garnished and served at the table. The gods guessed the scam and he was sentenced to horrible torments in Tartarus.

Source: https://nomos.com.ar/2019/04/21/la-destruccion-capitalista-de-la-familia-articulo-inedito-de-diego-fusaro/

translated by Zero Schizo

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