Theory and Praxis

About Intellectuals and Experts

As a researcher I am obliged to answer certain questions prior to my research activity: Why do I do research? Why do I want to know certain things? Why do I strive to find answers to certain questions? Why do I want to solve certain problems?

Obviously, when I say that these questions are “prior” to my research activity, I do not mean that I first have to solve these questions (or even formulate them) before I can carry out my research. Usually the opposite is the case. I discover the why and what for in the process of research practice itself. Or, to put it another way, I am able to fully articulate what motivates me, the genuine object that animates my will to know, as I progress in my task.

I am currently embarking on a research project in which I am guided by the following interests:

1) What is the relationship between our “mind”, and everything related to our subjectivity and our construction of identity at the individual and collective level in modernity, and the political culture of our misnamed “modern democratic societies”? I am interested in understanding to what extent our self-understandings, which include not only our conceptions of who we are, but also the way in which we fit into the social world and into nature, determine our conceptions and practices of politics, in the classical sense of the term. That is, not only as a device of state administration, but our understanding of what we once unproblematically called “the common good”.

2) The second interest revolves around the way in which our understandings of ethics and politics fit within the system of social and political relations that we call “capitalism”. What strikes me here is the separation, which one might judge to be “radical” in our time, between the spheres of ethics, politics and economics. This is surprising, because if one thinks in classical terms, for example, looking back at a work such as Aristotle’s, one discovers that ethics, politics and economics were part of an interlocking whole, whereas in our time, as illustrated, for example, by the works of John Rawls or Jürgen Habermas, this linkage has been severed. There is a rupture between the three spheres: ethics (private), politics (public) and economics (the ultimate background of our social order), which appears to be irremediable and “natural”, due to the systemic character in which the respective spheres are apprehended.

3) Thirdly, I ask myself: how to think and what to do with the “victims” produced by our system of capitalist social and ecological relations, and, along with this, how to think and what to do with our ideals of goodness and justice that hypothetically inform our moral order, when they are obviously in flagrant contradiction with our societal praxis, especially with our behaviours in the sphere of the economy. It is in this framework that “life” emerges as the ultimate source of all value and thus the foundation of all praxis and the criterion of legitimacy from which we must judge our present dispensation.

So let us go back to the beginning: why and for what purpose should we seek answers to these questions, which I consider crucial to understanding our present situation, and to outlining a possible alternative to our current predicament?

The academic research system has constitutive limitations that are intimately linked to the land where it has its roots. The evaluation system based exclusively on quantitative criteria and the competitive regimes it imposes are only the visible aspect of its degradation. Less visible is the fact that the institutional education system has become a device dedicated exclusively to guaranteeing the processes of capitalist accumulation, and is therefore immune to any ethical, political or economic critique of the current system.

The demands of the university labour market, in which the practices of exploitation and dispossession reach heights that border on the absurdity of a formal meritocracy and the ridiculousness of quantitative competition that emulates the financial system and produces crises analogous to those of fictitious capital, promote among researchers “perverted attitudes” that make critical thinking impossible, or turn it into a simulacrum or “staging”, emulating in our tasks the culture of propaganda that today we call “post-truth”.

For this reason, it is essential to clarify what motivates research, leaving behind with a gesture of contempt the puerile and depressing effort to make a “career” for ourselves as researchers.

In my case, I am motivated by the following considerations:

1. As I have already hinted, I firmly believe, after having analysed the question carefully and over a long period of time, that our present regime of social and ecological relations is not only unsustainable (in the sense of environmentalism), i.e. that it leads inevitably to civilisational collapse, but is based on the overproduction of unnecessary suffering (dissatisfaction, or sterile compensatory satisfaction) that robs human beings of the extraordinary transformative potential that characterises our species, while condemning the rest of the species that inhabit the planet to a miserable existence or extinction.

2. In the same vein, I consider that the levels of injustice, oppression, exploitation and dispossession that we are experiencing today far surpass any previous historical experience when we observe it without the blinders imposed by scientific and technological advances that mask the violence, inequality, misery and environmental destruction that mainly affect the great subaltern majorities of humanity and the rest of the species that inhabit the planet in our “society of the spectacle”.

3. Finally, I am convinced that our fate is not sealed once and for all, or that we are predetermined to extinction. I firmly believe that we can do better, we can be better. To do this we need to educate ourselves ethically, politically and ecologically: which implies being determined to question the crude and subtle devices that discipline our spirit in the microphysics of our social and ecological relations, in order to defeat the system of exploitation and dispossession in which we are held captive. As researchers, the university, the academic organisation, the system of evaluation and competition must be our first targets to beat. The only decent task in the moment we live in is to use all our available resources, material and intellectual, to respond to the evidence of injustice and intrinsic evil that the system expresses in the bodies of all its victims.