Mental long Covid and the techno-social unconsciousness: a conversation with Franco "Bifo" Berardi

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It’s late April 2022 in Bologna and we meet in Franco’s apartment. He shows me his collection of collages he produced in the Covid period, his art therapy to fight off depression. The paintings can be found here and there online, exhibited under the pseudonym Istubalz. We’ve come together to discuss his latest book, The Third Unconscious: The Psychosphere in the Viral Age (published in English by Verso, translated by Bifo himself into Italian). The message of this short book is simple: we urgently need to engage with the future of psychoanalysis. The discovery of the unconscious in the eighteenth and nineteenth century resulted in the founding of psychoanalysis as both a therapy and tool for cultural analysis. Later, of course, it became an industry. In response to the emphasis of its founding fathers on denial and sublimation, the second mode of the unconscious, associated with Lacan and even more so Deleuze and Guattari, stressed the element of production. For them, the unconscious is not a theater but a factory. Fifty years into this probing of the liberation of desire, Berardi proposes a new angle: a third unconscious that circles around an understanding of the social dimension of the mind, in a world that is no longer focused on growth and (schizo-)productivity but on extinction and degrowth. Berardi calls for the development of new critical concepts that can help us to understand today’s spectrum of emotional attention. We must practice “riding the dynamic of disaster,” which he calls an accurate description of “our mental condition during the current earthquake, which is also a heart-quake and a mind-quake.” The seamless transition from Covid into the war in Ukraine reinstates the collapse of the bio-info-psycho circuit under the weight of the “stack of crises” (my term), the succession of catastrophic events. There’s a deeply unsettling and often profoundly depressing inevitably lurking about this atmosphere of accumulating disaster: the all-too-real sense that life is on the brink of total collapse and imminent disaster.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2022


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