The Rhetorical Future of the Soul at Work
In *After the Future*, Franco “Bifo” Berardi documents the failure of the anti-globalization movement to attain lasting political change, despite huge global visibility following the Battle in Seattle and the 2003 protest of the war in Iraq. Bifo argues that this movement was ethical and never a vector for social change because it was incapable of imagining a future in which an alternative to neoliberal brutality held sway. For Bifo, this diagnosis suggests a failure of the collective conscious imaginary of the future itself, hence his claim that the myth of the future is now over. In offering a genealogy of this myth and an account of its failure, Bifo connects the emergence of the future as a space of promise and prosperity to the emergence of capitalism and heavy industry itself. However, I suggest that a much older rhetorical concept offers a different and, in the context of Bifo’s autonomist Marxism, more relevant model of the future. The sophistic concept of *plasma* is a genre in which a better or at least different world is extrapolated from current data. In contrast to the deceptive and intentionally false *pseudos*, *plasma* articulates a myth of a future by making the current world virtual. For the sophists, *plasma* is a source of positive invention, just as the myth of the future was needed to animate the struggle for spaces autonomous from capital’s privations. Thus, Bifo’s diagnosis signals the failure of *plasma* in our present argumentation. Through this figure of an imagined world, I link Bifo’s diagnosis of the soul as the site of capitalist exploitation with accounts of cybernetic sophistry from Richard Lanham and Jeff Pruchnic to highlight the terrain upon which rhetoricians can reinvigorate the idea of a plasmatic invention in the age of semiocapital.
Pilsch, Andrew (2017). The Rhetorical Future of the Soul at Work. Available electronically from
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