- 8:00 p.m.
I shall begin from the assumption that the passions provide a fruitful slant from which to understand society and its
transformations, since they enable us to highlight the motivations for social
action. While it may be true that every
epoch is characterized by the prevalence of some passions over others, it is
undeniable that in the global age we are seeing a strong return of fear. But
what type of fear are we talking about? No
longer the fear that, at the origins of modernity, was thematized in the
Hobbesian paradigm as the emotional foundation of society and the State. In my opinion, we can single out two
fundamental fears which characterize the global age: fear of the other and fear of the future. The first appears essentially as fear of he who is different (and of what
I define as contamination) because of
the great migratory processes produced by globalization and the formation of
multicultural societies; the second is prompted by the condition of insecurity
due to the emergence of new challenges that contemporary sociology has summed
up in the concept of "global risks"
(from global warming to the nuclear threat, from the ecological to the
financial crisis). In both cases, it is
fear in the face of an indefinite object,
namely, taking up a Freudian distinction, it is an anxiety rather than fear. Anxiety
gives rise to defence mechanisms, in the first case resulting in the persecutory projection of fear and the
construction of scapegoats; in the second case, in the denial of danger and our condition of vulnerability. On the basis of this diagnosis, we can ask
ourselves whether it is nevertheless possible to implement a virtuous metamorphosis of fear so that
this passion can act, as suggested by late twentieth-century philosophical
reflection, as the emotional foundation for an ethics of responsibility and of the future.