Apr 7, 2015


As we have seen, in his intellectual evolution Valls completely abandoned the idea of the Church as "we" and, although he qualifies it, we believe he also abandons the "religious we". He never identified his political "we", always more speculative than of daily praxis, with the sociopolitical class as did Marxism, which he had to coexist with for a long time in the university.

His pragmatic realism, although not really Marxist, his abandoning the Jesuits, his growing anticlerical drift, without a doubt his having specialized in Marx’s "teacher" permitted Valls to be considered an ally by many Marxists. Some kept their distance, such as Manuel Sacristan’s and Paco Fernández Buey’s group. Among those who are closer philosophically, we must mention José María Valverde, secondary school professors Maria Rosa Borras and the professor of the UNED José María Ripalda. Not as close were Gustavo Bueno and his group from Oviedo. Valls confronted the Marxists, like Universitat de Barcelona professor José María Bermudo and Manuel Cruz, and secondary school teacher Lluís Alegret. He was even more opposed to those who rapidly evolved from the extreme left to right wing positions which, for Valls, are frivolous and postmodern (like Eugenio Trias).

One must remember that Valls considered any social class, even the broadest worker or proletarian class, to be merely a part of the whole confronting the other part (the "capitalists" o Bourgeois") and therefore cannot be a true, universal "we". Undoubtedly for Valls and many of his generation the "class struggle" seemed too much like a "civil war" and therefore inhibited the effective existence of a pacifying "we".

On the other hand, the class struggle and the revolution fomented the dangerous agonist impulse which Valls so feared in humanity. In addition, because of his political realism, he considered revolution to be more the violent, lawless chaos of the "during" than the perfect, utopian order of those who only look at the "after". Therefore for him class struggle and revolution represented the most dangerous triumph of war and the dissolving of all "we"s.

Similar to his distance from the Church "we", Valls becomes more and more ironic with "historical materialism", which he called "philosophy of history or whatever one wants". Although he can understand the "ethical protest" present in Marxism, he clearly leans toward Hegel instead of Marx who he accuses of being:  

- Utopian: One shouldn’t confuse this with Bloch’s "that which isn’t yet" which Valls praises. Here the accusation is far harsher, says Valls: "the prophecy for the future (...) the so-called scientific socialism won’t be able to avoid utopianism". 
- Moralistic: Valls criticizes the Marxist concept of alienation to the extent it is "completely pejorative in this sense and has, in our view, moral resonances".
- Lacking in rigor, a creator of misunderstandings ("As far as the originality of this doctrine and its attempt to be scientific, I think it has produced uncountable misunderstandings, because science is a blessing but scientism is a plague (...) The work is full of philosophemes")
- and now left behind by history ("Nowadays, when residual groups sing the Internationale with their fists raised, the idea that this struggle is the final struggle is a bit pathetic").

Valls’s harsh political realism or pessimism cannot conceive the satisfaction and pacification of human agonism nor effective justice, equality and solidarity. He says, "No State has a stupendous solution for everyone. The cleverest, best implanted equilibrium will be temporal and unstable because it must always deal with the hungry waiting to come to the table. The art of politics, by definition, is to administer the discontent, for the only way to stave off conflict is alternating those who applaud and those who protest".

Mistrusful of civil society and the dynamic of "‘I’s"

Undoubtedly it was very difficult to be a liberal in a Catalonia marked by the civil war and Francoism, and even more so in a Spain which had never been through a liberal revolution or industrialization. So it is not surprising that the majority of his generation considered the attempts to build the sought after "we" on a base of civil society and the dialectic (immanent and without higher supervision) which the "‘I’s" set themselves to be dangerous. For Valls, both civil society and the dialectic of the "‘I’s" are frankly weak as well as intrinsically dangerous.

Valls, although he feels that agonism is a natural impulse in the human species, is not a liberal. Despite this, the panagonistic realism made him evolve toward liberalism. Valls came to defend the "moral value of the network of economic interests. These interests are not only legitimate in principle, they are essential for giving real content to the value of dignity."
As a result he cannot accept that the so-called civil society can generate a peaceful, industrious "we" by its own simple dialect. He dedicates a chapter to civil society but, ironically, he calls it "uncivil society", highlighting that it is based on competition and a sort of civil war (or at least the threat thereof).

He cannot accept the claim of "civil society" opposed to the State and its "objectively" superior institutions, be it because he underestimated their effectiveness and power or because of the negative, totalitarian drift of the former. In addition, thought Valls, the State is far stronger and more effective, which makes the liberal pretension of civil society as a counter to the State seem ridiculous.

Theses like Mandeville’s "industrious hive", Adam Smith’s "invisible hand" or Locke’s definition of the civil state seem to Valls to be erroneous, false and inefficient. Maintaining himself loyal to Hegel, he accepts the relevance of civil society, but always subordinate to the State, the true "we", as the interests of the civil society and the I’s "must be disciplined" and the State is the only "effective representative of the general interest".

Definitively, Valls cannot accept the final basig of the liberal view, which is a profound mistrust of the State as such. Citing the liberal pluralist Isaiah Berlin, he recalls, "nothing assures us that the conflicting interest can be reconciled. In fact, we know that within their plane they are irreconcilable". Like Hegel, Valls thinks that only by climbing to a higher level of objectively effective institutions (among other reasons, because of their monopoly on violence) can the agonistically conflicting human interests be reconciled.

Valls highlights that the liberal separation of powers does not rupture "the unity of the State" and that "although there is a mellowing from the separation of powers and the limited democracy of the lower house, it is still an absolute State. To inflict capital punishment, the true absolute master according to Hegel, is still an absolute power (...). I repeat, the king is no longer absolute, but the State still is".

Certainly the true "we" is not something given, simple, natural... but must be built with difficulty, tragedy and discipline by the "‘I’s" of the citizens and individuals. Valls knows that if they abdicate their vigilance as democrats and citizens the State can drift to authoritarianism and the "we" ceases to be a "we". But, as we have said, one always presupposes that the human panagonism never rests and therefore one is always vigilant, controlling, keeping things from getting out of hand. For Valls this danger is so terrible it makes him distrust the agonist power (praised by the liberals) of the citizens when they watch themselves, because inevitably they depend on something doubtful like an impulse, and on top of that, an agonist one!

Therefore Valls not only distrusted the choices of the classical liberals (like Mandeville, Adam Smith and Locke), but also from much more tempered Kant (an author he praises in other aspects). Valls does not accept the human "unsocial sociability" as the "driving force of history", because that presupposes that the panagonism (unsociability) can be offset by human need to live with others (sociability). Also, we think he disliked it because it is too limited to the second stage of the dialectic, to the individualized and conflicting "‘I’s" (although here Kant sets a distance with "moralism") and therefore to the free competition of "agonistically" opposing interests of liberalism.

Distancing himself from any option which thinks that, autonomously and by its own dynamic, the "‘I’s" can lead to a true "we", Valls opts for considering the first stage of the dialectic to be a "we". Therefore the inevitable condition of the whole dialectic, the original, undifferentiated unity, would be a "we" which is political, disciplining and educating, but also effective, affective and protective. It is a natural "we", not chosen or imposed; that is, an authoritarian and coactive "we" that pacifies and exercises a monopoly on force. Without this natural, imposed, coactive, effective, pacifying authority with a monopoly on force the individualized "‘I’s" wouldn’t even have a model or the slightest experience of moral law, free recognition or an authentic "we".

Certainly, the fear that everyone has when faced with the aggression of another, and the rational calculation that sooner or later he will be defeated are key in individuals freely accepting the cession of their power and freedom to the Leviathan. But for Valls that is not enough for two important reasons: the first is that the assumed "contract" which provides access to the Leviathan is not real, as Hobbes himself recognized. On one hand, in the "natural" situation of the war of all against all, there is not the slightest chance of rational deliberation. On the other hand the "sovereign", by being sovereign, neither makes nor is bound by the contract. The second reason is that the individual "‘I’s", facing each other and with no experience of "we", cannot build a true "we" (with free mutual recognition) simply forced by mere authoritarian restrictions. 

Some experience of "we" and of free recognition, albeit natural and insufficient, is necessary. This experience of free recognition (albeit limited and not universal) can only be produced, in the first stage of the dialectic to be developed, within the "tribe": the first law of moral autonomy can only be dictated within the heart of one who has already adopted, as a maxim of his personal behavior, respect for the other (...) We think that if the law must first be a maxim of conduct, this means that respect for all humans, and with it, true and formal morality, can only be achieved after education tin the practice of mutual recognition within the limited circles of the tribe".

As we see, Valls rejected the liberal presupposition that the simply negative confrontation between "‘I’s" could provide spontaneous recognition and respect for the other, obviating the need for any other principle. Quite to the contrary Valls accepted another principle, in the form of a natural "we" is necessary so that the historical dialectic can finally culminate in a "we" which comes from free recognition. (full article)

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