Bocchetti, Rossanda, Wolf: If happiness...

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One glimpse of the very early 1990s, a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, event that definitively sanctioned the end of the Cold War and set in motion a process of upheaval in the geopolitical scenario that would be given the name of globalisation.

It is 21 March 1992. Alessandra Bocchetti, a feminist and founder of the Virginia Woolf Cultural Centre in Rome, invited two protagonists and witnesses to discuss the issue. -each in their own way - of that historical passage. In front of a packed and attentive female audience Christa Wolf, citizen of the former GDR and author of the beloved Cassandraand the communist Rossana Rossanda, committed to coming to terms with the failure of real socialism, a project to which Rossanda has devoted her entire life as a political intellectual.

As a feminist, Bocchetti asks the two women to confront "from within" an apparently impolitic object: the search for happiness in their own lives as a means of fighting against capitalism.

Wolf and Rossanda venture on this track with some hesitation.

Happiness, says Wolf, is "to be alive with every fibre of my body, my soul and my mind... is to be wholly acknowledged".

"I don't think politics should be about happiness."Rossanda resists. "When politics deals with it, it becomes authoritarian politics, it produces an ethical state.".

Wolf again, talking about the moment when the Wall fell: "These hours were, perhaps, the happiest of my life ever.". While Rossanda recalls "the end of the war in 1945, although it was difficult to be exactly festive: we were too loaded with dead people behind us".

The confrontation between the two intellectuals unfolds between memories, analyses of the present, gambles on the future and even prophecies. It is Rossanda who is Cassandra when provides for the "total commodification" and assigns women in particular the task of resisting. While Wolf imagines "the hungry masses that will come knocking on the doors of Western Europe". 

Bocchetti's text faithfully quotes the words of the two rapporteurs - as well as her own as moderator - offering the portrait of an apparently different feminism from that of today: it is interesting to try to draw the lines of continuity and recognise the discontinuities.

Photographing that moment of crisis, the book also offers keys and insights into the far more devastating crisis we find ourselves in thirty years later, the knots of globalisation coming to a head. A process that began at that very moment, when the everything was preparing to become capitalism and market, with profit maximisation and an unimaginable increase in poverty and social inequality.

Even today, more than ever, a reading of what happens starting from being a woman is necessary.

Marina Terragni

Alessandra Bocchetti, Rossana Rossanda, Christa Wolf If happiness... For a critique of capitalism starting from being a woman - 21 March 1992, VandA Editions, March 2021 (to purchase, click here).


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