«The end of a world», as Ernesto de Martino wrote in a note that converged into his last, unfinished book, in the guideline of the human cultural history «is always the end of the world, in terms of concrete experience of the vanishing of each possible world, that constitutes the radical hazard».

This consideration, this point of view seems to resume, retrieve, take up and radicalize in an anthropological interpretation a very typical 20th century thesis of the European culture: assuming your historical age as bearer of the disappearance of every possible world, more than leading to the end of a single world. An apocalyptic tópos, with its dark highlight and its religious spectrality, is hidden within this thesis, that belongs to our contemporarity more than to the 20th century, but today it appears to be standardized and extreme at the same time. Today it seems that we don’t have to no longer detect in advance the signs of an apparently irreversible crisis of sense, but to reckon with a world that shows itself and explains itself with apocalyptic categories where there’s no place for the eschaton, as de Martino asserted. This is a brand new difficulty for the philosophical thought. Our times don’t reveal with the end of the world the parousia of a great Beyond and the beginning of a True Life (however we could think about it), but just the undefined enduring of the catastrophe.

The financial capitalism and the mass media system work using catastrophic procedures that just have to be controlled and managed but that can’t be exceeded. International relations as well as social relations, political activity or psychical life occur in a constant imbalance, on the edge of an endless but imminent catastrophe. Even the idea that the agenda of History imposes on us a path of deliverance from the ‘endless debt’ caused by neoliberal capitalism, today seems to be a concept of the past. Walking a fine line between economy and (Christian) religion, this idea still supports the fundament of every symbolic order: the relationship with the Other in terms of debt. And so it cherishes the hope that, paying off the infinite debt, the Other will appear and the society will finally be free from evil. Anyway, in trying to assign new symbols to the financial capitalism, also this interpretation looks like an ideological attitude. The debt is experienced – both individually and as public debate – as a hard and inexorable economic need to survive, the working life is getting more and more servile, and the psycho-economy of risk and bet is deeply structuring ways of life that are mentally unable to get actual debts or to tempt fate.

Since the 21th century has begun (and sure we can’t neglect this) the apocalyptic paradigm has put on a religious and fundamentalist look. A postmodern apocalyptic imaginary, not much different from the one John of Patmos described in his Book of Revelation, has risen from various causes: the crisis of Marxism as critique of political economy, the simultaneous crisis of decolonization movements (that did use for a long time the prophetic and religious tool of Eschaton against the Western World), the cultural and social malaise of an entire generation of sons and daughters of immigrants, the alienating and neognostic power of digital technologies. The destruction is once again named ‘right and holy’. Gilles Deleuze reminds us what D.H. Lawrence wrote in his comment about the Book of Revelation: «To destroy, destroy an anonymous, interchangeable enemy, to destroy any kind of enemy has become the essential act of new justice. Sentence an enemy as the one does not conform to God’s order». What Deleuze showed in the Christian-apocalyptic paradigm was the connection between the apocalyptic catastrophe and the Eschaton as concretization of an Order of Justice and Truth that appeared in the catastrophe. But the present terrorist fundamentalism, that apparently seems to activate a dark eschatological hope, must respond to two obsessions: the obsession of the West as negative value to destroy; the obsession of the world for its past and for its possible future, denied by a catastrophic project that reloads itself day after day.

If Baudrillard was right when he said that between West and terrorist fundamentalism there’s a game of mirror, the problem about the cultural apocalypses has to be investigated from two other points of view, too. The first point of view is the one regarding populations and cultures not belonging (or not totally belonging) to the Anglo-Latin civilization, where somehow the apocalyptic imaginary has its roots. Among these people we find the great eastern civilizations: Japanese, Chinese, Indian. But we find the mestizo civilizations of Southern America, too: just think about Brazil. How can we use the cultural apocalypse paradigm to comprehend them? And the most relevant question is: how can these cultures reply to the catastrophic challenge of global capitalism and technology? Japan is an exemplary case: its modern culture is the consequence of a very deep cultural apocalypse. But also China looks like a psychical, social and economic laboratory particularly interesting for our survey.

The second perspective, that helps us to leave a Eurocentric position, regards the migrants who come from Africa or Middle East and try to settle down in Europe. Because of its long-time history of meeting and clashing of migrations (events that fixed its identity), Europe should have a good memory of apocalyptic population movements. Now the question is: how do migrants experience the apocalypse of their original culture and how do they see the cultural apocalypse of the western world? Is this the catastrophe of the world and of a single world? And the last but most worrying question: the West, this declining and falling world, is the destiny of every other world, or is there any other world beyond its fall?


Topics of this issue:

1. The apocalypses of the West

2. The crisis of the western world seen from outside

3. The apocalypse of Others

4. New horizons for the geo-philosophy

5. Psychopathology of the cultural apocalypses

6. Contemporary apocalyptic literature

7. Art and cultural apocalypses