Saturday, February 4, 2017

Exuberance is Beauty | On the Political Influence of the Sun

Alexander Chizhevsky (1897-1964)
Boris Groys (2017) - During the period of modernity we got accustomed to the understanding of the human beings as determined by the social milieu in which they live, as knots in the informational networks, as organisms depending on their environment. In the times of globalization we learned that we are dependent on everything that happens around the globe – politically, economically, ecologically. But the Earth is not isolated in Cosmos. It depends on the processes that take place in the cosmic space – on black matter, waves and particles, star explosions and galactic collapses. And the fate of mankind also depends on these cosmic processes because all these cosmic waves and particles go through the human bodies. The positioning of the Earth in the cosmic whole determines the conditions under which the living organisms can survive on its surface.

This dependence of the mankind on the cosmic events that are uncontrollable and even unknown is the source of the specifically modern anxiety. One can say: Cosmic anxiety. The anxiety of being a part of Cosmos – and not able to control it. Not accidentally our contemporary mass culture is so much obsessed with the visions of asteroids coming form the black cosmic space and destroying the Earth. But this anxiety has also more subtle forms. As an example one can cite the theory of the ‘accursed share” that was developed by Georges Bataille. According to this theory, the Sun always sends more energy to the Earth than the Earth, including the organisms living on its surface, can absorb. After all the efforts to use this energy for production of goods and raising the living standard of the population there also remains a non-absorbed, non-used rest of the solar energy. This rest of energy is necessarily destructive – it can be spent only through violence and war. Or, at least, through ecstatic festivals and sexual orgies that channel and absorb this rest of energy through the less dangerous activities. Thus, human culture and politics become also determined by the cosmic energies – forever shifting between order and disorder.

Georges Batailles (1897-1962): "Solar radiation
results in a superabundance of energy on the
surface of the globe. But, first, living matter
receives this energy and accumulates it within
the limits given by the space that is available
to it. It then radiates or squanders it, but
before devoting an appreciable share to this
radiation it makes maximum use of it for growth.
Only the impossibility of continuing growth makes
way for squander. Hence the real excess does not
begin until the growth of the individual or group
has reached its limits.
Now, Bataille’s solar myth reminds one strongly of the interpretation of the world history as defined by the activity of the Sun – interpretation that was formulated by Russian historian and biologist Alexander Chizhevsky in the 1920s and 1930s. During this period of time Chizhevsky’s ideas spread also to the West, especially to France and the USA, and some of his texts were published in French and English – so that his ideas could reach Bataille (for example A. L. Chizhevsky (1938): Les Épidémies et les perturbations electromagnetiques; Paris, Hippocrate). However, the main text written by Chizhevsky in which his theory is extensively formulated and proved by empirical data was published only relatively recently in Russian. Chizhevsky collected a huge empirical data – from the Roman and early Chinese sources up to the 1930s – to show the close correlation between the periods of the higher activity of the Sun and mass revolutionary movements. It is, of course, the Russian revolution in 1917 that gave the decisive impulse to his research. Chizhevsky asks: why under similar social, economic and political constellations in some cases masses become mobilized and revolutionized but in other cases they remain passive and indifferent. The answer that Chizhevsky offers is this: to be able to start a revolutionary movement the human beings should be mobilized not only on the level of the spirit but also on the level of the body. The human spirit can be mobilized through an ideology but, according to Chizhevsky the degree of mobilization of the human body, like of all the organisms living on the Earth, is dependent on the cycles of solar activity. Chizhevsky collected an incredible amount of astronomical and historical data to show the correlation between activity of the Sun and activity of revolutionary movements. As he shows the greatest revolutions coincided with the greatest activity of the Sun – and the historical process is characterized by a succession of active and passive periods corresponding to the 11 years cycles of solar activity (the highest degree of activity follows the 22 years cycle). But it seems to me that for our time the most interesting part of his results concerns the relationship between activity of the Sun and English parliamentary election. These results show that the influence of the Sun dictates not only the choice between revolution and status quo but also between leftwing and rightwing politics in the framework of regular parliamentary processes. Thus, Chizhevsky shows that for the period between 1830 and 1924 the summary activity of Sun during the rule of liberal governments was 155,6% higher than during the rule of conservative governments. The conservative governments never had power when the number of sunspots was over 93. The moments of change in the solar activity are almost precisely correlated to the changes of the English governments.

At the end of his text Chizhevsky suggests that the knowledge of the correlation between activity of the Sun and political activity of the masses can prepare the political classes to the seemingly unexpected changes of the public mood. During the financial crisis in the year 2009 some specialist remembered the so-called Kondratiev waves – Nikolai Kondratiev, a student of Chizhevsky, applied his theory on the economic cycles and predicted all of them including the 2009 crisis. On the political level one is reminded of the years 1968, 1989 and, again, 2010-11. Here it is interesting to mention that the present time is the time of the weakest solar activity since the 20th century – the period of political indifference and passivity of the masses. However, the political effects of the bigger numbers of sunspots are often ambiguous. Chizhevsky specifically warns that the growth of solar activity can lead not only to the adoption of progressive agenda by the masses but also to the rise of irrational and reactionary populist movements.