Skip to content


Roland Barthes, La camera chiara, Einaudi, Torino 2003
Zygmunt Bauman, Gli usi postmoderni del sesso, Il Mulino, Bologna 2013
Aldo Carotenuto, Eros e Pathos, Bompiani, Milano 2015
Byung-Chul Han, Eros in agonia, Nottetempo, Roma 2015
Byung-Chul Han, La società della trasparenza, Nottetempo, Roma 2014
Umbero Galimberti, Le cose d’amore, Feltrinelli, Milano 2013
Romano Gasparotti, Filosofia dell’Eros, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2007
Julia Kristeva, Poteri dell’orrore, Spirali, Milano 2006
Octavio Paz, La duplice fiamma. Amore ed erotismo, SE, Milano 2006
Platone, Simposio, Feltrinelli, Milano 1995

Byung-Chul Han, who teaches Philosophy and theory of the Media in Berlin, theorizes in his book Agony of the Eros the death of Eros, killed by narcissism and the culture of assimilation. In the society of performance, characterised by the obsession to emerge, often in pathological self-reference, the Other tends to be degraded to a mere mirror of one’s own ego, a source of confirmation and consensus for a subject in the hypertrophic quest for recognition. Reducing the Other to the self, one’s own ideals and fantasies, is equivalent to depriving oneself of the emancipating strength of Eros, which is synonymous with going out of oneself, interruption of solipsism and repetition and which appears as a singular and irreducible event, always beyond the tasks that we set ourselves and the control we exercise over ourselves.
Symmetrically to the erosion of the Other is the progressive pornification of Eros, which Han analyses in another book, The transparent society, in which he reflects on transparency as an ideological base of the digital society. The culture of exposure/exhibition of the self, as presupposed by the social networks, which extends from the body to words, from thoughts to fantasies, cancels out every possibility of erotic communication, assigning everything to a careless, pleasurable, positivity which is more suitable to the genre of immediate pleasure (I like/I don’t like it) than of loving and which, to the contrary of desire, does not allow any imaginative deviation. Continuing the observations of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, Han reminds us that a semantic opacity, an ambiguity, belongs to the erotic, which opens up only to the observer who lingers and contemplates where pornography begins, exactly where the secret disappears to the benefit of total self-ostentation. The presence of the punctum, which according to Barthes distinguishes the erotic image from the pornographic one does not produce pleasure, but a wound, a deep emotion, a disturbance that sets off thought and projects desire beyond the self. Pornographic images, on the other hand, do not offer anything to read, they are post-hermeneutic: they are emptied in consumption and in the spectaculum. In the transparent society, which does not tolerate gaps in information or in vision, love risks becoming a formula for enjoyment, in which the other is only the object of excitement: pornography.
The considerations of Zygmunt Baumann go in a direction converging with that of Han. In On Postmodern uses of sex, the sociologist explains how the current version of sexual activity is concentrated exclusively on its orgasmic effect. Bauman’s theory is that in the postmodern age, eroticism has been released from both the function of reproduction and love, to become a cultural norm, taking on an importance that it did not have in the past, but at the same time, it has an original lightness and volatility, precisely of our times. On closer examination, the emancipation of eroticism has not produced any liberation because if it is true that it has had amongst its consequences an apparently freer sexuality, it also responds to the imperatives of the performance and the new micropowers. The real problem, however, that postmodern eroticism induces is that total lack of a norm, not in the moralistic sense of the term, but of accepted and shared social behaviour, and the few empirical rules that emerge, increase the confusion due to apparently insoluble contradictions. Postmodern culture magnifies the powers of sex and encourages infusing every corner of the world and life with erotic meaning and, at the same time, the rules of political correctness forbid treating the other as a pure sexual object. The result is a situation full of psychic neuroses, “all the more serious due to the fact that it is no longer clear what the norm is and consequently which type of conformity to the norm can heal them.”