Sloterdijk’s hypothesis is that members of a social group are not, in advance, related to each other. There must be something that triggers the connection. This connection force is called stress. Social cohesion is therefore the result of the ability of individuals and social groups to maintain a constant state of stress. Social bodies, therefore, are to be understood as fields of forces integrated in stress. Stress, it can be said, is the ‘glue’ of our societies, not a disease but a factor of social integration and space production.
Such spaces, says Sloterdijk are bubbles, spheres that we build to protect ourselves. Stress produces spheres, air-conditioned spaces. There is no life without spheres. Being is ‘being-in-something‘ condition that must be whole like ‘the coexistence of something with something in something‘.
On the contrary, Tim Ingold affirms that subjects resemble lines and fabrics of relationships: they are ‘meshworks’, inseparable from their context with other organisms. The life of every living being is a line that intertwines along its path with other lines. What happens when people cling to each other? Their lines are intertwined, and must be linked together in such a way that the tension that would seek to separate them actually unites them more firmly. In the state of stress, nothing can resist, unless one line is produced, and unless that line intertwines with others.
CoVID-19, says Timothy Morton is the ‘hyper object’ of our era. A hyper-object within another hyper-object which is global warming. And what this stressful hyper-object seems to produce in the first instance are connections and social bodies on a planetary scale. We are all connected. We have hardly discovered the way in which humanity means ‘solidarity’ with other entities and creatures. ‘We are all symbiotic beings that intertwine with other symbiotic beings.’
However, says Rebecca Solnit, social bodies seem now to form even on much smaller scales.
In these years of social fragmentation phenomena, especially the last generations have experienced increasingly ‘liquid’ spatial and socio-economic conditions. Now the sudden proliferation of mutual aid groups, for example, born to provide support to the most vulnerable during isolation, are bringing together a variety of subjects by age groups and demographic divisions. Ironically, social distancing has produced not only planetary awareness but also helped to articulate a variety of small social bodies, small groups and collectives. The survival of these groups and their claims beyond the end of the pandemic could have a significant impact on the urban future and its project. More generally, the insistence on the return of the local dimension, especially in terms of production (industrial, agricultural) and mobility, speaks of the emergence of a ‘deglobalization’ discourse.
In any case, whether they are spheres, foams or more or less intertwined linear systems, our urban spaces will probably tend to become more ‘infrastructural’, defined not only by collective equipment networks but also by a vast set of devices, standards and replicable formulas through which to define public health conditions. We are all connected, but within this situation it is necessary to negotiate, spatially, conditions of difference, inequality and disconnection (delinking) to be considered as relevant project categories.