Modern social and political life is characterized not only by a passion for freedom and a desire for human contact, but also by the urge to shut down, to refuse freedom and the responsibility that goes with it, to barter it away in return for our security: this is the temptation of the wall, a temptation with which every modern society has to come to terms.
The flow of immigrants and refugees has forced us to confront this issue with a new sense of urgency: the symbol of the wall has re-appeared in this context as a nationalist and right-wing response to the perceived threat posed by the intruder. The trauma of the pandemic has also re-ignited the temptation of the wall as we find ourselves obliged to close ourselves off from others – even from our friends and family members – who could be carriers of the virus: faceless, invisible, the virus is an intruder that lives in and among us. Social distancing has replicated the tightening of the borders, replacing openness with closure and promoting division over integration.
Drawing on his experience as a psychoanalyst, Recalcati shows that the temptation of the wall is rooted in a deep psychological inclination: human beings have always drawn up borders and rejected the risks associated with being open to the outside world. But when these borders are turned into walls, they can only result in an impoverishment of the value of exchange and the loss of the dynamic plurality of a life shared with others.