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A French philosopher in the archives of the counter-revolution

Grégoire Chamayou
Chamayou's latest book is an in-depth analysis of liberal government art.


The French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou, who in 2013 bragged through the sound wall with his Theory of the drone (Theory you drone), in which he exposed the killer's philosophical constitution, has in his latest book La societé ingouvernable: Une généalogie du libérealism authoritarian turned to a broader historical study of the "institutional, social, economic and political" context that led to the drone as an emblem of a new type of "human" warfare by other more advanced means. The book gives a rare insight into the calibration of a somewhat heavier war machine than the drone, namely the ensemble of practices and "political technologies" that can be summarized under the term "government art" (You're the governor).

Liberal or authoritarian?

Chamayou focuses on the changes that governmental art has undergone in the liberal tradition during the latter half of the twentieth century, with special pressure on the period from when Thatcher and Reagan embarked on their famed transatlantic pair race in the 1980 under the TINA slogan (there is no alternative) . Liberalism, like the book's subtitle Une genealogy of liberalism authoritarian (the genealogy of authoritarian liberalism) indicates, has always balanced on a knife-edge between liberal and authoritarian tendencies. One of the chapters of the book is thus aptly called "Hayek in Chile," and deals with how the American banner of neoliberalism and Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek uncritically embraced and even hailed Augusto Pinochet's bloody military coup as a form of "bourgeoisie dictatorship" a transitional government that would pave the way for the "free" game of the market.

What must be done?

The episode in Chile in the early 68s was symptomatic of the new crisis management experiments initiated by a pressured US capital command, prompting widespread fear of an insidious communist world offensive. In the wake of, among other things, May XNUMX, according to Chamayou, Western politicians and intellectuals spread a notion that this state of crisis (which, in Cold War rhetoric, was always caused by communist agents and sympathizers) could not be isolated to the global periphery but that the core liberal values ​​of Western democracies themselves were crumbling and that the ability to govern these societies was seriously challenged. In the United States was business-as-usual no longer possible without major protests from everything between civil rights movements to environmental activists. A question originally raised by Lenin in the context of the Russian Revolution was now raised on the other side of the Atlantic from a liberalist perspective: What must be done?

Intensified class struggle

The answer was that the class struggle had to intensify, but with a new kind of refined warfare based on softer forms of power than the sword or (drone's): "It was like planning a major military operation," recalls a public relations expert from the multinational firm Nestlé about working to fix the company's reputation in the late 1970s ( following a major scandalous case over Nestle's aggressive marketing of infant formula in African countries and increased infant mortality). The strategy they developed in Nestlé's PR department formed the school for a counter-activist counter-offensive from the right, summed up this way by Chamayou: «Such was the general strategy: Collaborate with the realists, create dialogue with the idealists to convert them into realists, isolate them radical and engross the opportunists. ”Et voilà! A useful roadmap to derail any criticism. The strategy is based on Dialogue, then, in a next step, forcing the fight, in the PR staff's own words, "into the terrain of interpretation" for the sole purpose of "exhausting the opponent into endless encounters."

The class struggle was intensified with a new form of refined warfare based on softer forms of power.

Despite military-strategic inspiration (the aforementioned public relations man should have written Clausewitz's nine principles of warfare on his wall at work, many of these management strategists seem to have forgotten the elemental gesture of hiding his strategies (his tactical considerations ) to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy later, which allows Chamayou's own noble errand: «In this book I study this crisis as it was perceived and theorized in the 1970s by those who sought to defend 'business' interests. Contrary to a story 'from below', this is a 'from above' story, as it is written from the point of view of the ruling classes, mainly in the United States, which was the post-war center of intellectual and political remobilization on a large scale. ”Chamayou in other words, mapping the ideological terrain of the counter-revolution by plowing through a sea of ​​management literature, workshop papers, internal corporate memos, public relations campaign material, leaked mail correspondence, statements from a number of the largest multinational corporations' CEOs as well as their echoes from parliamentary politicians and in the media picture more generally.

According to Chamayou, this is not yet another contribution to an "intellectual history of neoliberalism," a term he considers flawed because it tends to reduce major societal changes as mere consequences of political programs: "One often tends to reduce it big reaction, which took shape in the 1970s before it unfolded more specifically in the 1980s, to the economic component of neoliberalism. That's a mistake. Intellectually, the movement is far more complex. You counter-attack in a scattered order, each trying to curb the cracks that have been struck in one's ranks, without any central coordination or doctrinal unity. "

Military or management strategy?

Chamayou has thus dug deep into the historical archives and provided a series of examples of how management culture from the United States evolved toward a veritable military strategy that could be used to intervene in the class struggle and to discipline unruly elements of all kinds. , from the industrial worker over the middle manager to the consumer and even, but not least, the democratically elected "neoliberal" politicians themselves. The book's title plays on the ambiguity of the word the society, which in French can mean both "society" and "business," giving the reader a clue as to Chamayou's overall argument: Who is it, in the so-called neoliberal era, ungovernable, therefore unruly? While the relationship between state power and political sovereignty has been a pervasive theme from Plato over Hobbes to Rousseau and beyond, small-scale philosophical analyzes of the enterprise are arguably an (increasingly) competing party in the governance of modern capitalist society. . But as Chamayou points out, philosophy remains strongly under-represented in understanding the social role of the company and its placement in the sphere of power: "It is about time to develop a critical philosophy of the company." And not – not to mention - for Business Coffee. Go quickly !

Dominique Routhier
Dominique Routhier
Routhier is a regular critic of Ny Tid.

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