Age of Emancipation
March 20, 2018 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Interesting, but not available in translation that I could find.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:26 PM on March 20, 2018

In both articles I think "liberalism" is being used in the French sense— not progressivism, but 19th century free trade.

I kind of see his point for Europe— moving from divinely appointed kings, to totalitarian systems that emulated them, to republics.

Still, even if he wrote these books before 2016, he seems... awfully optimistic? He sounds like our small-government conservatives of the '70s, one who isn't quite sure what's gone wrong lately, but can't imagine that it's rising inequality. Maybe he doesn't notice it so much in France, though a 33% vote for the Front National should be un peu inquiétant, non?
posted by zompist at 8:55 PM on March 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

He is an admired, widely read public intellectual who is prone to caustic, even vicious polemic. Most puzzling of all are the politics of this deeply political thinker: he rose to prominence by championing liberalism over Marxism, yet is a staunch critic of human rights and individualism. He is a self-described philosophical socialist, but is often accused of being a conservative, even a reactionary.

re: "small-government conservatives" :P
The World Is Better Than Ever. Why Are We Miserable?
At the same time, I was finally reading another new book, Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen. If you really want a point of view that is disturbingly persuasive about the modern predicament and yet usually absent from any discussion in the mainstream media, I cannot recommend it highly enough. A short polemic against our modern liberal world, it too is relentless. By “liberal,” I don’t mean left-liberal politics; I mean (and Deneen means) the post-Machiavelli project to liberate the individual from religious authority and the focus of politics on individual rights and the betterment of humankind’s material conditions...

He argues that liberalism has failed precisely because it has succeeded. As we have slowly and surely attained more progress, we have lost something that undergirds all of it: meaning, cohesion, and a different, deeper kind of happiness than the satiation of all our earthly needs. We’ve forgotten the human flourishing that comes from a common idea of virtue, and a concept of virtue that is based on our nature. This is the core of Deneen’s argument, and it rests on a different, classical, pre-liberal understanding of freedom. For most of the Ancients, freedom was freedom from our natural desires and material needs. It rested on a mastery of these deep, natural urges in favor of self-control, restraint, and education into virtue. It placed the community — the polis — ahead of the individual, and indeed could not conceive of the individual apart from the community into which he or she was born. They’d look at our freedom and see licentiousness, chaos, and slavery to desire. They’d predict misery not happiness to be the result...

Maybe we will muddle through this way indefinitely, and I sure hope we do, numbed or placated by continuous material improvement. But it is perfectly possible that this strange diversion in human history — a few centuries at most, compared with 200 millennia — is a massive error that will at some point be mercilessly corrected...
also btw...
Illiberal movements are on the rise in the west because of their promise to restore belonging by erecting barriers against the world. That is what “making America great again”, “taking my country back” and “taking back control” all mean. But they are not the only ones dealing in belonging.

Undemocratic regimes elsewhere in the world, too, arefishing in the waters of feelings of abandonment. In their case, their promise is to protect people from the insecurity they blame on the chaos resulting from western democracy. This, too, is a promise of belonging, in this case belonging derived from order and predictability.

Neither the illiberal nor the undemocratic promise of belonging should be attractive. But enough people think differently to have put liberal openness on the defensive. To recover its lost support, we must demonstrate how an open and liberal economic system can again — as it once did — make everyone belong. We need, in other words, a proper economics of belonging, and a set of policies to implement it.

That means addressing the sources of non-belonging... Rather than (but sometimes in addition to) more redistribution, this calls for a more active state involvement in the economy: in directing and scaling up and down aggregate demand management; in the provision of public goods and institutions to improve market functioning; and in redressing the power balance in the market.

But none of this necessarily implies a bigger state. It rather means the state should be readier to intervene to make market developments — such as the transformation of work through digitisation — work better. Where redistributive policies matter, it is less in how much they redistribute than in how the redistribution affects these other things. A universal basic income combined with smart infrastructure spending may do a better job of sustaining declining places than the common postwar structure of means-tested welfare benefits traditionally premised on full-time industrial jobs. Similarly taxation designed to penalise the concentration of market power (such as a wealth tax) or the hoarding of socially crucial goods such as housing and quality education is better than what we have now.
oh and speaking of 'influential french thinkers'!
The old man at the heart of Emmanuel Macron's youth revolution
For Mr Debray, the new French elite has risen amid unprecedented technological changes and heralds a new era: the advent of a generation of “managers” who master English business jargon and thrive in an interconnected world where heroes are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

In this world, economic theories prevail over ideologies, images over words, collaborative networks over hierarchy. In Mr Macron’s “start-up nation”, “civil society” is “clean, dynamic, prestigious” and the state is “dirty, bureaucratic and outdated”.

Behind Mr Macron’s youthful centrist revolution looms the figure of an old man, however, remarks Mr Debray: that of Paul Ricoeur. The late philosopher was almost 90 when he hired the future president, then 21, as an assistant to help him finish his last tome Memory, History, Forgetting. Ricoeur became best known for his notion of the “capable human being” and for exploring ways to reconcile opposing sides.

In an insightful recent essay, François Dosse, Ricoeur’s biographer, highlights how Ricoeur’s thinking shaped Macronism — a resonance visible in the French president’s desire to embrace the left and the right, find compromises and unlock society to allow “outsiders” to flourish too.

Mr Debray wonders if the “bad business” of politics and ideologies is bound to return and if the Macron experiment is not just a “post-politics parenthesis”. But it would be too pessimistic, he notes, to assume that “with the help of business, Ricoeur and youth, France could not invent an exception to the rule”.
posted by kliuless at 10:34 PM on March 20, 2018 [13 favorites]

An interesting counterpoint/companion piece to Gauchet's almost upbeat take on the fate of democracy, extended to a European perspective, is Yanis Varoufakis Democracy in Europe Movement, as passionately/entertainingly outlined in this recent conversation with Russell Brand.
posted by progosk at 1:27 AM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

(For good measure, a lucid critique of DiEM25.)
posted by progosk at 1:40 AM on March 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

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