The occasion of this commentary, published in October and translated here for the first time from a blog called "Lait d'Beu" maintained by Katherine Thevenin Wilson on the web site of Le Monde (Paris), was the publication of a book attacking globalization by Lionel Jospin, France's former prime minister, entitled Le Monde comme je le vois ('The World As I See It'). -- Wilson finds it amusing that it took Jospin so long to discover the evils of globalization, and that the terms of Jospin's critique, "too far to the left" (according to Le Monde columnist Eric Le Boucher), appear in pro-globalization expositions like the one written by Robert Reich in the early 1990s....
[Translated from blog.lemonde.fr -- NOTE: All ellipses appear in the original.]
JOSPIN DISCOVERS GLOBALIZATION
By Katherine Thevenin Wilson
October 31, 2005
In his most recent column (i>Le Monde, Oct. 30-31, 2005), Eric Le Boucher discusses the book recently issued by Jospin, Le Monde comme je le vois ('The World As I See It'), and . . . particularly the discovery he seems to make there of a "new dominant class," a globalized aristocracy.
I don't know whom to 'execute' first . . . Jospin or Le Boucher?
On Jospin, let us say that it is rather laughable that only now does he discover a phenomenon that many thinkers well-known to the public (and therefore a fortiori to Matignon when he was prime minister) have been discussing for quite a few years now. I seem to remember a very interesting article by Denis Duclos published long ago in Le Monde diplomatique (August 1998), "Naissance d'une hyperbourgeoisie" ('Birth of a Hyperbourgeoisie'), while elsewhere, in a supplement of Le Monde (Questions au XXIème siècle ['Questions for the 21st Century']) Norman Spinrad spoke (like Jacques Attali) of a hyperclass, an elite plugged into the internet that would dominate the world . . . When he was prime minister, Jospin never denounced globalization; he attacked, rather, the altermondialiste left [i.e. the global social justice movement. --Trans.] . . . with whose doctrines he was so unfamiliar that it sort of makes me laugh to learn (Le Monde, ?) that he was looking for a specialist in altermondialisme.
Does Jospin denounce the fact that "the new caste wishes to be international, even transnational," and that it "weds, on the contrary, the universe to the ideology of capitalist globalization, for it finds in this the justification of its existence as well as of its demands," "its scandalous behavior and privileges"?
Eric Le Boucher slams away at him . . . Polemic. populism, use of words (aristocracy, caste) too far to the left.
But Norman Spinrad was quoting the book by Robert Reich (L'Economie globalisée ['The Globalized Economy', the title given to the 1997 French edition of The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism (Simon & Schuster, 1991). --Trans.]), who, asking whether "the cosmopolitan individual who has a global perspective will choose to act with fairness and compassion," answers forcefully in the negative: "No feeling of responsibility with respect to a particular nation and its citizens" . . . Similarly Finkielkraut, announcing the emergence of "a completely deracinated territory-less elite," dangerously disconnected from the rest of humanity.
Eric Le Boucher does not say that Jospin is completely wrong, but he never loses sight of what he calls "economic rationality" (which he is careful not to define, which seems to us a way of acknowledging that it is basically irrational!).
Let us cull a few pearls of this frenzied humanism: "The gifted are in demand, the others are abandoned" (to the local clay) . . .
"We are witnessing the great victory of meritocracy over egalitarianism." To enunciate such a piece of idiocy, an extremely short memory is required: You have to forget the millions ripped off by the directors of Enron and a kyrielle of robber barons (Parmalat is closer to is than California), all the CEOs kicked out (but with lots of resounding and staggering compensation packages) as thanks for poor results. . . . But we, no doubt, must yield: "It is one of modern capitalism's distinctive characteristics that the winners take all" . . . (but since they can be replaced immediately, they are all the more predatory!).
According to Le Boucher we cannot speak of an "aristocracy" since neither intelligence nor gifts are transmitted to children . . . but, he acknowledges, and this would be a first (?), "the power of money is beginning to create a dynastic effect" . . . and, finally, that "selection by money is beginning to replace -- in the United States -- selection by talent" . . . It is enough to return to the study of History to recognize that the dynastic transmission of aristocratic privileges was not at all founded on merit or talent, and that, closer to our own day, most great fortunes were accumulated over several generations, self-made men figuring as exceptions.
This much "hyper-abysmal ignorance," this much forgetfulness of history, would be hard to understand, if, happily, Denis Duclos did not inform us of one of the consequences of "the creation of the neoliberal universe": first, belonging to the hyperbourgeoisie implies "abandoning early on Goethe, Molière, or No drama for the rudiments of a globalized culture" (this is all the easier when one never knew the classical culture) and that it is a matter "of a real cultural deflation, corresponding to the simplification of the values of the play of money, freed from obligations to civil society," and that we are witnessing a sort of historical revisionism whose only mission would be to "banish the nation as a pertinent historical subject."
But the neoliberalism of Eric Le Boucher resists all attacks. Since the globalized elite is railing against the political class and its resistance to change, we must reestablish a useful State (useful to whom?) and universities should keep the "best kids" . . . (most of whom will become the superflunkeys of the new masters of the world).
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/