Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Suggestion: Autogestion

Jim Livesey comments:

On this point... might this not be a good moment to consider dusting off all the material on autogestion to interrogate if those ideas offer some route past the impediments to movement? As you rightly point out the current situation has now ceased to be about the reform of the special pension provision and turned into a more general crisis of legitimacy. Or alternatively the efforts at reform have uncovered a latent legitimation crisis..

Thanks for the suggestion, Jim. I would take it up more readily if I thought that there might be a happy end to the autogestionnaire impulse. But I was living in France through much of l'Affaire Lipp and came to feel that too many cooks spoil the soup. And autogestion in a firm with a relatively circumscribed market is child's play compared with autogestion of an economy or even a social security system. It is, moreover, late in the day, as it was also in the case of Lipp, to propose an alternative management plan. Self-management is at bottom an expression of deep suspicion of management's motives. If one doesn't believe that the diagnosis of the problem on offer by those in charge is an honest one, it is easy to assume that a better alternative is feasible. But the workers at Lipp faced a shift in the structure of the market for their wares, and it was never in the cards that worker-managers could reverse that stark fact, any more than the management they displaced. And they were of course far more unified and organized, and had a more clearly defined common interest, than the various categories of workers, students, and functionaries whose distrust of Sarkozy is creating the crisis of legitimacy you detect.

Pierre Rosanvallon, whose intellectual odyssey began with a book on autogestion, has more recently written another called La Contre-Démocratie: La politique à l'âge de défiance. I've just translated it, and CUP will bring it out next year. Rosanvallon emphasizes the utility of distrust as a means of democratic control, but he is also at pains to stress that distrust can be carried too far, to the point of paralysis.

La défiance, distrust, seems to be the theme of the season in France. As I reported a while back, there was recently a colloquium on the subject, organized around the paper of Yann Algan and Pierre Cahuc (Rosanvallon was in evidence there as well). Today, in La Vie des idées (the Web publication of Rosanvallon's think tank, La République des idées), there's an excellent critique of Robert Putnam's use of the idea of distrust by Éloi Laurent. The strikes have laid bare the distrust that social scientists have for some time seen as gnawing away at the social bond in France. Under such conditions, I don't see how a grass-roots movement, and by all signs a minority movement, can hope at this stage to impose an alternative that it has done so little to prepare despite abundant warning that in the absence of such an alternative it would face precisely what it now faces.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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