Thursday, February 14, 2008

Boltanski on the State and Capitalism

Luc Boltanski chats at length about the relation between the media, the state, intellectuals, and civil society. He sees Sarkozy's communications strategy as the culmination of a long process, beginning with Giscard (but why not de Gaulle? why not the Third Republic after Sedan?), whereby conservatism transformed itself into a proponent of something called "modernity," conceived as an independent force acting on society from without and which conservatives were exhorted not to resist or adapt to but actively abet and desire. He also has some interesting remarks on the institutional evolution that led from the Conseil National Économique to the Conseil Économique et Social to the Conseil d'Analyse Économique (created by Jospin). Whereas the former two councils contained representatives of civil society, the latter is composed exclusively of economists who envision themselves, says Boltanski, not as governors but as pedagogues whose mission is to educate not only or even primarily those who govern but rather those who convey the exigencies of modernity to the broader public: journalists--and perhaps, modernité oblige, bloggers as well.

Underlying this intuition, I believe, is the notion that, as Boltanski puts it, there is no capitalism without the state, that the idea that "neo-liberalism" and "the state" are opposed is a foolish one, and that capitalism is rather in need of a constantly shifting array of institutions to redefine the essential mission of the state in keeping with its own functional requirements. Vaste programme, aurait dit de Gaulle.

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