Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Intellectuals and Others

I am an intellectual by trade and predilection, but there are days when I think the chattering classes should be gagged, for a few hours at any rate, and the floor turned over to people who don't make their living trading on opinions. I didn't bother reporting yesterday on Libération's feature on the "crisis of democracy," because I found the comments of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek on "formal democracy," popular violence, and the dictatorship of the proletariat just too depressing to bother with. We have passed this way before, and if certain of my confrères want to palliate the woes of middle age by retailing creaky revolutionary romances to the young, I haven't the energy to stop them. Marcel Gauchet apparently thinks this is a fight worth fighting, but his arms are purely theoretical. If he were more of an Anglo-Saxon empiricist, he might prefer to turn to the often interesting blog "Jours tranquilles à Clichy-sous-Bois." In the latest post, by David Da Silva, recounting an awful but not extraordinary week in les banlieues, one finds an excellent demonstration of the realities of the "popular violence" that Slavoj Zizek "recommends ... so that disadvantaged classes may make themselves heard" and a fine illustration of the emptiness of the "communist hypothesis" proposed by Badiou. I recommend that Badiou, Zizek, and Gauchet all read Da Silva. If they did, their well-oiled intellectual machinery might be less likely to tourner à vide.


Anonymous said...

Reponse du berger a la bergere:

I am not sure that the best angle to understand french politics is the one from the anglo-saxon empiricists ( which, anyway, belongs to a period slightly different from ours).
What I gather from your post is that you have no interest in engaging into an in-depth debate about the philosophical (and therefore political) ideas at the heart of contemporean french politics.
You're more interested in symptoms, daily realities, and that's the root of your sympathy with our president, and indeed symptoms can be treated, with an expense of mediatic tricks and other pseudo-intellectual inventions Sarkozy is skilled in. This approach, however, leaves no room for rational honest debate (as Claude Lanzman's shown pretty clearly in his recent article in Le Monde about one of the latest whim of Sarkozy, the now famous Shoah's problematic, curious that Lanzman didn't wait for Sarko to suggest him his movie, or for the movie to be shown in schools, could it be that this Shoah's thing is not the taboo Sarko'n'co would have us to believe?? ).

That being given, I will now abstain to reply to your views, and I ought to apologize to have bothered you in such a way. To my discharge, I genuinely thought, until this post, that you were looking for a meaningful in-depth debate with no restriction as to whether it would involve philosophical or applied political concepts (I didn't see the restriction to the latest category). My mistake. Point taken.

All the best though.

Unknown said...

Well, I did try to indicate that my exasperation with "genuine intellectual debate" might be construed as a momentary aberration, but since in lieu of engagement you offer only a sarcastic adieu, I will have to reconcile myself to having lost a reader.