Francois Xavier Bellamy: Elites Angry at People

On the occasion of the publication of his book "The Seat" (Demeure) philosopher Francois-Xavier Bellamy again gave an interview to the site Boulevard Voltaire, and described how in the Western society, striving for change and craving for roots are facing. The subject of his research is ideology, extolling movement and change, and leading a person to disorientation and loss of the meaning of life.

BV: You are publishing, at Grasset, a book called "Location." This is almost the literal, mirror contrast to the name of the movement Forward! ("Forward! ”, And then“ Republic, forward! ”Are the names of the political movement created by Emmanuel Macron; it is currently the ruling political party in France. The interviewer beats up the fact that the expression “en marche"Means both" forward! ", Precisely in the meaning of an appeal or an order, and" in motion "- approx. translate.). Is it possible to simultaneously stay in place and be in motion?

Bellamy: It seems to me that the “Forward!” Movement is an undoubted symptom of general craze, which arose long before this movement was founded. Incidentally, it is very characteristic that it is called a “movement” and not a “party”; for our whole social life, and in particular our political life, is obviously fascinated by the idea of ​​movement.

This is the case not only in politics, but also in technology, where the key word is “innovation”, and in the economy, the functioning of which is subject to the logic of circulation. The same approaches are manifested when it comes to changing the human body, about changing what it means to be human — about the most important bioethical issues we face today.

Change has become an end in itself, the movement has replaced the destination. As a result, the obsession with change has dominated our political life for several decades.

I do not call for not changing at all, but I am saying that change cannot be an end in itself. Change makes sense when it is focused on achieving something lasting, when it is correlated with something unalterable, with reference points, with tradition, with culture, with heritage. I have already touched on this topic in the book “Disinherited Inheritance” (“For déshérités").

Change makes sense when it is undertaken for the sake of something immutable. Politics, for example, cannot be aimed at moving forward simply in order to move forward. Such a movement would not make sense. The point is to move towards what is good and right. This is always the case - and that is what my book is about.

BVThese questions are not an exclusive feature of our time. You begin your book with a discussion of the controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides, and follow this topic up to our time. Is it possible to say that the controversy between these two attitudes — the striving for change and the tendency to take root, to stay in place — has always been present?

Bellamy: Yes, in the framework of Western civilization, this is an eternal dispute. One could say that the Western world appeared when the problems of change appeared. However, in our time has reached full maturity that in history is called "modern". It is in this feature of our time.

The modern era is the period that begins with the Copernican coup and the scientific revolution. This era is characterized, first of all, by enthusiasm for movement. It is also characterized by a passion for fashion, what is happening now, confidence that fashion should determine our behavior. What is fashionable is good because it is new. Of course, fashion in clothes does not matter much. However, when our entire social and intellectual life is already, when politics, philosophy, and human existence are generally determined by the need to change in order to remain relevant - then, perhaps, all this activity is completely meaningless.

The modern epoch took a long time to fully develop and demonstrate the final results of its development. But it seems to me that today, after the collapse of the great ideologies and the fall of the Berlin Wall, we continue to strive for change, without having the slightest idea of ​​what we want to achieve. At the time when Marxism dominated, there was a desire to change everything, to make a revolution, in order to arrive at a final final - a classless society. That is how the Marxists represented the end of history, the end of the vicissitudes of human existence.

As great ideologies collapsed, we, in a sense, were devoid of goals. It became obvious that all our fuss is an empty occupation, because it is no longer aimed at achieving anything that would pay off the effort spent — at reaching a place where you could live, where you could stay.

BV: We no longer believe in a brighter future, so we believed the person who called to “imagine spring” (think spring - famous quotation from election campaign Emmanuel Macron, who in turn quoted expression philosopher Alain (Emile Chartier) “to imagine spring in January” - approx. trans.).

Bellamy: In all these words there is something amazing - they are so empty and empty. All of his commands about “breakthrough” and “innovation,” the idea of ​​a national startup — which, in essence, is the opposite of what a state should be. The state (l'Etat) implies a certain static nature, the preservation of that which is. As he said, dying, Louis XIV: "I am leaving, but the state always remains." The state remains, and the continuity of the state is its strength.

On the contrary, a startup is a project that claims to have just begun. We must be able to make a choice between a world where we start all over again and a world standing on an unchanging basis; between a world that always wants to change, and a world that knows exactly what is worth saving.

We need to find those undoubted starting points that connect us with each other. Starting from them, it will be possible to return the meaning of political activity.

BV: A month has passed (Interview published December 21 - approx. translate.) since the movement of the yellow vests began. They are spoken of as representatives of the French hinterland, as victims of globalization, or as those who do not want to be "in motion", preferring to stick to the roots. They struggle to live where they live, so that they are not reduced only to numbers in the transformation plans. Can we say that the movement of yellow vests is a response to a wave that “moves forward”?

Bellamy: In any case, this is a phenomenon to which politicians must respond. This explosive reaction can sometimes seem incoherent or slurred - but in reality it manifests itself in such a way that our entire society is exhausted.

It was from these French that all the time they demanded to change, to adapt quickly. These are people "from somewhere" in the words of the English essayist and political analyst David Goodhart - those who are associated with a particular place. They feel that these “certain places” where they want to live are progressively destroyed in the course of globalization by those spontaneous processes to which they are called upon to constantly adapt.

In a certain sense, they are denied all the features to which they are attached, and which connect them with the outside world. This is one of the reasons for the crisis of representative democracy that we are experiencing.

Thanks to my family roots, I see and marvel at how violent the merger of municipalities is. Suddenly, you discover that you are a resident of a city whose name you don’t even know, and whose mayor is far away from you. People see that the familiar world is set in motion, that everything has changed around them. As a result, they feel that they are deprived of their way of life, that the very conditions of their existence have been destroyed.

Moving around the world is the image that opposes the image of a local resident, “manant”, in the sense that Olivier Rey uses the term: the one who remains in place, who is despised for this, whom the elites consider somewhat silly. We saw this during the recent debate on migration.

In this case, the so-called "migrants" also turn out to be victims - one would think that people can be "migrants"! In “Seat” I tried to explain that there are no “migrants”. There are only "immigrants" or "immigrants" - people who have lost their former residence, or who arrive in another place. Permanent relocation is not a normal condition for the existence of a single person. Not a single person, by definition or by their properties, is a migrant.

BV: In the 1980s, we were convinced that happiness is consumption; then, in the 1990's, that globalization brings happiness. Today, they are trying to convince us that happiness is migration, as if to become a migrant is practically a variant of the norm.

Bellamy: It is an attempt to act as if a person could be defined as a migrant by nature, as a creature circulating around the world. But I do not think that we are circulating creatures. Our movements in space are always directed to places that are not indifferent to us. We leave home to go somewhere else. We leave this other place to return home. So build our relationship with the world. We are not atoms circulating in a neutral and undifferentiated geometric space. From this point of view, it is obvious that the conviction that “migration is a chance” represents a certain form of violence. I quoted the name of a great material that appeared in the newspaper Le Monde a few months ago. This is absolutely unbelievable. Migration is always associated, in one form or another, with the loss of a familiar habitat. It should be distinguished from a temporary move, from study abroad, from a tourist trip. What is called migration is always a gap. People lose their familiar world, either because of violence, because of wars, or because they are attracted to themselves by alluring ways of life in our countries. This was demonstrated by recent investigations that revealed the channels through which entry takes place. What we call “receiving migrants” certainly includes breaking and violence, including through a lie in which we ourselves, alas, often take part.

I deeply regret that an agreement was signed (UN Global Migration Treaty - approx. trans.) in Marrakesh - moreover, it was signed without any discussions, without any discussion, as if everything is obvious. This treaty also offers a pacifying, but completely incorrect view of migration, as a safe, secure, orderly process. In fact, the experience of forced migration always includes violence directed against this most important human need - the need for rooting, which is being discussed.

BV: It is often said that people have mistrust and even hatred towards the elite. But little is said about how elites relate to people. What is their attitude? Misunderstanding, or malice?

How do political, philosophical and intellectual elites perceive today the French hinterland, which feels abandoned?

Bellamy: It is often said that populism expresses the anger of people against those who lead them. It seems to me that those who control us, and those who are called elites, also often feel something like anger towards people.

Speaking on ARTE, Rafael Glucksmann recently said: “I am an Parisian intellectual, and I feel closer to the intellectual, political and economic elite from Berlin or New York than to a resident of France, to a fellow citizen from schools for the lagging behind.”

He was criticized for this statement - but I, for my part, find him very touching in my sincerity. I think that part of the misfortunes that France is experiencing are connected with this. We no longer feel as one community. This was clearly seen during the last presidential election. Never before has a vote depended to such an extent on our belonging to one or another social environment.

But the task of politics is not to protect private interests, but rather to jointly make correct and fair decisions. A policy should open up the possibility not only for a clash of different perspectives, each of which can be legitimate in its own way, but also in order to unite people belonging to very different social environments, with very different ideas about what to do, focusing on future.

The confrontation that is now unfolding is not only an uprising of the people, but, in a certain way, an uprising of the elite against the people.

The very idea of ​​the "border" was deconstructed and sharply criticized; but there have never been so many boundaries and barriers. Never before has it been so difficult to move in the inner space, which, meanwhile, belongs to all of us.

“French countryside” is a very real phenomenon, a very real spatial distance. It causes the closure of small railway lines, the gradual disappearance of transport networks that are critical for moving around the country. In this context, it is necessary to recall the proposal to introduce road tolls, which was discussed very seriously, but now, fortunately, has been postponed due to the performances of yellow vests. Mrs. Hidalgo (Mayor of Paris, representative of the Socialist Party - approx. trans.) defended the introduction of these fees to provide funding for free transport within Paris.

This is a very vivid example of a phenomenon that Christopher Lash called the "elite secession."

We must achieve genuine reconciliation, which does not involve silence, but, on the contrary, the identification of differences. The success of macronism obviously relied on the idea that this movement overcomes the political dividing lines. I never believed in this illusion. Politics involves pluralism and opposition to ideas. But this confrontation of ideas is not and should not be an opposition of social groups or classes. On the contrary, such a confrontation should create an opportunity for discussion of what we want in the future and what we think is right. It is on this path, reviving the democratic discussion, we will certainly find an opportunity to overcome this social confrontation and this opposition of the elite to the national classes.

BV: Emmanuel Macron embodied precisely this hope: he interrupted the course of the struggle of elites against the people, opened the movement Republic, go ahead! for people from civil society, for new people. The ranks of politicians are seriously updated. This is what the citizens of France wanted. However, today we see that Republic, go ahead! moves in the same rut that criticized a few years ago. Nothing has changed, despite the updated frames. The old world remains the old world.

Bellamy: The idea of ​​opposing the old world to the new world is an illusion. It is necessary to proceed from the reality given in human experience. There is only one world.

Politics is needed not in order (if you apply the image you proposed) in order to replace the old world with a new world. Rather, it must be a humble care for it, the only real world, so that it keeps what makes it suitable for life and what needs to be improved. Here is the only thing that matters.

If we talk about parliamentary life, I was deeply struck by how gigantic the illusion was. The reaction force we observe is proportional to the depth of deception. People believed that Emmanuel Macron would create participatory democracy, give the floor to the French, and decentralize the decision-making process. But in reality, we have never had a president with such Jacobin, centralizing and technocratic inclinations. As officials at the local government level (Francois Xavier Bellamy - one of the deputy mayors of Versailles, representing the Republican Party - approx. trans.), we see to what extent subsidiarity has ceased to play any role in public policy. Local governments have been despised and forgotten. Of course, it is necessary to resent it not because of them, but for the sake of their voters.

The false promise of the New World caused considerable disappointment: what promised to be a unique moment of renewal and the triumph of democracy turned out to be only an improved caricature of the worst manifestations of our political system.

Centralization of the kind that we have now, gives everything to the power of a person who can cling to his decision for months, so that, in one minute, during a televised speech, he distributes billions. Everything happens randomly, and without a really functioning parliament. The Fifth Republic is going through a stage that is characterized by the complete disappearance of parliamentary life (with the exception of the Senate, which still maintains independence). The National Assembly ceased to function at all efficiently; despite the efforts of various oppositions, it obeyed discipline, more than ever caricatured[1]. They say that to establish the holding of referendums on the initiative of citizens; but it is equally important that [representative] institutions function.

We need to understand how to make our institutions truly representative again. Without representation, democracy is impossible. That is what we need. These are topics that we have to work on rethinking in order for democracy to continue to live in the future.

Original article


[1] The Russian reader cannot but notice that such passages pretty much resemble the reproaches that the Russian left-liberal opposition is addressing our president. It suddenly turned out that the favorite of liberals and globalists of the whole world, Emmanuel Macron, could be blamed for very similar things. Of course, everyone can assess this situation on their own. But the most reasonable and impartial seems to us the following conclusion: centralization, the extinction of parliamentary life, etc. - this is not the arbitrariness of Putin, Macron, or anyone else, and not the fruit of the national peculiarities of this or that country. No, this is a crisis of a democratic form of government, as such. A super-presidential power, possibly combined with certain forms of direct democracy (referendums, etc.), is a weighty and, most likely, inevitable trend of modern political life. The question is, what kind of political and ideological orientation does this super-presidential power hold (approx. Transl.)

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