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as had begun to unfold during the Paleolithic,declined and gave way to a brutish struggle forsubsistence. From then on, predation, whichdefines animal behavior, became the generatorof all economic mechanisms.
Today, more than forty years afterMay ‘68, how do you feel life and societyhave evolved?
We are witnessing the collapse of financialcapitalism. This was easily predictable. Evenamong economists, where one finds even moreidiots than in the political sphere, a number hadbeen sounding the alarm for a decade or so. Oursituation is paradoxical: never in Europe have theforces of repression been so weakened, yet neverhave the exploited masses been so passive. Still,insurrectional consciousness always sleeps withone eye open. The arrogance, incompetence,and powerlessness of the governing classes willeventually rouse it from its slumber, as will theprogression in hearts and minds of what wasmost radical about May 1968.
Your new book takes us on a trip“between mourning the world and exuber-ant life.” You revisit May ‘68. What is left ofMay ‘68? Has it all been appropriated?
Even if we are today seeing recycledideologies and old religious infirmities beingpatched up in a hurry and tossed out to feed ageneral despair, which our ruling wheelers anddealers cash in on, they cannot conceal for longthe shift in civilization revealed by May 1968.The break with patriarchal values is final. Weare moving toward the end of the exploitationof nature, of work, of trade, of predation, ofseparation from the self, of sacrifice, of guilt,of the forsaking of happiness, of the fetishizingof money, of power, of hierarchy, of contemptfor and fear of women, of the misleading ofchildren, of intellectual dominion, of military andpolice despotism, of religions, of ideologies, ofrepression and the deadly resolutions of psychictensions. This is not a fact I am describing, butan ongoing process that simply requires from usincreased vigilance, awareness, and solidaritywith life. We have to reground ourselves in orderto rebuild—on human foundations—a world thathas been ruined by the inhumanity of the cult ofthe commodity.
What do you think of the currentmoment, in 2009? Jean-Pierre Page hasjust published
Penser l’après crise
[Think-ing the After-Crisis]. For him, everythingmust be reinvented. He says that a newworld is emerging now in which the attemptto establish a US-led globalization hasbeen aborted.
The agrarian economy of the AncienRégime was a fossilized form that was shatteredby the emerging free-trade economy, from the1789 revolution on. Similarly, the stock-dabblingspeculative capitalism whose debacle we nowwitness is about to give way to a capitalismreenergized by the production of non-pollutingnatural power, the return to use value, organicfarming, a hastily patched-up public sector,and a hypocritical moralization of trade. Thefuture belongs to self-managed communitiesthat produce indispensable goods and servicesfor all (natural power, biodiversity, education,health centers, transport, metal and textileproduction . . .). The idea is to produce for us, forour own use—that is to say, no longer in order tosell them—goods that we are currently forcedto buy at market prices even though they wereconceived and manufactured by workers. It istime to break with the laws of a political rack-eteering that is designing, together with its ownbankruptcy, that of our existence.
Is this a war of a new kind, as Pageclaims? An economic Third World War?
We are at war, yes, but this is not an eco-nomic war. It is a world war against the economy.Against the economy that for thousands of yearshas been based on the exploitation of nature andman. And against a patched-up capitalism thatwill try to save its skin by investing in naturalpower and making us pay the high price for thatwhich—once the new means of production arecreated—will be free as the wind, the sun, andthe energy of plants and soil. If we do not exiteconomic reality and create a human reality in itsplace, we will once again allow market barbarismto live on.
In his book
Making Globaliza-tion Work
, Joseph Stiglitz argues for areorganization of globalization along thelines of greater justice, in order to shrinkglobal imbalances. What do you think ofglobalization? How does one get rid ofprofit as motive and pursue well-beinginstead? How does one escape from thegrowth imperative?
The moralization of profit is an illusionand a fraud. There must be a decisive breakwith an economic system that has consistentlyspread ruin and destruction while pretending,amidst constant destitution, to deliver a mosthypothetical well-being. Human relations mustsupersede and cancel out commercial rela-tions. Civil disobedience means disregardingthe decisions of a government that embezzlesfrom its citizens to support the embezzlementsof financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to thebankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug
journal #6 — may 2009 Hans Ulrich Obrist
In Conversa-tion with Raoul Vaneigem