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Awaken from The Hypnosis of Capital

Posted December. 29, 2001 14:01,   


`Le Monde diplomatique` with a circulation of 1.2 million copies, a sister magazine of the world-renowned Le Monde, suggested an alternative, diagnosing last century and forecasting 21st century. This monthly international political magazine (founded in 1954) has maintained more progressive position than the moderate left-wing daily newspaper Le Monde, evoking a huge repercussion from the left-wing intellectuals in Europe and Arab world as well as France by advocating the anti-neo liberalism and anti-hegemonism.

The distinctive feature of `diplomatique` lies in that it has dealt with the impending issues of human being with the dignified critical discourse based on the leftist perspective, far from the abstract theory or academism. The topics that has been dealt with this magazine so far show a spectrum of various issues created by the modern civilization such as globalization and neo liberalism, environment and labor, education and information media, human rights and social welfare, biotechnology and information technology, etc..

This book was published with a title `Think of 21st century` as one of the diplomatique series `Mani re de Vior`. This book`s agenda is to advocate `how to overcome the `privatopia` `.

A compound word of `private` and `utopia`, privatopia is a core concept of the globalization, which is a mainstream ideology activated from the end of 20th century. Then why do the privatopia and the ideology of globalization constitute an agenda for new century? According to the authors, neo-liberalistic globalization would necessarily bring about the demolition of solidarity and publicity, exploitation of labor by market, and dilution of citizenship and decline of democracy.

One of contributors, Pierre Bourdieu maintained that neo liberalism which was established through the mathematical fiction and the huge abstraction was a kind of fantastic `ghost` and would give birth to the moral pluralism. By all-around marketization of life and the ideology of neo liberalism, the world would be controlled by `anti-culture` and `culture-destructive` hyper-bourgeoisie class, which would result in `the cultural deflation`.

The infinite expansion of market and extreme privatization creates the `McDonaldization` in the global level with the emergence of hyper-bourgeoisie class. For instance, in the MacWorld, people are transformed into `the python` (an animal in the Greece myth that converts its body into the same color and shape as things it eats) who would lose the political autonomy and would adapt themselves to new circumstances. The habitat for peoples who are tamed by the image ideology, MacWorld, is but a space where the poetic metaphor disappears, and the profit is optimized and the safety is guaranteed only inside its `Panopticon`. The market which does not guarantee the civil self-autonomy and public interest converts the society into the place of `self-consumption`, regarding human beings only as the subject and object of consumption. Denis Duclos said that under the sway of money and goods, the identity of human being collapses, and simultaneously `self-consumption` and `mammoth paranoia` take place as a symptom of post capitalist era. As a existential feature of post capitalism, `self-consumption` refers to a phenomenon that human beings are incorporated in the circulation of resource (re)utilization and then they turn into the object of consumption like other resources.

Felix Guattari said that the TV viewers who are hypnotized in front of the TV screen represent a self-portrait of modern man who lost the ability to reason and are alienated from others. The fragmented modern man should be born again with eco-philosophy (environmentalism, spiritualism and social ecology). New society which will be reconstructed on the ground of eco-philosophy is a non-hierarchical and multi-central society, an idiosyncratic and pluralistic society without micro-Fascism and Fordism, and a society with ecological responsibility and mechanic creativity.

And then what is a concrete alternative?

The representative polemic of `diplomatique`, Bernard Cassen suggests `10 commandments centering on citizens` rather than the establishment of empty theory or flamboyant rhetoric.

First of all, since the old-fashioned language and framework cannot give birth to new ways of thinking, he asserts to introduce the new concept like `human development index`, according to which the harmful elements to human being and environment would be presented as `minus` and the beneficial elements be presented as `plus`.

In order to nurture autonomous citizens who can govern by themselves and can be governed as Aristotle said, the information and education should be protected from the media power serving to market journalism and western hegemony.

And minimum wage should be guaranteed in order for individual citizen to reflect the existential meaning of life and to fulfill his/her social responsibility and role.

However, as long as the casino capitalism and the speculation of gigantic financial capital are widely prevalent and the debts of underdeveloped countries are gradually increasing, the universal civil society cannot recover its soundness. Therefore, speculative capital should be pulverized, and the multi-party trade agreement should be made on more equal terms. Cassen concludes that in order for citizens to suggest the authentic cultural program for 21st century, the stipulations related to society and environment should be newly established or be strengthened, and the public realms should be secured in the global level.

At the end of year, the essays of `diplomatique` intellectuals offer the opportunity of reflection to us who have lived under the slogan of globalization and neo liberalist ideology. In stark contrast to the hope of human race wishing for the definite farewell to `the century of violence`, the first chapter of the new millennium began with unprecedented terrorism and violence. The radicalization of Islamic world and the execution of the U.S.`s power-based hegemony since the 9.11 terrorist attacks may set the clock of human evolution back to pre-Enlightenment era.

Then can the 21st century still become an era of hope and vision? Or will the dystopian Apocalypse be represented? The impending issues of modern civilization raise the more fundamental questions and require a resolute decision of us. Sartre said that freedom is action, and Thucydides suggested to choose between effortless rest and active freedom.

Of course, `the diplomatique` is not completely free from the euro-centric thinking because it strongly reflects European left-wing intellectuals. However, it is obvious that the agenda raised by them are universal issues beyond the right/left dichotomy, and at the same time our society should be able to response to the agenda with a balanced perspective in the 21st century.

`Beyond Privatopia`

Edited by Ignacio Ramonet

Translated by Choi Yeon-Gu