Pharmacology of the National Front

Bernard Stiegler has published another new book in French entitled ‘Pharmacologie du Front National‘, or the ‘Pharmacology of the National Front’, which came out on the 27th of March 2013. This follows on, of course, from some of the work in the Disbelief and Discredit book series but also, and perhaps more importantly, from his other, untranslated, political work, perhaps in particular the two-book series entitled Constituer l’Europe, in which Stiegler examines the effect of the destruction of psychic and collective individuation on Europe, as well as the forthcoming (in English) The Re-enchantment of the World. The National Front have arguably been a particular concern for Stiegler for some time. The essay/lecture To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us is dedicated to ‘the electors of the National Front’, of whom Steiglers says:

“…I feel close. I feel close to them because they are people who suffer and who cause me to suffer. They cause me to suffer because in the proximity of their suffering, I feel them infinitely distanced from me–and I feel infinitely far from them. I feel that this distance is our lost community. The distance is paradoxically the vanishing point for our common suffering and, as such, our proximity. What is common to us is the feeling of absolute separation. But this concerns not only our common suffering, but also the suffering that separates us. If I feel close to those people who suffer while they also make me suffer, if I suffer with them, I do not suffer only because they make me suffer. I suffer also with them from that which makes them suffer.” (taken from Acting Out, p. 38).

It is this common suffering of distance and separation that is our ‘loss of community’ that undermines the We of transindividuation, that is the communal becoming (betwixt and between the I and the We) of what it is to be ‘human’, and which is a destruction of the ways in which we come to know ourselves and our places in the world (psychic and collective individuation) through which forms of collective intelligence and society in general are performed and co-produced–such that it might become that ‘there is no such thing as society’. This stems from a dissolution of belief (in a/the future) into calculable forms of ‘trust’ (i.e. financial systems as the only arbiters of trust – such that it must always have a financial value), the narcissistic and conniving use of power by the elites, and the wilful stupidity to which we all submit as increasingly passive consumers.

Phillipe Petit,member of Ars Industrialis and co-author with Stiegler of the book of interviews ‘The Hypermaterial Economy and Pyschopower’, has recently offered an interesting introductory essay to ‘Pharmacologie du Front National‘ on the French current affairs website Mariane. Its in French unfortunately but contains some good points:

Petite suggests that Stiegler argues  that the ideology of the last few decades, of neoliberalism and neo-conservativism, has been the source of the increasing belief that there is nothing we can do against the rising stupour/stupidity, the kind of nihilism, of submitting to the base drives of selfishness and consumerism – in fact, we are led to believe that there is no alternative.

The National Front is for Stiegler, according to Petite, a prime symptom of this malady that afflicts society, for which he (Stiegler) wants to offer a form of medicine.

Stiegler argues that there is an alternative: an ‘economy of transition’, capable of surpassing consumer capitalism–which has become structurally speculative and toxic. The three points of focus for this transitional economy Stiegler identifies (according to Petite) are: the digital, the inauguration of  a new form of public authority/power, and the reconstruction of our capacities for attention.

The new book therefore is combative, it fights against the trend not to attempt to fully explain our problems or to care about them (and each other, for that matter), which has led to the creation of scapegoats, amongst the groups of those disenfranchised by the political economic mess, who become persecuted by others, who are also disenfranchised. For Stiegler, this is the polarising form of suffering to which the National Front both succumbs and meets out.

In the essay, Petite closes with the paragraph [very rough translation]:

Will his proposals allow our country to escape its demons? Stiegler has the pride or the weakness to believe so. He is consulted in the highest places, and is not reluctant to be. The sense of urgency that runs through his work is not for him an affectation, and with a genuine and youthful desire he thinks that utopia deserves the effort.

Indeed, Stiegler has argued elsewhere that if we do not combat (critique and offer alternatives to) the rampant stupidity, and toxicity, of the contemporary situation we further the loss of desire to construct an alternative, more just, more sustainable, and more caring system. As he argues, in his inimitable terminology, at the end of To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us:

If we do not enact an ecological critique of the technologies and the industries of the spirit as markets lead to a ruin comparable to that which the Soviet Union and the great capitalist countries have been able to create by exploiting territories or natural resources without any care to preserve their habitability to come–the future–then we move ineluctably toward a global social explosion, that is, toward absolute war. (in Acting Out, pp. 81-2).

The release of this new book seems to be garnering some press attention in France. I cannot imagine that it will be translated into English, given its particular focus on the French society, but it will be interesting to see how this line of argument feeds into Stiegler’s broader work.

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