Mr Valls vacuous thinking

 

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, is taking on philosophy. He does it in his own way, which is limited and summary, as General de Gaulle would have said. A way he used against the rebels in his own party (and who did not deserve such honor). The way he uses to dispose of any debate which aggravates him. M. Valls now happens to attack Michel Onfray. What is he holding against him? Better let the victim speak [1]:

« As far as Valls is concerned, he hasn’t even taken the time to read my interview with Le Point on the basis of which he is wildly fantasizing. What did I say there? The following question had been asked: «Who are the intellectuals on the right with whom you are feeling closest?». Here is my answer: «I do not feel close to Bernard-Henri Levy, or Alain Minc, or Jacques Attali who, I am told, are of the left. Should I, because of that, feel close to intellectuals of the right? And anyway, who are they? You may conclude, if you like, that I prefer an accurate analysis by Alain de Besnoit to an inaccurate analysis by Minc, Attali or BHL and that I would prefer an analysis by BHL seeming to me accurate to one by Alain de Benoist seeming to me inaccurate … The Papuans will scream! But they will not bring me to say that I prefer an inaccurate analysis by BHL under the pretext that he is of the left and that Pierre Bergé, Libération, Le Monde and le Nouvel Observateur, excuse-me, L’Obs also state that he is should be…». So the Papuans screamed, all the way to Matignon» (the Prime Minister’s residence.)

Up to a point, one could leave it at this and the Prime Minister to his shame. But it is not the first time that an eminent member of the « S »P is behaving in this way. About a year ago, Pierre Moscovici has slobbered that way all over me. And this method is showing itself a little bit more each day in the posture taken by the Prime Minister who wants to appear as a rampart against the far-right. Doubts have been expressed about this strategy, but I can reassure him right away: Oh yes, it’s working, indeed, but in the purveyor way!

On the confusion of the genres.

In fact, Manuel Valls reproaches Michel Onfray for his work as an intellectual which implies rigor and honesty, two words which do not figure in BHL’s and some others’ vocabulary. He accuses him of losing his bearings. This, coming from a man who has consistently muddled his own, who declares that he “loves enterprise,” without making clear which one, or even establishing a difference between enterprisers and enterprise, who spreads out in bright daylight his cognitive deficiencies and his discursive sufficiency – it’s worth a laugh!

But we are living through a period of confusion of the genres. A candidate to the Presidency of the Republic can thus declare in public that « his enemy is finance » and, once elected, renounce any measures which would limit the power of his enemy, name as his ministers men who are infeoffed to this enemy, in one word do the exact opposite of what he had said that he would do. So that the example comes from on high. And that, of course, in a world in which a minister of the “left” can indulge in revoking key measures of social protection, where a Prime Minister can decide to bring this law through Parliament using forceps (article 49, alinea 3), one may well judge that points of reference no longer exist. For electoral disasters are looming and, whatever one may say, the voters are not stupid. If they are turning away from the so-called “socialists,” who have done everything for this to happen, and without throwing themselves into the arms of the right of which they have already tasted the bad recipes, it’s not without reasons.

The only point on which I disagree with Michel Onfray is when he compares the microcosm of politics and the media to the Papuans. This is very unjust to the latter. The lamentable gullibility of politicians in distress, the knock-out pretentiousness of the media servants, all this would not get you far in the forests of New Guinea.

There’s something rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark[2]

It remains that this affair is revealing of both a deleterious climate and deleterious practices. How come a politician can order an intellectual to speak or to shut up ? By what right does a politician allow himself to pass judgement in such a roundabout way about the work of an intellectual? I can well hear the objections which will be made: the intellectual is not working in an ivory tower; his positions influence the political debate and this justifies such an intervention. This is true, but it would only be pertinent if Michel Onfray had positioned himself on the political terrain. But that is not the case. So that one can approve or not of his positions and in any way, his positions will be a matter of debate. But for this at least one will have to stand at the level at which he himself has taken stand, the level of ideas. This has not been done by Manuel Valls, who placed himself deliberately on the terrain of the most instrumental political interpretation and who knowingly distorted the thoughts of Michel Onfray.

But this in itself is revealing of a conception of debate, or more precisely of non-debate, which characterizes a large part of the French political elite. One seeks to impress rather than to convince, to terrorise rather than to exchange arguments. The time is no longer for discussing rational positions, but for exchanging anathema and invectives. This tells us a lot about the processes of the decomposition of thought which have produced a Manuel Valls, just as they have produced a BHL before him. When those who inspire us are looking for their sources in the trashcans of the Internet, as we have seen in the Botul affair[3], we must no longer be surprised that “anything goes,” and not only in the field of intellectual debate.

Finally, the treatment of Michel Onfray by Manuel Valls reveals how little case is made at present in France of reflective thinking. I repeat, one can very well discuss Onfray’s theses, just as any other author’s. But to attack him on grounds of his references is of a bottomless stupidity. In this regard, we should not be reading much anymore, and in particular we would have to burn at the stake the books of authors like Carl Schmidt and many others. Being able to construct oneself against an author, implies also that one be able to integrate part of his thinking. One can build oneself up against, only by way of building oneself with. And this is why one must read authors which one may consider to be reactionaries, and why saying that one finds some ideas interesting is by no means tantamount to a wholesale approval of the discourse and the approach. But I also know that pointing this out won’t help. People like Valls and Moscovici, and the little curly-whigged marquis who surround them, have no sweat with the processes of building a reasoning or a thought. They are far beneath it. The expression « one-track thinking” has an enormous flaw : in « one-track thought, » there is still the word “thought.” Obviously, for Manuel Valls, this is still too much.

[1] « Nouvelle droite, BHL, FN : la réponse de Michel Onfray à Manuel Valls » in FigaroVox, March 8 2015, http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/2015/03/08/31001-20150308ARTFIG00094-la-reponse-de-michel-onfray-a-manuel-valls.php#

[2]Something is rotten in the State of Denmark“, W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Marcellus, act I, scene 4

[3] Lancelin A., « BHL en flagrant délire : l’affaire Botul », le Nouvel Observateur, 21 February 2010, http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/essais/20100208.BIB4886/bhl-en-flagrant-delire-l-039-affaire-botul.html

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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