Marianne: How does sociologist Zygmunt Bauman define the ‘liquid society’, which you believe is central to understanding macronism?
Erwan Barillot: The concept of the ‘liquid society’ emerged in the early 2000s, at the height of market deregulation. In France, Alain Minc has just published Happy globalization the CEO of Alcatel professes “the company without factories”, as China prepares to integrate the WTO. The governments of the “former industrialized countries” support the end of production in favor of consumption and the end of protection in favor of competition. This process, which is still ongoing, was studied by the Marxist sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, using the metaphor of a “state change”. The old structures he describes as “solid”, in the sense that they once formed the life of the citizen, the worker, the militant, the believer, the bachelor, the conscript, the father of a family, are said to be “liquid”. become. to make the “individual” (etymologically, that which is indivisible) rely on his supposed freedom of choice.
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As Bauman writes in liquid life (2005, Constitution): “A ‘liquid modern’ society is one in which the conditions in which its members act change in less time than it takes to establish the modes of action in habits and routines. † To use the Marxist term, this constant reshuffling of the modes of production makes it possible both to ward off the internal contradictions of capitalism and to optimize the capture of surplus-value at all times. This one ” mobile perpetuum (“perpetuum mobile”), to use Bauman’s expression, has consequences in almost all areas of society.
For you, Emmanuel Macron is the emanation of this phenomenon. In which?
The possibility of the “liquid” reading grid to understand Emmanuel Macron’s personality and project appeared to me as soon as he started the campaign in 2016. The plethora of images he initially assumes makes him what media sociologist Daniel J Boorstin calls “pseudo-events,” a person whose fame doesn’t come from a concrete act. Its “adaptive” action then empowers it to deny past obligations or friendships since, “In the modern liquid world, loyalty is a source of shame, not pride” according to Zygmunt Bauman. The choice of an organization in “movement” rather than in “party”, which furthermore claims the formula of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “There are no solutions in life. There are forces in motion: you have to create them and the solutions will come.”brings us to the post-ideological nature of the project, a combination of individual optimism, open rhetoric and association of opposites: the famous “at the same time”.
“It’s about individualizing the political subject, reducing the complexity of social problems to a simple matter of personal determination and energy. †
At the political level, the specter of the “blocked society” makes the instinct of combinations take precedence over the survival of aggregates: statuses are replaced by “jobs”, as we have seen again recently with the abolition of the diplomatic corps. Everything must be reduced to the character of flow, both human and financial. In the preface, Olivier Rey quotes the poet Rilke’s definition of man: “Say to the motionless earth: I am sinking. Say to the swift water: I am” and regrets the disruption of this balance between transience and permanence. He is writing : “Right now we need everything except to become liquid again. †
According to you, behind macronism hides youthfulness. However, it is one of the oldest that Emmanuel Macron achieves his best scores…
I would not say that the youth ‘hides behind macronism’, but that they show themselves in front of it. We saw it again on Sunday, on the Champ de Mars, before the victory speech: “young people” were gathered by the communicators to wave their flags in front of the cameras. All history teaches us: when a symbol is used by a power, its calling is not to tell the truth, but to fill a gap. It is true that the president described as “young and dynamic” is in fact the champion of voters aged 70 and over, who took him to the top of the first round with 41% of the vote, according to Ipsos. The ideological function of ‘youthism’ is inextricably linked with that of ‘renewal’, ‘think of spring’ and ‘the optimism of the will’, advocated by Emmanuel Macron. It is about individualizing the political subject, reducing the complexity of societal problems to a simple matter of personal determination and energy. Rastignac, necessarily always young. But Rastignac is a fictional character.
During the five-year term, the president of disruption has given way to the protective president: of Covid, of Russia or of “separatism”. Is the real Macron so liquid?
Jean-Claude Michéa has clearly pointed out this paradox of liberalism, which consists in making individuals accept a so-called natural freedom. As a good “paradoxical liberal”, Emmanuel Macron also sets himself the task of imposing “liquid society” on everyone, including those who refuse it. The idea that this model would not be the right one is unthinkable for the President of the Republic: if the French do not want to accept it, it can only be a matter of ” refractory Gauls or, at best, a “ lack of pedagogy ” for its part. This form of paternalism, ubiquitous in Macronian rhetoric, is understood as one of the variations of the ” protector president » that evokes you and it always has been. “Liquid company” and “control company” are consubstantial.
“Political power is disappearing in favor of administrative and police power. †
Zygmunt Bauman, the thinker of the one, also studied the other, following Michel Foucault, arguing that societies had never known so many tools for organization and regulation as in modern times. The business operations of Covid-19 have shown this well. To the vulnerability created by the social collapse, the supposedly liberal president responded with greater sovereignty. The same logic has prevailed against external dangers such as the crisis in Ukraine and internal dangers such as separatism. Each time, public power, previously dismantled by ‘liquid’ choices, had to find an alternative justification. Political power disappears in favor of administrative and police power.
What can we expect for this second five-year term?
Asked by a journalist from the Quotidien program about his vision of freedom in China, Emmanuel Macron replied: “In non-political matters there is real freedom. † The model of freedom propagated by “Macronism” can therefore be summarized as follows: all freedom on “non-political issues”, i.e. all economic freedom for the consumer and investor, but flexible freedom on the “political issues” that concern the citizen . During his second five-year term, the “liquid president” will continue the methodical withdrawal of this second category of freedom, “fixed”, in favor of the first, of the “liquid” type, with an obsession: prevent, if necessary with violence, the intrusion of politics into the “free” circulation of flows.