Was Rimbaud An Economist?
L'Horreur économique, by Viviane Forrester.
"L'Horreur Economique" has been a best-seller since its first
release in 1996 in France (350 000 ex. In France), also translated
in Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Korean ... (1). An incredible success-story for a strange book, a hostile pamphlet
that seems to be written in one go out in the spirit of anger.
Even Forrester's publishers are surprised by the sales in non-western
countries. Could its success be due to the particular mood at
the end of the millennium? "Globalization has had a consistently
bad press in Europe, associated in the public mind with economic
ills for which it is not responsible. Bookstores in London, Berlin
or Paris carry such titles as "Has globalization gone too far?"
[...] A French journalist, Viviane Forrester, entitled her book
on the subject: "L'horreur Économique". It is the age-old reflex
of shunning the unfamiliar" said Maria Livanos Cattaui (2).
Well, of course, she has not read Forrester. What is the book's
first aim? "Just" to try to decode the "pensée unique" (unique
thought) and the resolute trend to define the world only by the
One of her major arguments is the end of employment as we know
it (maybe the core of her argument was taken from Jeremy Rifkin,
The End of Work, Putman's Sons, New York, 1995). She argues that
the so called 'Crisis' is not a crisis at all, but a change of
civilisation, a change everybody economic leaders, politicians,
the whole society fails to recognize, nobody wants to see. We
prefer to continue to believe in an unchanged world view world
with "work" as its sacred axis. Society persists in humiliating
the unemployed by forcing them to look for work when, statistically,
it is proven that none will be found.
V. Forrester deconstructs ideologies and tries to dismantle propaganda
from the political and economic elites. Especially our economic
elites. Political nations, in the worldwide arena, are more and
more reduced to mere "municipalities", losing their prerogatives.
Through a new definition of its sphere of action, wide as the
world, economy is an anarchical (and virtual) free market run
by a privileged, computer-literate "caste", new fearless and merciless
What is interesting in Forrester's book is not really in this
depiction, but rather in the critique of this dominant ideology
i.e. the neo-liberal theory and practice. Even if she does not
use this term, she highlights processes of "naturalisation" of
socio- economic facts through some "effects of reality". In this
regard, Forrester can be said to popularize one of Pierre Bourdieu's
fundamental ideas, namely his notion of ideologies' "symbolic
violence" (3). "Symbolic" can be very concrete since Viviane Forrester is
not reluctant in dealing with elimination or perhaps genocide.
For the first time in History, human beings are no longer needed;
needed to sustain the profit producing machinery. (4)
Viviane Forrester, this "Nitro-Chanel" (dixit the daily newspaper
Libération), was born in 1927 in Paris. She lived through WWII,
and has related her experience of Jewess during this period (Ce
soir, après la guerre). She's a novelist, an essayist and a literary
critic for Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, la Quinzaine litteraire
(5) and a member of the Jury Femina.
by Viviane Forrester.
Fayard, 1996, 215 p.
(1) According to the publisher Fayard: 300 000 ex. in non- French-speaking
publications about 50 000 in German (Paul Zsolnay Verlag), 50
000 in Italian (Longanesi), etc., and to be released next spring
in English (Polity Press).
|2) Maria Livanos Cattaui is Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.
|(3) The last three years, Bourdieu becomes willingly engaged in
a violent critique of neo-liberalism. See for example Bourdieu
P. Contre-feux, Propos pour servir à la résistance contre l'invasion
néo-libérale, Paris, Ed. Liber Raisons d'Agir, 1998.
|(4) "Overemphasis? It is what is said "before", when it is still
time to know that one fingernail, one strand of hair, one outrage
can already constitute the beginning of the worst. And crimes
against mankind are always crimes of mankind. By it committed." (p. 201, French edition, translated by me)
Ainsi des exilés (1970, novel, Gallimard et Folio)
Le Grand Festin (1971, novel, Denoël) Virginia Woolf (1973, essay,
Le Corps entier de Marigda (1975, novel, Denoël)
Vestiges (1978, novel, Seuil)
La Violence du calme (1980, essay, Seuil et Points-Seuil)
Les Allées cavalières (1982, novel, Belfond)
Van Gogh ou l'enterrement dans le blés (1983, biography, Seuil
Le Jeu des poignards (1985, novel, Gallimard)
L'OEil de la nuit (1987, novel, Séguier)
Mains (1988, essay, Séguier)
Ce soir, après la guerre (1992, narration, Lattès et Livre de
Poche, 1997 Fayard)
L'horreur économique (1996, essay, Fayard)