association internationale pour une politique industrielle des technologies de l'esprit
1. In April 2005, when Ars Industrialis was founded, we asserted in our first Manifesto1 that the systematic diversion of desire toward commodities—organized by marketing through the culture industries—and the total submission of the life of the spirit to the imperative of the market economy, “leads, inevitably, to an unprecedented global economic crisis”—during which capitalism proves to be structurally “self-destructive.”
Five years later, the planetary crisis unleashed in 2007 by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage system continues to spread its calamitous consequences. If the securitisation and financial techniques diluting responsibility were the catalyst for the crisis, then it is nonetheless not only financial capitalism that has become essentially speculative, that is, toxic—because it systematically plays the short term against the long term. More generally, and more seriously, it is a crisis of the consumerist model, a model that, based since the beginning of the 20th century on the instrumentalization of desire (thought by Edward Bernays, who instrumentalized the theory of the unconscious developed by Freud, who was Bernays’ uncle), leads irresistibly to the destruction of this desire.
What is revealed by this planetary crisis, which marks the end of globalization understood as the planetarization of the consumerist model, is that the destruction of desire through its consumerist exploitation leads inevitably to the ruin of investment in all its forms—and in particular, all the forms of economic, political and social investment which ground the political economy—and there is a systemic link between the drive-based behaviour of the speculator and the equally drive-based behaviour of the consumer. Disinvestment is the massive consequence of neo-liberal short-termism, the deadly effects of which have been revealed by the crisis of the last three years.
Like the behaviour of the speculator—who is a capitalist who no longer invests—the behaviour of the consumer has become structurally drive-based. The consumer’s relation to objects of consumption is intrinsically destructive: it is founded on disposability, that is, on disinvestment. This disinvestment liberates a drive to destruction of which the consequence—insofar as it is the destruction of fidelity to the objects of desire, a fidelity which determines the reality of the investment in objects of desire—is the spread and the systemic and destructive articulation of the drive-based behaviour of consumers as well as speculators, and such that it engenders a kind of systemic stupidity or beastliness.2
2. The object of drive-based behaviour that is the object of consumption is structurally disposable and must be discarded in order to assure the continuation of the cycles typical of an economy founded on innovation, which was described by Joseph Schumpeter as “creative destruction.” The consequence has been that the globalization of the consumerist model has provoked a colossal waste that, as everyone knows, has become unsustainable.
Now, while this generalized becoming-waste pollutes the natural environment, the disposability of the object affects the subjects who dispose of these objects: they feel that they themselves are disposable. Consumerist society thus proves to have become, today, and in the eyes of everyone, toxic, not only for the physical environment, but also for mental structures and psychic apparatuses: as drive-based, it has become massively addictogenic—and this is why the French national association of stakeholders concerned with toxicology and addiction held its 2009 congress under the banner, “Addictogenic society.”3
Such is the genuine scope of this crisis, the financial aspects of which are only one element. Now, the greatest and most devastating effect of addiction is that victims of addiction no longer take care of themselves, nor of others, nor of the world around them: they become irresponsible to the point that they can no longer be counted on. Thus is established a society of carelessness [incurie]—that is, a destruction of society, which we have called a dissociation.4
It is in such a context that the question of care5 can be posed in a new and political way, not confined to the medical field or the ethical field: the question of care must go to the heart of political economy—and with it, clearly, a new cultural, educational, scientific and industrial political culture capable of taking care of the world. This is why we propose as an axiom of our reflections that—as the first meaning of the verb “economiser” says, and as at bottom each of us knows—to economize means first of all and before anything else to take care.
3. As the last five years have unfolded, Ars Industrialis has refined and added to its initial hypotheses. The principal result of this work has consisted in affirming that the industrial model founded on consumption, which appeared at the beginning of the 20th century in order to counteract the limits of the productivist model of the 19th century, and which, at the beginning of the 21st century, has taken to its limits the production of negative externalities and all kinds of toxicities (toxic assets, pollution, depletion of resources, destruction of the life of the spirit, attention deficit disorder, pathogenic behaviours of all kinds, intoxication of the body due to over-consumption, the spread of irresponsibility and incivility, corruption, the becoming-mafia of capital, etc.), this model has become obsolete, and it must give way to another industrial model.
We call this new model the economy of contribution.6 This is characterized in the first place by the multiplicity of forms of positive externalities that it engenders.7 Positive externalities are cares for oneself and for others, taken individually and collectively. This is also a matter of what, in particular since the work of Amartya Sen, are called capabilities.8
The economy of contribution—which has been developing for close to twenty years from forms which remain mostly inchoate, indeed embryonic, but which are also at times very advanced: for instance the “open source” economy, which has become the dominant model of the information industry, this industry itself dominating the totality of industry—results from a behavioural transformation induced to a large extent by the deployment of digital networks.
On the internet, it is clear to everyone that there are no longer producers on one side, and consumers on the other: digital technology opens a reticulated space of contributors, who develop and share knowledge, and who form what one calls an associated milieu—thereby taking up a concept from Gilbert Simondon.9 This sharing, which reconstitutes processes of sublimation,10 and which as such reconstructs a productive economy of desire,11 of engagement and of individual and collective responsibilities socially articulated according to new forms of sociability, opens a space for struggling against dependence, de-sublimation,12 disgust in oneself and others, and more generally, against speculative intoxication and addiction.
4. Those who observe the practices proliferating on digital networks can however not fail to be struck both by the speed with which they have developed—in particular what have come to be called “social networks”—and by the fact that hyper-consumerist and addictogenic behaviours have developed which frequently turn out to be more violent and mimetic than those springing from the culture industries characteristic of consumerist society.
We maintain that this is so principally for the following reasons:
4.1. As we affirmed in our 2005 Manifesto, digital technologies are the contemporary forms of what the Greeks of antiquity called hypomnemata, that is, mnemotechnics. Now, these mnemotechnics are also and always what Plato called pharmaka, that is, both poisons and remedies.
4.2. We propose that in the most general way: 1) all technics is “pharmacological” in the sense of being potentially harmful or beneficial; 2) lacking a definition of a “therapeutic,” or of what the Greeks called a melete or an epimeleia (discipline, solicitude, care), which presupposes a technique of the self,13 a pharmakon necessarily becomes toxic.
We propose that consequently a politics—that is, in our time necessarily also a political economy—is firstly and above all a system of care which consists in establishing ways of life (and a culture) that know how to deal with a given pharmacological (technical and mnemotechnical) state. A culture is that which cultivates a caring relation to the pharmaka which compose a human world, and which thus struggles against their always possible toxicity.14
4.3. For more than two millennia, the establishment of savoir-vivre, of the knowledge of how to live, which, in all their forms, constitute systems of care prescribing good uses of pharmaka, has been dominated by a privileged relation to writing constituting as such the pharmakon of reference—whether this was in the form of Scripture [Écritures], or as the library of the Humanities, then of Science in the Republic of Letters, or of the written press forming a public opinion. It is on the basis of this alphabetic pharmakon, and of its extension with the printing press (and with the Reformation, which fundamentally proceeded from it), that the savoir-vivre typical of the West is established—the model of which was diffused through the entire world, in particular through Jesuit Missionaries spiritually preparing the way for the global expansion of industrial markets as well as Western technology.
4.4. Consumerist society was imposed by developing and systematically exploiting the culture industries, which constitute new forms of hypomnemata (this is what was understood by Walter Benjamin, unlike his friends in the Frankfurt School). These industrial mnemotechnologies have entered into competition with the alphabetic hypomnematon, and these program industries (radio and television) have entered into competition with the program institutions (schools and universities). This has resulted in a devaluation of the tradition of thinking which was the matrix of Western savoir-vivre: that of logos and of what we continue to call reason, governed by the formal constraints of theory. Reason finds itself replaced by rationalization (in the sense of Weber, Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas).
Analogue and electronic hypomnemata, monopolized by industrial structures, inaccessible to individual practices, and massively submitted to the opposition between producers and consumers, have not given rise to a re-elaboration of forms of savoir-vivre. On the contrary, they have served their destruction, and their replacement by marketing prescriptions through the program industries, weakening the forms that emerged from the epoch of the book and its innumerable institutions structuring forms of knowledge—in particular in democratic and post-revolutionary modernity.
4.5. Digital hypomnemata appear at the end of the 20th century making it possible to surpass this situation. But like every hypomnematon, this is firstly a pharmakon: it requires the invention, institution and transmission of practices of care which are also techniques of the self and others, as recalled by Michel Foucault.15 Now, marketing, a principal function in the economy of a consumerist society, has immediately seized hold of these hypomnemata, which are also relational technologies, with an extreme power, and through which brands try to perpetuate and even intensify and increase the toxic behavioural models typical of consumerism, at the very moment when the culture industries which have been historical vectors are entering into decline—the socialization of digital technologies being thus undertaken essentially from the poisonous and drive-based side of this pharmakon.
4.6. Since the “conservative revolution” imposed throughout the world by Great Britain and the United States through Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, public power has renounced intervening in economic and industrial life, and renounced regulating the speculative tendency of capital. This means that it has totally failed to assume what is its role par excellence, namely: encouraging the development of what, in technics in general, and in mnemotechnics in particular, leads to the reinforcement of society—to make of technical becoming a social future intensifying processes of individuation by inventing forms of life, that is, of savoir-vivre—and thus to struggle against the destructive, atomising and uncivil effects which every pharmakon also and always brings with it.
4.7. This renunciation, this failure by the public power to exercise its function, leads to a situation of carelessness [incurie] at once economic and political such that, if there is no rapid change, in a context which at times borders on global panic, it will without doubt lead to political catastrophes of unknown violence, and on a planetary scale.
The stakes here are no longer the risk of a major and planetary economic crisis—which has already happened—but of a politico-militaro-ecological catastrophe the probability of which becomes each day more threatening. The public power, ideologically conditioned and weakened by the neo-liberal dogma which poses in principle that this power should be replaced by marketing, avoids its responsibilities and allows itself to be instrumentalized by economic powers coming from the 20th century, which develop consumerism, which still make enormous profits from it, and which struggle ferociously to prevent this model from changing even though it has become self-destructive—themselves thus being blindly self-destructive.
Faced with this carelessness which could become fatal, political forces must clearly take a position.
5. Today, in 2010, from out of the lessons of the crisis, but also from out of new practices which developed well before this crisis, and against that which caused this crisis, it is possible to reconstitute a political project as bearer of a new affirmation of the role of public power, namely: to make a technical becoming into a social future.
We maintain that this new politics must place at the heart of its action support for a new industrial model which is already emerging through nascent forms of the economy of contribution.
We are aware, however, that the consumerist model remains in our time and more than ever not only dominant, but strictly hegemonic. Hegemony is always achieved (it reaches its optimum) at the very moment that it encounters its own limit: it is at the moment that it is most powerful that it is also closest to collapse; it is through the excess in which it consists that it is led to its own ruin.
Nevertheless, if this collapse has already begun, we are aware that economic and political responsibility consists firstly, still today, in “keeping the wheels turning” and “filling the breadbasket,” that is, in one way or another, in making this hegemony last. But we also know, as does everyone, that this way of doing things cannot last: we know that this situation cannot last in the long term.
We accordingly propose that today, more than ever, genuine political action—not as the search for power for itself, but as the implementation of a new political and economic knowledge—consists in guaranteeing the short term in order to reach the long term which consists precisely not only in overcoming the short term, but in reversing its dominant characteristics.
Each of us are affected by this contradiction of being at the same time in some way a consumer, and a citizen conscious that the consumerist modality of consumption has become toxic—and contradictory to the most elementary obligations of citizenship. Each of us is confronted with the feeling of a new individual and collective responsibility, and with the reality that one’s own behaviour is in some way always irresponsible. Each of us—whatever our denials or blindnesses may be—has more or less become a consumer who is both dependent and miserable.
Each of us on the other hand need not only for the economy not to collapse, but to develop—and in particular, this is so for the 250 babies who, in 2010, are born every minute, that is, 350 000 every day, close to one hundred million per year.
We and our fellows are dependent on the consumerist economy even as we fight against it and suffer from it. Nevertheless, we know that it cannot last because, as an organization of an innovation founded on disposability, waste, carelessness and blindess, it is in contradiction with the future—and threatens the future of the hundred million babies born each year.
By entrusting to marketing the concrete expression of techno-economic becoming, neo-liberalism has liberated a blind power which destroys the future and dangerously demoralizes the youngest generations at the same time that it objectively threatens them. Such is the genuine stake of the crisis.
Because now each of us knows, more or less intuitively, that it has nevertheless become possible to convince the populations of industrial countries to project, through a critical path negotiated, debated, not monopolized by lobby groups and contractualized on time scales accommodating short term constraints over long term perspectives, a new industrial economy founded on care—where this is clearly not merely a matter of adapting the obsolete model to a “green” consumerism: it is a matter of inventing a new savoir-vivre. And this presupposes radically new political, economic and industrial thinking and propositions.
Industrial and collective, scientific and civic, political and economic, responsibility is to project the conditions for a passage from a system which was founded on “disapprenticeship,” that is, the destruction of savoir-faire, the destruction of savoir-vivre, and the systematic destruction of theoretical and critical knowledge itself, that is, founded on a systemic stupidity (this is what the Madoff affair signifies), to a system founded on the development [le développement et la mise en valeur] of all types of capabilities, that is, of all forms of knowledge (savoir-faire, savoir-vivre, theoretical knowledge).
Faced with the unheard of possibilities opened up by digitalisation, the whole world proclaims, through names such as the “knowledge society” or the “knowledge economy,” the advent of a new age. But the digital, which is a pharmakon, can increase generalized proletarianization as well as bring it to an end. Such is the political and economic problem around which the future of the world is being played out—in an epoch in which one digital “social network,” Facebook, has become the third largest global collection of human individuals with 500 million members as of July 2010.
6. We call proletarianization the process through which an individual or collective knowledge, being formalized through a technique, a machine, or an apparatus, can escape the individual—who thus loses this knowledge which was until then his knowledge. The first definitions of proletarianization, emerging from the analyses of Smith as well as Marx, made clear that pauperisation results in the first place from the loss of savoir-faire of workers enslaved to machines, and no longer masters of their tools (craftsmen).
In the 20th century, it was consumers who lost their savoir-vivre—replaced by apparatus, such as the television set, which kept children “occupied,” and by services, such as the television network, which kept children “occupied” through the apparatus for televisual reception, but in such a way as to create “available brain time.” This loss led to a deprivation of recognition, sociability, and finally existence, generating the suffering of the consumer become miserable.
But the intellectual workers of “cognitive capitalism,” the functions of which are increasingly confined within the parameters of information systems the principles of which they are unable to modify—frequently because they are unaware of them—are subjected as well to a proletarianization of higher cognitive functions where what is lost is that which constitutes the life of the spirit as a critical, that is, rational, authority, capable of theoretical self-formalizing and as such of being self-critical.
Alan Greenspan’s statement to the House of Representatives is in this regard eloquent: he acknowledged that he had no theoretical knowledge of the financial functioning that he was supposed to administer—while in this same period Bernard Madoff was the chairman of NASDAQ.
What caused the success of the contributive model emerging with digital networks—however limited this may be given that the old system, which still has innumerable privileges to defend, making for a merciless war, and this is especially so for that movement, at once economic, technological, juridical, political, social and cultural, emerging from free software—is that it breaks with the situation of generalized proletarianization that has been imposed by consumerism on all social actors, regardless of where they may have come from.
This rupture is not a rejection of new technical possibilities. On the contrary: it aims to socialize these possibilities, that is, to place them into the service of society, rather than at the service of a destructive “innovation” founded on disposability, and on the social regression in which it inevitably results. Instead, it is founded on a social innovation which cultivates that which, in the evolution of the science and technology that it socializes and concretises, enables taking care of the world and of its future.
That hypomnemata are, as pharmaka, remedies as well as poisons, means that in our current epoch electronic technologies, monopolized until now by the economic powers emerging from the 20th century as psychotechnologies16 at the service of behavioural control, must become nootechnologies, that is, technologies of spirit, at the service of de-proletarianization and of the reconstitution of savoir-faire, savoir-vivre and theoretical knowledge.
De-proletarianization, which is a re-conquering of responsibility, must be placed at the summit of political and economic goals to be promoted and realized in the years to come. The exemplary character of the battles waged by free software activists lies in the fact that, for the first time, workers from the industrial world are inventing a new organization of work and of the economy that makes de-proletarianization its principle and its credo.
7. This model can be generalized. It does not only concern the digital world—even if it always requires digital infrastructure17 insofar as this reconstitutes an industrial and technogeographical associated milieu.18 Implementing technologies that operate on the timescale of the speed of light as such constitutes a “light time” which must come to replace the carbon time of the 20th century (which includes the production of photovoltaic energy), the reticular structure of this infrastructure is no longer based on a centralized organization controlling a periphery and keeping in a reduced position, but rather on a grid of servers forming spaces of contribution reinventing the isonomy and autonomy which constitute the foundations of Greek citizenship, and which also participate, in our epoch, and in this new contest, in economic life.
The transmitter, the centralized power station, the central buying office, all give way to servers, to “smart grids” and to cooperative, contributive and collaborative arrangements, such as AMAP (Association pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne). With smart grids, renewable energy becomes possible, but it is also the case that there are no longer energy producers on one side, and consumers on the other: the smart grid constitutes a distributed, shared and plastic production capacity.19 But it is also the cooperative, collaborative and contributive organization of businesses and within businesses, and in the relation of businesses to those who become their contributors rather than merely their customers, which is being played out—according to cooperative models which of course remain to be defined and encouraged, but the ethics of which (in Max Weber’s sense) is that of care understood as political economy.
In this reticular society, where all manner of relational technologies proliferate, the pharmacology of technologies of spirit—such that they aim to create from digital networks new capacities for individuation, new processes of “capacitation” (to speak in terms inspired by Sen), and such that they struggle against these networks being placed into the service of a hyper-consumerism that, more than ever, remains toxic and addictive, and destructive of sociability—becomes a priority for local and territorial (i.e., regional) collectivities.
8. Relational ecology in fact constitutes the stake of what promises to be the age of a new territoriality—given that relational technologies are territorializable and localizable in all aspects, able to be accessed and introduced through local servers, but are equally geo-referenced and geo-localized through a planetary address system spreading the use of the GPS standard via intermediaries such as cars and mobile phones, and via the kind of metadata that has made “Google Earth” possible. This capacity for re-localization combines with the post-consumerism in which the economy of contribution consists in order to open an era of what must be understood as a post-globalization.
The end of consumerism is the end of globalization insofar as it has essentially consisted in short-circuiting and in the end literally dis-integrates territories. Relational and reticular technologies, however much they may be the object of a territorial, national and international political appropriation, on the contrary constitute technologies of re-territorialization. The territory is a space of positive and negative externalities that its inhabitants know—and which is an irreplaceable knowledge. The territory is as such the privileged terrain for political de-proletarianization—for struggling against the proletarianization of the citizen who has become exclusively a consumer, a fact that is systematically reinforced by political marketing which supplies us with ever more mediocre electoral products.
Post-globalization is not a territorial withdrawal: it is on the contrary the inscription of territory in a planetary reticularity through which it can be augmented with its partners at all the levels of which it is composed, from the interpersonal relation made possible by the opening up of rural regions implementing a politics of the digital age, to business which, deploying its competence locally and contributively, knows how to build a de-territorialized relational space: ecological relational space is a territory of hyper-learning—and here we also refer to the analyses of Pierre Veltz.20
9. Such a policy of digital territories must, however, be supported by a national policy, which must in particular, beyond a national policy of territories but rather with territories—and not in order to establish a competition between them, as neo-liberal dogma imposes in an irresponsible way—announce:
9.1. A scientific, technological and industrial policy favouring the coherence of the new digital technical system in the sense of a new industrial model, and resolutely breaking, but still in a reasoned and reasonable way (supportable by the short and medium term constraints of the economy), with the obsolete model.21
9.2. An education, school and university policy, which takes full advantage of the new forms of hypomnemata for a teaching not in order to proletarianize citizens still further, as certain projects for the digitalisation of school work may give a thousand reasons to fear, but rather in order to directly rearrange the knowledge accumulated through writing with the new forms of writing that are the digital hypomnemata—new forms of pharmaka and therefore of poisons, to which the “digital natives,” but also their parents and teachers, are today most of the time simply abandoned, on a market which appropriates them without limitation, for lack of any public policy.22
9.3. A fiscal policy, both national and territorial, which favours the flourishing of the productive activity of positive externalities in direct relation to a policy of work-time, of new forms of work and of the organization of work, and such that this is completely distinct from simply “employment.”23
9.4. A cultural policy which makes of culture a social investment, a fundamental element of de-proletarianization and a permanent construction site for the “capacitation” of individuals and, through them, of territories themselves—culture understood as capacitation being always also the invention of new forms of care, of techniques of the self and of the “we,” that is, of savoir-vivre.
9.5. A health policy concerning the toxicity of psychotechnologies and concerning relational ecology, confronting the question of non-drug addictions, and which must be understood from a pharmacological perspective in the sense emerging from Plato (rather than in the sense of the pharmaceutical industry): in the sense that a poison is frequently also the only cure24 inasmuch as within it is proposed a therapeutic based on care understood in a much larger sense, as culture and as education.
9.6. A new media policy, which draws consequences from the ruinous by-product of their having been put at the service of an industrial populism itself induced by the drive-based becoming of consumerism, and which restores to the print media and to the program industries, in particular insofar as digitalisation enables them to evolve in radical ways—and obliges them to do so—a functional and fundamental role in the formation of public space as struggle against carelessness [incurie], against the destruction of attention, generalized proletarianization and the liquidation of all forms of responsibility.25
10. We will go further into these themes and bind them more tightly together, as we have already begun to do through the investigations systematically undertaken over the last five years. We shall do so, at the same time, by:
Developing work groups according to the model already implemented around “techniques of the self”;
Implementing contributive technologies with our subscribers—something we have already begun to make a concrete reality thanks to the aid of the Conseil Régional d’Ile de France, and with the Lignes de temps software;
Working directly with territories (as we already do with Nantes Métropole and the Conseil Régional du Nord-Pas-de-Calais);
Developing research activities according to a model similar to that which the Frankfurt School tried to undertake at the beginning of the 20th century, first in Germany and then in the United States.
2 This systemic stupidity is produced by the phenomenon of generalized proletarianization, that is, by a general loss of knowledge (replaced by information) which affects designers and consumers as well as producers.
3 www… On addiction, cf., our Vocabulaire, p…
4 Cf., Vocabulaire, p…
5 Cf., Vocabulaire, p…
6 Cf., Vocabulaire, p…
7 Cf., Vocabulaire, p…
9 Cf., Gilbert Simondon, …, and Ars Industrialis & Bernard Stiegler, Réenchanter le Monde (Paris: Flammarion, 2006), p…, and Vocabulaire, p…
14 Cf., “L’être soigneux,” in Jean-Paul Demoule & Bernard Stiegler, L’avenir du passé. Modernité et archéologie (INRAP/La Découverte, 2008).
17 On this infrastructure, on the problems which the digital poses, in particular for the mental activity of the reader, on the passage from “carbon time” to “light time,” cf., …
19 On this subject, cf., Stiegler, De la pharmacologie. Ce qui faire que la vie vaut le coup d’être vécue (Paris: Flammarion, 2010), ch…
20 It was written in 1994 that “we must cease considering regional development as a process of redistribution, and rethink it as an ensemble of policies encouraging the creation of resources and new wealth. This seems banal, but it is a Copernican revolution.” Pierre Veltz, Du territories pour apprendre et innover (Paris: Aube, 1994), p. 5. “The economic development of regions, like development in general, passes today through the density and quality of the mesh of networks between actors” (ibid., p. 8). “This more and more open economy is also a more and more ‘relational’ economy’” (p. 9). “The first asset of regions, the decisive asset, will be their capacities for intra- and extra-regional cooperation” (p. 10).