What is the most important question that we western people should ask ourselves in this era?
Here I remain a traditional Marxist. I am fully aware of the big fiasco, what my friend Alain Badiou calls the obscure disaster, that is to say the radical failure of , lets call it, the communist experiment. But nonetheless I think the problem remains. Which problem? The Fukuyama-problem. What do I mean by this? It is easy to make fun of Fukuyama – ‘Uh that naive guy, who thought history is over’, but aren’t practically all of us, even the large majority of lefties, aren’t we all the fact of Fukuyamist? That is to say, we basically accept the idea that capitalism and democracy the way we understand it, the liberal democracy, are here to stay. So that you don’t challenge his most fundamental framework. All you can consider is how to make the system a little bit better: More tolerance, less racism, more welfare state, or whatever.
So you know In the same way, when I was young, as I remember, we were often talking about we want socialism with a human face, it is as if today we want global capitalism with a human face. So the problem for me is, is this enough or not? That is to say, the problem that we are confronting today are they of this kind that, at least in the long term, it is possible to resolve them or at least to contain them at a tolerable level within the capitalist frame, or, do we need more radical measures.
What is wrong with capitalist modernity as we experience it in, lets say, western Europe?
Again, you addressed an implication. You said, capitalist modernity, global capitalism, then you said western European. The problem for me is that capitalism today is no longer specifically Western. We can not play this leftist, multicultural where capitalism is imperialist, eurocentric and so on. Isn’t clear that today capitalism is truly global? By this i mean, it is not any longer even rooted in a certain civilization. It is a kind of neutral global machine, which can function here or there. We can have capitalism in protestant country, catholic country, buddhist country, ok, there are some problems with Islam maybe, but basically it is a global machine. So where is the problem here? On of the problems is that: ‘Till know, one of the relatively convincing arguments for capitalism was that – however in the short term it might be pushed or helped by a little bit of terror, dictatorship, as in Chile or South Korea – nonetheless in the long term it demands democracy, it cannot survive, it brings democracy. I wonder what is now going on in China, but not only in China, what we obscurely refer to as the so called Asian values. Capitalism is not something new. I think it too optimistic to think that sooner or later China will become democratic, what if China, but also Singapore and other, has truly invented something new. A capitalism which is maybe even more dynamic in the sense of mobilizing peoples productivity than our western capitalism, but which nonetheless doesn’t need western style democracy. So this already makes it problematic, and we should insist more and more that capitalism today is truly global, it is no longer something which is rooted in western society. One should give to the devil what belongs to the devil. Let me be frank, probably never in the history of humanity have comparatively such a large number of people lived in such relatively comfortable welfare, but also with the degree of freedom, as did at least the majority of Europe after second world war. So the problem is not: is this good or bad? The problem is, can it go on indefinitely. I claim, it cannot.
First, the way it is in western Europe…lets call it benevolently, like the one we spoke about really existing socialism. Or really existing capitalism, as we know it in Western Europe, where there is nothing radically bad with it, I only think, and we see this with all this pressures to dismantle the welfare state, that in the long term it cannot survive.
Considering the threats we are facing today, either industrial catastrophes, a new Chernobyl or melting of the polar ice, global warming. We will have to invent, reinvent, rehabilitate the concept of large collective actions, everybody knows this
What do you mean by large collective decisions?
I mean the following, what became totally discredited after 1990’s was the idea of that a large group, the whole state nation makes a conscious decision and defends it, the idea was that it was the first step towards totalitarian state. Every idea of a more centralized, radical systemic measure, was dismissed as […] totalitarian. I think we will have to return to it.
Can you give me an example of a necessary radical systemic decision?
It is clear that without some kind of a international legislation or measures, which will then really be imposed with appropriate punishments, it will not be possible even to confront properly the ecological effect.
Lets turn to Europe in the light of the Danish Muhammad drawings [the cartoon crises]…