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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.