Patrice Riemens on Wed, 19 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Cristophe Guilluy: At the periphery of progress (interview, La

And now for something more 'basic' ...

At the periphery of progress
(interview with the French geographer Cristophe Guilluy [*] in 'La 
Decroissance, sept-oct 2016)

Cristophe Guilluy: After 30 years of (neo-)liberal globalisation,
people have come to one conclusion: they see quite well that it didn't
bring them a better life, that their children face a future worse than
theirs, that public services are frittering away, that solidarity is
on the wane ... Without any need for big ideological discourses people
understand that the model simply does not work out in (their) everyday

Among the popular classes the myth of a continuous progress has
blowed out. People don't belive in it any longer. They try to cope by
countering it with models different form the 'metropolisation' one
[**]. They go for localism, sedentarisation, social bonds based on
proximity. In the peripheral territories (of France) you see more and
more people thinking about, e.g., local distribution networks, car
sharing, trips reduction, etc. That is happening from the bottom up,
and is steered not by ideology, but by pragmatism: when money has run
out at and the month has not, the need arises to set up solidarity
arrangements which remind one of the working men associations of
old. It is not a structured movement, with political transmission
channels or unions, people are really not thinking they are creating
an alternative model ... they simply live in a concrete situation. The
viewpoints are a-changing. Something is emerging from below, which is
not being theorized into being, but which works deep inside society
and which moves towards localism and solidarity. One has now to seize
that moment in order to think about different ways to organise, with
local networks. On the long term, the so-called middle categories will
be compelled to sedentarise, to do with less mobility. Neo-libs see
this as a tragedy, grounding is something that scares the shit out
of them, but in the end their hyper-concentration, metropolises and
hyper-mobility based model is a complete madness, only available to
the moneyed classes, and environmentally catastrophic to boot, not to
speak about human relationships. This model, that has been oversold by
the mainstream media, is now rejected by the majority of the people.
Actually, even a majority of (Parisian) executives are longing for
something different: They'd like to live somewhere else, in places at
the human scale.

Q: Yet, in many declining territories, local politicians still
want to copy the metropolitan model: their PR pitch speaks only of
'attractiveness' of their turf, 'innovation', they want broadband for
everyone, better roads and public transport ... Can't you say that
there is one and the same ideology of development and competition,
indifferent whether you are in the metropolitan capitals or deep in
the rural provinces?

CG: That's the big muddle with politicians. Publicly, they still
praise globalisation, hyper-mobility - yet often they don't believe in
it themselves. They know that the discourse is too much at variance
with the ground realities. And that is exactly the reason why the
popular classes don't lend any credence or authority to the elites,
and don't expect anything from them either. They just have to look
at their own lives and surroundings to see that globalisation is a

When one explains to a government minister what is happening in deep
France, they don't refute the account, but they are simply lost. They
can't even figure out how it would be possible to backtrack: the whole
technostructure is built on metropolisation and globalisation. So they
are in a constant 'keep on forging ahead' mood [***]. According to
them, the only way out is more mobility, more digitalisation ... as
if a broadband connection was enough to be a stakeholder in the world
economy, whether Manhattan or in a godforsaken provincial backwater.

But if you start questioning the prevailing neo-liberal 'happy'
globalisation model [****] and that of the 'open' society, then you're
branded luddite, uncool, retrograde believer is a 'closed' backward
society, etc. In fact, behind the smiling mask of the 'open' society
lurks the herd mentality of the new bourgeoisie, concentrated in the
metropolises, and protecting its class interests just as the old
bourgeoisie did yesterday.

Q: But how to go against the forces that widen the social and
territorial divides? Which kind of counter-measures would you suggest
to reign in metropolisation and globalisation?

CG: Change should come from below. It is not for me to give lessons to
people and territories that are very diverse. People can make things
out for themselves, thank you very much. They know best about their
social, economic, cultural realities. If you want to lessen tensions
that would be the very first thing you should look at. Yet periphery
France is being totally side-stepped by the parties of government
(sc.: whether right or left). The political class holds territories
outside the metropolises for a negligible quantity in economic terms,
and has taken its leave from the popular classes which are by now
completely disenfranchised, and express that by either not voting,
or voting for extremist parties. The majority of the people have
zero confidence in the media, in the scientific community, or in the
political parties. People simply say no.

Facing de-legitimization, the political class waxes irate and gets
ever more contemptuous of the masses. One could witness that with the
totally irrational responses to Brexit: the elites blackball those who
oppose globalisation and wish to exit the EU, accusing them of being
xenophobes, morons, illiterates, nitwits with zero understanding, etc.
etc. This violence of the elites is a sure sign that 'the France from
above' [*****] is brittle: every system under stress tends to get
tough with its opponents.

But the media and political class will not be able to go on for long
time in that direction, reality will overtake it sooner or later.
A system that no longer includes the majority does not last very
long. The economic model based on metropolisation and globalsiation,
despite the riches it creates, does not 'make society'. It cannot be

Q&D translation by Patrice Riemens
Amsterdam, October 19, 2016.



[**] Guilluy's main argument being that the neo-liberal economy is 
draining all resources towards the big cities (the 'metropolises') where 
power and money and the upper classes are concentrating/ed. The rest is 
simply abandoned to its own devices, both in terms of people and of 

[***] or in other words, back to Yanis Varoufakis' genial formula 
"Extend and Pretend" ...

[****] title of a famous book by the infamous liberal thinker Alain Minc 
("the market is the natural state of society, democracy is not")

[*****] title of CG's book this interview is about.

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