Impasse of Adam Smith

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* Book (in French): Impasse Adam Smith. By Jean-Claude Michea. Breves remarques sur l'impossibilite de depasser le capitalisme sur sa gauche. Climats, 2002.


Reading notes from Michel Bauwens, 2003:

Michea wrote the forewords to the French editions of Christopher Lasch, such as Revolt of the Elites, and shares the critique of the current left as itself a part of the capitalist and modernist project. As the 'party of progress' is is another face of the liberal-capitalist project that emerged out of the Enligthenment. The Enligthenment, argues the author, made some key metaphysical and anthropological mistakes, uch as assuming atomized individuals, only based on self-interest (the liberals), or who could make contracts (Rousseau), andthat on the basis of Reason alone, the world could be remade, from obscurantist Tradition to progressive Modernity. He points out the key importance of Marcel Mauss, who showed that communal giving was always present, and that it is precisely this central civilizational achievement that would be endangered in a totally liberal state". The author continuously refers to Orwell, particularly in Wigan Pier, on the common decency existing amongst workers. He makes an important point: community is only possible when we are forced to live in close proximity to people we may not like. Networks and internet-based affinity groups are therefore not communities at all. What the book insists on, again and again, is that capitalism is not just an objective system, but a subjective metaphysical utopia put in practice, based on a type of human which it has to invent and produce. Michea's book is therefore a very strong critique of liberalism which is inherently based on a full dehumanization.

The idea of progress holds that, despite some negative aspects, technological progress is good in itself. This idea is strongly contested, and on the contrary, some recent developments make emancipation ever so difficult: 'dans le capitalisme tel qu'il est, le temps travaille essentiellemnt contre les individus et les peuples."

Until the Dreyfus case, the socialist movement of the workers guaranteed its independence from the forces of 'progress' and was mostly concerned with the devastating human consequences of industrialization.