An Interview with Jean-Claude Michéa

An Interview with Jean-Claude Michéa

A conversation with the French writer and intellectual profiled in our spring issue.

Jean-Claude Michéa (courtesy of Michéa)

In our Spring 2019 issue, Michael C. Behrent examined writer Jean-Claude Michéa’s body of thought and his “subterranean influence on a new generation of anti-capitalist radicals in France.” Here, he interviews Michéa about his political vision and the current situation in France. (Read Behrent’s interview with Kévin Boucaud-Victoire, a young intellectual on the Michéa-inspired left, here.)

Michael C. Behrent: Your writing shows that capitalism cannot exist without the relentless pursuit of individualism and individual desires. This includes values that, to many of us, have become second nature, such as self-realization and the critique of social norms. For this reason, you conclude that economic liberalism cannot exist without cultural liberalism. “A ‘right-wing economy,’” you write, “cannot function in a lasting way without a ‘left-wing culture.’” Is this the main lesson of your books—that the left must break with liberalism, once and for all?

Jean-Claude Michéa: It’s true, I am always stunned by the ease with which most present-day left intellectuals (those, in other words, who, since the late seventies, have gradually given up on any radical and coherent critique of the capitalist system) make what has become a ritual-like distinction between political and cultural liberalism—which they see as fully emancipatory—and economic liberalism, the financial “diversion” of which they are prepared to condemn. This is surprising not only because this way of seeing things inevitably becomes an invitation, à la Foucault, to ditch the entire intellectual framework of socialism in its original form (in the sense that Marx, for example, maintained that the capitalist system is incompatible with any “moral or natural limit” and that, far from being culturally conservative, its true motto is “Liberty, Equality, Property, Bentham”). But also because it leads, along the way, to overlooking the fact that for Adam Smith and economic liberalism’s first champions (an ideological current that, it is worth mentioning, the left intelligentsia always has trouble recognizing as the Enlightenment’s logical offspring), the progress of economic freedom and “le doux commerce” were inseparably tied to tolerance, the scientific spirit, and individual liberties.

Indeed, as Hayek recalls in The Road to Serfdom, a genuinely liberal economy cannot function coherently and efficiently—thus contributing to “freeing the individual from the ties which had bound him to the customary or prescribed ways in the pursuit of his ordinary activities”—unless “anybody [is] free to produce, sell, and buy anything that may be produced or sold at all,” without any interference by the state and community. If one takes all the implications of this “emancipatory” postulate to their logical conclusion, it becomes clear that any pretense to limiting the economic freedom of individuals in the name of some moral, religious, or philosophical “preference” (by opposing, for example, the liberalization of drug sales, the right to work on Sundays, or surrogacy) can only contradict the natural right of each person “to live as they see fit,” which constitutes the essence of political and cultural liberalism.

It is, incidentally, no accident that these two parallel and complementary versions of liberal ideology—a (left-wing) version that emphasizes law, and another (right-wing) version that emphasizes the market—start from the same metaphysical fiction: the anthropologically absurd notion of “naturally independent” individuals (fully humanized even before the existence of language and society) who “entirely own themselves,” and who, in the final instance, act only to “maximize their utility.” This is, in short, one of those “unimaginative conceits of the eighteenth-century” (the “isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin”) that Marx took pleasure in deriding as “Robinsonades.”

Behrent: To make a nod to current events, what is your take on the “yellow vest” (gilets jaunes) movement? Does it express a critique of contemporary society that is similar to that which you have formulated in your books?

Michéa: I issued a call to support the yellow vest movement from day one, at a time when the intellectual clergy—and notably its far left—still looked upon the movement with the same horrified gaze as the Eloi in The Time Machine looked upon the Morlocks! As I see it, the first merit of this plebian movement (in which women, as in all genuinely popular movements, played an absolutely decisive triggering role) is that it has obliterated the foundational myth of the new liberal left, which holds that the “people” has, once and for all, lost any political significance—except when the term applies to immigrant populations living near major globalized metropolises.

Yet it is precisely this people that is not only returning to the historical stage with a vengeance, but that has already started to achieve—thanks to its refreshing spontaneity and its obstinate practice of direct democracy (“we don’t want to elect, we want to vote!” is one of the yellow vests’ most popular slogans)—more concrete results in a matter of weeks than all the trade-union and far-left bureaucracies managed in thirty years.

This is the “peripheral” France—rural, consisting of small- and medium-sized towns and overseas territories—upon which Bernard-Henri Levy each day vomits his class hatred, despite the fact that, for over thirty years, it has been hit hard by the practical consequences of his liberal gospel, to the point that, in the poorest rural regions, living conditions are even more dramatic than in the “problem” suburbs. It comes as no surprise that this France, which comprises more than 60 percent of the population, has been completely wiped off the left intelligentsia’s radar. It is simply the logical consequence of the process that has led the modern left, since its conversion to the principles of economic and cultural liberalism, to gradually abandon its original social base in favor of the new, overeducated and hyper-mobile upper-middle classes living in globalized metropolises, who represent only 10 to 20 percent of the population and are structurally protected from liberal globalization’s problems (when they do not benefit directly from it).

It hardly needs pointing out that that it is only among these social groups, which are particularly taken with themselves and whose “progressive” conscience is simply the logical flipside of their privileged lifestyle and their systematic practice of “togetherness,” that could take root the deeply mystifying (though very comforting) idea that only the richest 1 percent constitute the dominant class!

More than anything, it is this “sociological counter-revolution” that explains why the most radical working-class movements (or, at the very least, those with the most revolutionary potential) almost always take root, in our times, outside the framework of left-wing trade unions and parties. Once the new left’s brilliant intellectual elites definitively renounced anything like a socialist critique and became hopelessly incapable of seeing those who produce the vast majority of wealth with their own hands (including Hillary Clinton’s evening gowns and Emmanuel Macron’s suits) as anything more than a sinister and repulsive “basket of deplorables” who are naturally racist, sexist, alcoholic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic, all the conditions were in place to favor, in working-class milieus, consciousness of the fact that, as capitalism enters its terminal stage (to borrow a concept from Immanuel Wallerstein), the left-right divide has lost most of its erstwhile historical significance. Consequently, it corresponds, at present, to nothing more than what Guy Debord, in 1967, called the “spectacular sham struggles of rival forms of separate power.”

It is in this largely unprecedented historical context (in which, once again, the internal contradictions of the unending process of capital accumulation—as Marx predicted in Volume Three of Capital—have become increasingly insurmountable, due to the constant decrease in the share of living labor in the modern production process) that it becomes possible to understand in all its significance the revolutionary thesis advanced by Podemos’s founders. As Pablo Iglesias, Juan Carlos Monedero, and Inigo Errejon remind us, the decisive political cleavage can no longer be, at present, the ritual opposition between the right wing and the left wing of the liberal castle. It is, to the contrary, the far sharper divide—as is always the case in class society—between the “below” (in other words, the “subalterns,” who more than anything share, as Machiavelli emphasized, the desire not “to be ruled nor oppressed by the nobles”) and the “above” (i.e., the “nobles” whose constant concern with extending their class privileges leads them inexorably “to rule and oppress the people”).

Indeed, it has become almost as difficult, at present, to find genuine supporters of the Yellow Vests among those—whether they identify with the right or the left—who earn more than €3,000 a month [a little more than $40,000 a year] (i.e., 17 percent of the French population) as it is to find resolute opponents of this movement among those (who make up 60 percent of the population) who “live” on less than €2,000 a month [about $27,000 a year]!

Very significant from this perspective is the incredible misadventure experienced by Le Monde (the most important newspaper of the French liberal left) on December 16, 2018. After making the mistake of approving for publication an empathetic report on the terribly precarious and difficult living conditions of a family of Yellow Vests, the liberal daily’s website was overcome with enraged and hateful comments from its usual left-leaning readers, who were outraged that any compassion could be summoned for these “social parasites” and “welfare beneficiaries” (assistés) who did not even have the excuse of having the right skin color.

All this justifies Upton Sinclair’s insight that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Whatever the short-term political fate of this Yellow Vest movement may be (for one must not forget that Emmanuel Macron—good left-wing Thatcherite that he is—will not hesitate for one instant to use every means possible, including the very bloodiest, to break their revolt and defend his class privileges)—it is already clear that it has raised in a spectacular fashion—in a matter of weeks—the political consciousness of those from “below” (notably on the question of the structural limits of this allegedly “representative” system that, at present, is taking on water from every direction).

Behrent: At present, liberalism (at least in its political form) seems to be threatened by the return of authoritarianism. In this context, might it not be necessary to support, at least in the short term, individuals and political forces who are in a position to protect what remains of democracy—even if they are avowed neoliberals?

Michéa: In his May 18, 1944 letter to Noel Wilmett, Orwell wrote: “I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil.” Honestly, I don’t have much to add to this analysis. Each time that a totalitarian movement really appears to be on the verge of seizing power in a liberal society and destroying all that still remains of free institutions (I leave aside the crucial question of the series of “mistakes” that had to be committed for the situation to degenerate to such a point), there is obviously no other possible solution, for a friend of the people, than to opt for the “lesser evil”—even if this means allying oneself with “self-declared neoliberals.”

That said, there is something that bothers me about your question, when formulated that way. It implies that there exists an indissoluble philosophical bond between political liberalism and democracy strictly defined—that is, “power of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Yet this thesis is debatable for at least two reasons. First, liberals—due to their visceral individualism (i.e., individuals who are “naturally independent” and “entirely own themselves”)—are often instinctively wary of the republican idea of “popular sovereignty” (or the “general will”), which they often suspect of harboring the seed of the “tyranny of the majority” or “collectivism.” This is, by the way, the primary historical raison d’être of the so-called “representative” political system that the revolutionaries of 1789 were careful to distinguish from the radical democracy of the “ancients.” The former rests on the conviction—theorized by Montesquieu—that the people are wise enough to choose those who will represent them, but not wise enough to govern themselves directly. Political liberalism would thus seem to be inseparable from the professionalization of political life (and the corresponding reign of “experts”), which almost everyone now recognizes has played a key role in the widening “democratic deficit” that characterizes liberal society.

The second reason is that it is precisely the new constraints bearing down on the process of globalized capital accumulation—the inflated role, among other factors, of credit, debt, and speculative products (everything, in a word, that Marx referred to as “fictitious capital”)—that lead more and more liberal states to see traditional democratic institutions and particularly the principle of universal suffrage as a genuine menace for the proper functioning of the market economy (on this point, one simply has to read the unbelievable testimony of the former Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis on the remarks made in private by the current leaders of the European Union). As the German critic Wolfgang Streeck notes, when the Fordist and Keynesian “fiscal state” (which, in the final instance, is based on taxes) gradually gives way to the neoliberal “debtor state” (which must constantly borrow on financial markets), it becomes immediately clear that any newly elected government, be it on the right or the left, is far more accountable to international creditors (the very ones that liberal states saved from bankruptcy in 2008) than to its own electors.

This is, moreover, one of the major reasons of the worrying trend that, for decades, has pushed most liberal governments to constantly limit universal suffrage’s scope, notably by placing the latter increasingly under the “constitutional” control of experts and judges (and even—in the case of free-trade agreements—private tribunals) appointed directly by governing elites and thus typically lacking, for this reason, any genuine popular legitimacy. In France, some leftist and far-leftist legal experts—who are ideologically very close to Macron—go so far as to claim that the “rule of law” exists when “impartial” judges, who allegedly embody “democracy’s ultimate values” more than the people themselves, are continually able to cancel or suspend “populist” decisions arising from the ballot box.

But after all, was it not Friedrich Hayek himself who, on April 12, 1981, justified, in the name of protecting democracy and individual liberty, the overthrow of the populist Salvador Allende—despite the fact that he was legally elected—by that zealous Milton Friedman disciple, the torturer Augusto Pinochet?

Behrent: Xenophobia and intolerance are on the rise. Fighting racism, in this context, seems more necessary ever. I am thinking, for instance, about the critique of “white privilege” among American progressives. For you, however, antiracism and identity politics exemplify everything that is wrong with cultural liberalism; indeed, you see them as complicit with neoliberalism. Is there not a risk that your way of thinking could delegitimize these struggles at a time when they seem particularly necessary?

Michéa: It is no doubt on the question of racism and the defense of minorities (sexual or otherwise) that the left intelligentsia has, in recent decades, spilled the most ink. In fact, I have never called for the “delegitimization” of any of these “civic” struggles (if only out of faithfulness to Marx, who, in Capital, held that “labor in white skin cannot emancipate itself where the black skin is branded”).

What we should be concerned about, however, is the incredible way in which the new left intelligentsia has rushed to instrumentalize these struggles (remember, for example, the role of Bernard-Henri Levy and the “nouveaux philosophes”) as part of its clearly stated goal of blocking once and for all any socialist critique of the new liberal order. The fact that the current generation of left-wing intellectuals was raised on the idea that Marx has been “surpassed”—how many have truly read Capital?—doesn’t help!

France, in this respect, is a good example. Everyone now knows that it was François Mitterrand himself (with the complicity of the liberal economist Jacques Attali and Jean-Louis Bianco, his primary adviser at the time) who in 1984 deliberately organized from the Elysée Palace the foundation and funding of SOS-Racisme, an officially “spontaneous” “civic” movement, immediately presented and praised as such by the media and entertainment world. Its primary mission was, in reality, to redirect factions of university and high-school students who might be destabilized by the liberal turn toward a substitute struggle that was sufficiently plausible and honorable. A substitute struggle that was “antiracist,” “antifascist,” and “civic”—and had the not insignificant advantage, in the eyes of Mitterrand and his entourage, of gently acclimatizing this youth to the new imaginary of “no border” neoliberal capitalism. It was in reference to this type of “civic” movement that Guy Debord, in one of his final letters, reflected ironically on “the current stool pigeons of the intelligentsia: they only know three inadmissible crimes, at the exclusion of all the others: racism, anti-modernism, and homophobia.”

This cynical instrumentalization of various “societal” conflicts has, in practice, proved catastrophic for the left on two counts. In intellectual terms, it is, on the one hand, self-evident that a struggle “for the equality of rights and against discrimination” will always be coopted by the system whenever every effort is made to sever them entirely from a critical analysis of the dynamics of modern capitalism (and notably Marx’s analysis—which is more illuminating than ever—of the political and cultural effects of the reign of merchandise, that “great cynical equalizer”). This is like claiming that one can explain the global ecological crisis without taking account, even for one instant, of the cult of exponential growth upon which the entire capitalist mode of production is based!

In practical terms, it did not, on the other hand, take long for the working classes to understand—since it was clearly the new left-wing bourgeoisie (notably academics, journalists, and artists) who, from the outset, took control of these new “societal” struggles—that the real progress to which the latter would eventually contribute (with the understanding that the effective emancipation of “minorities” not be confused with the integration of a few of their most ambitious members into the dominant class) would always take place on their backs and at their expense.

Nothing better illustrates this ambiguous dialectic than the election, in June 2017, of the new French National Assembly. At the time, the media unanimously and enthusiastically saluted the fact that never in the history of the French Republic had a parliament included as many women (nearly 40 percent) or “visible minorities.” That this represents, in human terms, a major step forward I would not deny for an instant. The problem is that one also has to go back to 1871 (i.e., the year that the Versaillais assembly ordered the massacre of the Paris Commune) to find a legislative assembly with such a degree of social homogeneity. The working classes, thought they constitute a broad majority of the country, are “represented” by less than 3 percent of members of parliament; and, for the first time since 1848, there is not one authentic worker.

It is not so much because they are “naturally” sexist, racist, and homophobic that those “below” typically look upon so-called “societal” conflicts with suspicion. A recent sociological study—Les classes sociales en Europe, published in 2017 by Éditions Agone—shows that “unlike upper classes, which are so eager to emphasize transnational mobility and tolerance toward others, the working classes are, in practice, far more mixed and diverse than any other social group.” It is because they experience daily the sad reality of the “dialectical unity” of cultural and economic liberalism, which the academic left still debates as a scholarly question.

This is one of the reasons why, for the past few years, I have attached such pedagogical importance to Pride, a film, which is admirable on every account, by the British director Matthew Warchus. This little masterpiece of activist filmmaking shows that the determined support that young socialist activists belonging to the London-based group “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” brought to the Welsh miners in the little village of Onllwyn in the summer of 1984 deeply altered the miners’ view of homosexuality primarily because, unlike traditional LGBT activists (who, in any case, almost always belong to the new middle classes), it never crossed their minds to see these trade-unionists as a tribe of “natives” who had to be “civilized” by moralizing sermons. On the contrary, they saw them as comrades in arms, engaged, like themselves, in the same decisive fight against the sinister neoliberal government of “Maggie the Witch.”

From this perspective, the lesson of Pride goes well beyond the struggle against homophobia. I would summarize its principle as follows. Do you really want to push back against racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and intolerance? Then consider questioning all your class prejudices against working-class milieus—beginning with those that might lead you, for example, to see them as a “basket of deplorables” (or “guys who smoke cigarettes and drive diesel cars,” if you prefer the “soft” version of Benjamin Griveaux, Macron’s spokesperson and the former right-hand man of the “socialist” Dominique Strauss-Kahn). You might be shocked to discover the extent to which those “below” can quickly prove to be at least as capable of humanity, tolerance, and critical intelligence—when one accepts to treat them at last as equals, and not as troublesome children that must be constantly brought back in line—as those who always view themselves as the best and the brightest. It remains, of course, to be seen if today’s left-wing bourgeoisie still has the moral and intellectual resources to undertake such a self-examination. Nothing is less certain.

Behrent: You criticize—or at least, you show the limits—of the idea of “value neutrality” and the place it occupies in contemporary political thought. But is some version of this idea not necessary to a good society—and, in particular, to a tolerant society, one that is open to difference?

Michéa: The problem is that it strikes me as very difficult to speak of “value neutrality” without reintroducing all the assumptions of political, economic, and cultural liberalism! Lurking behind all these constructions of liberal philosophy is the idea (born during the traumatic experience of the awful seventeenth-century wars of religion) that since human beings are naturally incapable of agreeing on a definition of the “good life” or the “salvation of the soul” (moral and cultural relativism being logically inherent in liberalism), only a complete privatization of all the moral, philosophical, and religious values that allegedly divide us—and simultaneously imply the creation of a new kind of state, which is minimal and “value neutral”—can guarantee to each individual, in a pacified political framework, the right to choose the way of life that best suits them.

On paper, such a program seems very appealing (particularly when one believes, with Marx, that “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”). The problem is that the imperative of “value neutrality” (or, if one prefers, the ideology of “the end of ideology”) always compels political and cultural liberalism to rely sooner or later on the market’s “invisible hand” to ensure a minimal common language and some social bonds, without which society could not reproduce itself in a lasting way.

Voltaire understood this perfectly when, in 1760, he wrote—good liberal that he was, opposed both to the Old Regime’s inegalitarian principles and to Rousseau’s populist republicanism—that “when it comes to money, everyone is of the same religion.” Indeed, if the only way to neutralize the dynamic of religious wars and to pacify communal life is to push beyond the public sphere, once and for all, any value that could divide us religiously, morally, or philosophically, then it is unclear how such a society could find balance elsewhere than in the “economic religion” and the mystique of “enlightened self-interest” that have, since its origin, defined the imaginary of the capitalist mode of production.

This helps us to better understand the reason why early socialists always attached special importance to the critique of this “ideology of pure liberty that equalizes everything” (as Guy Debord put it), which, they quickly understood, could only result in liberal society drowning all human values in the “icy waters of egotistical calculation” (Marx & Engels) and the “dissolution of mankind into monads, of each which one has a separate principle and a separate purpose” (Engels).

And in fact I do not see how one could still claim to be “socialist” (or “communist”) in a context in which concepts such as “common,” “common life,” and “community” lack a minimum of meaning and philosophical legitimacy. The only important political question should be to agree democratically on what, in a decent socialist society, belongs necessarily to communal life (i.e., the basis of the collectivity’s right to intervene as such on a number of fundamental questions) and what, to the contrary, belong entirely to the private lives of individuals.

It is, moreover, over this crucial question (which makes sense only if one immediately rejects the nominalist and Thatcherite postulate that “only individuals exist” and, consequently, society does not) that, since the nineteenth century, two major socialist currents have constantly confronted one another. On the one hand, an authoritarian and puritan socialism (such as Lenin’s, when he declares in State and Revolution, for instance, that “the whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory, with equality of labor and pay”), and on the other a democratic and anarchist socialism (of the kind defended by Pierre Leroux when, in 1834, he warned the French proletariat of the tendency of some members of the socialist movement “to favor, whether consciously or not, the advent of a new papacy,” in which individuals, “having become bureaucrats and only bureaucrats, would be regimented, with an official doctrine to believe and the Inquisition at their door”).

Having, for my part, infinitely more sympathy for the anarchist-leaning socialism of Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Murray Bookchin than for that of Cabet, Stalin, and Mao, it goes without saying that I completely share your desire for a society that is “tolerant” and as open as possible to difference (was it not Rosa Luxemburg who, in The Russian Revolution—in opposition to Lenin and Trotsky—said that “freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently”?). That said, I do not see what is gained at the philosophical level from retranslating into the old categories of liberal ideology everything that, since the early nineteenth century, has contributed to the wonderful originality of populist, democratic, and anarchist socialism. For while it is incontestable—as the militant revolutionary Charles Rappaport once noted—that “socialism without freedom is not socialism,” it is just as incontestable—as he promptly added—that “freedom without socialism is not freedom.” I think Orwell would have given him a round of applause!

Behrent: My impression is that many on the left (and again, I am thinking of the United States in particular) are spontaneously suspicious of ideas such as what George Orwell calls “common decency”—which is so important to you—since they see such concepts as roundabout ways of defending prejudice and intolerance. How do you react to these concerns?

Michéa: Unfortunately, I see it as a sign of the growing sway of Bernard-Henri Levy’s ideas over the new left intelligentsia! Recent, he once again did not hesitate to speak of the working classes’ “scorn for intelligence and culture” and “explosions of xenophobia and anti-Semitism” (it must be said that the Yellow Vest movement immediately threw him into the kind of furious trance into which the rich, property-owning bourgeois of 1871 fell when confronted with the Communards).

But, to the contrary, most empirical studies available on this topic massively confirm that it is indeed in working-class milieus that a sense of limits and concrete practices of mutual aid and solidarity are, to this day, the most widespread and alive. This can be easily explained. When your income is too low—which, by definition, is the case for the majority of the working class—you cannot in fact hope to confront the many ups and downs of daily life unless you can count on help from your family or solidarity from your village or neighborhood.

Having myself chosen to live—in part out of a concern for moral and philosophical coherence—in the heart of rural and “peripheral” France (where most collective infrastructure has disappeared—neoliberalism oblige—and where you also have to travel for kilometers—ten, in my case—before you run into a café or shop), I can assure you that the way most people around me act (they include a majority of peasant wine growers and small livestock farmers) corresponds far more to George Orwell’s accounts in The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia than to Hobbes, Mandeville, and Gary Becker (I would not say the same of the major metropolises, where I spent most of my life).

This will come as no surprise to readers of Marcel Mauss (I draw a lot on The Gift to tease out common decency’s anthropological basis), E. P. Thompson (I have in mind, for example, his decisive analyses of the “moral economy” of the working class and its “customs in common”), Karl Polanyi, Marshall Sahlins, and James C. Scott. And it will be even less surprising to those who have read David Graeber, who, in Debt: The First 5000 Years, does not hesitate to coin the concepts of “baseline communism” and “everyday communism” (a particularly radical version, as you can see, of Orwell’s “common decency”) to describe the “foundation of all human sociability . . . [that] makes society possible.”

So it not so much the hypothesis of a common or ordinary decency—whatever the indispensable philosophical clarifications this concept requires—that, at present, must be problematized. It is, rather, the powerful comeback that class arrogance and old elitist clichés are making on the left—including, alas, among the partisans of degrowth. They maintain, for example, that “to postulate ordinary decency is to participate in a paternalistic and fantastical vision of a people that has, in fact, never existed” (I borrow this astonishing statement from the honest “critical republican,” Pierre-Louis Poyau).

I even say the newfound taste for the ideas of Gustave Le Bon, Hippolyte Taine, and H. L. Mencken (think, for example, of the “transhumanist” rantings of the Macronian ideology Laurent Alexandre, or the extent to which the once glorious term of “populism” has, for most left intellectuals, become quasi-synonymous with “fascism”) one of the most irrefutable and most hopeless signs of the absolute moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the “modern” and “progressive” left.

At a time when the global capitalist system is about to face the most critical and turbulent decade of its history—as it confronts the growing ecological disaster and increasingly indecent social inequalities—it is finally time to close, once and for all, the historical parenthesis of the liberal left (like Stalinism before it) and, in the process, to rediscover as quickly as possible the critique of the society of the spectacle and the world of merchandise that is clearly more timely than ever.


Jean-Claude Michéa is a retired high-school philosophy teacher and farmer, and is the author of over a dozen books.

Michael C. Behrent teaches history at Appalachian State University.

Translation by Michael C. Behrent


Duggan | University of California Press Gardels