Capitalism and health crisis

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The psychoanalyst and philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis distinguished during his lifetime between two ancestral projects at stake in humanity: the process of autonomy and that of rational control. Capitalism has long since disguised the former by making the enjoyment of the commodity a demonstration of the freedom of the subject. The second is similar to the implementation of a fantasy of global control of nature and man by man. All indications are that the management of the pandemic is reinforcing the « psychic processes » of capitalism. Small overview. 

Modernity exhausts the great ideals(1); disinvestment of the transcendent aspect of the existence and disenchantment of the world swell so much and more since the beginning of the health crisis. While instrumental reason was already imposing itself on our consciences, it is now taking on even greater scope. It was in the interest of economic performance that it was used to make major budget cuts in a sector — that of care — considered too costly for the health of the system. This form of reason, today highlighted by the intermediary of sanitary measures, scorns any critical thought about what it deploys. The operative functioning, which consists in scrupulously adopting a set of actions in order to achieve a desired result, is becoming more and more difficult for the well-being of all. 

Capitalism is used to mechanization and automation of workers. This system of unlimited expansion through (pseudo) rational control now invites the subject to robotize his existence even in the most private spheres of daily life. The individual self-entrepreneur of his human capital has not disappeared, despite appearances. On the contrary, it must be more active in embracing the enacted norms in a (pseudo) autonomous way. With the vaccine and the barrier gestures, everyone is summoned to behave as an architect responsible for the fight against the invisible agent. 

The postmodernity(2) is characterized by a double movement: the fall of the metanarratives likely to confer a common sense to the existence of the men and the rise of a scientific knowledge exploited at ends of effectiveness and control. How can we not perceive, here too, that the process has been greatly amplified? Science (we should say a certain conception of science) is the only official voice to the crisis and cannot be questioned. It is, moreover, instrumentalized in order to tame the virus (and at the same time the population). The commodification of the individual, already well underway by capitalist logic, is accentuated by the intermediary of numerical balance sheets and other divisions (positive case/negative case). The perverse psychological economy(3) and narcissistic(4) working in the « world before » seems to take on a new dimension: the presumed omnipotence of the being reaches an extreme stage where all subjects are perceived as agents potentially responsible for the death of others by the simple fact of breathing or hugging a loved one. The denial of otherness is not to be outdone and is expressed today behind the masks of a new humanism. Death, and as a corollary the finitude of being, is denied to such an extent that the community aspires, through highly liberticidal measures, to the eradication of a virus whose lethality rate is around 0.5%, and which takes with it individuals whose average age corresponds to the life expectancy of a Westerner (82 years). 

Capitalism is not extinct. The internal processes of the machine have become even more intense since the beginning of the crisis, in the same way that a dying beast stirs its muscles with a few jolts in order to cling to existence. Narcissistically wounded by a signifier — virus - which reminds him of his condition of being mortal and therefore of his non omnipotence, the contemporary subject refuses to abdicate. The crazy inclination to master in an absolute way the environment that surrounds him is too strong. Almost all of them, from now on, advance at a respectable distance, masked grins, to the glory of a world with asphyxiating perfumes. 

Kenny Cadinu, psychologist, editor of L’Escargot déchaîné

Alice Magos
Notes et références
  1. 1 Voir Charles Taylor, Le malaise de la modernité, Le Cerf, 2002.
  2. Voir Jean-François Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, Les éditions de Minuit, 1979.
  3. Voir Jean Pierre Lebrun, La perversion ordinaire, Denoël, 2007 et Un monde sans limite, Erès, 2011 ; Dany-Robert Dufour, La cité perverse, Denoël, 2009.
  4. Voir Anselm Jappe, La société autophage, La Découverte, 2017 ; Christopher Lasch, La culture du narcissisme, Climats, 2000.
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