Bulletin N° 692




 Subject:  Natural Selection and the Survival of the Fittest, at any cost….


2 April 2016
Grenoble, France



Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,


Thomas Hobbes is generally revered by conservative intellectual forces of order in France today. The 17th century philosopher was much influenced by the horrors of the early stages of the Puritan Revolution, which culminated with the execution of King Charles I on January 30, 1649. Hobbes penned his most influential book, Leviathan, at the age of 64, the usual age of retirement for university professors in contemporary France; and like Machiavelli’s book, The Prince (ca.1515), Hobbes’ opus, which first saw the light of day in 1651, was an appeal for a strong ruler whose task it must be to unite an unimaginably chaotic society through the constant threat of violence. Popular acquiescence, by means of a social contract in support of a monopoly of coercive force in the hands of an absolute sovereign, was the sole guarantee for law & order in a society of “all against all”.


European neo-liberalism, has sought its political roots in a discourse written more than a century before Adam Smith (1723-1790), and nearly half a century before John Locke (1632-1704), thus displacing the 18th century  liberal philosophy of possessive individualism with a late medieval version of popular consensus, as an equally corporative alternative for the earlier doctrine of divine right of rulers.


The state apparatus exists to crush dissent in any form, in order to prevent the emergence of chaos. The obedient individual is the good member of society, and the shock and awe of the state monopoly of violence assures popular cooperation and harmony in society. The fallacy of this argument is, of course, that the control over individuals by an omnipotent state apparatus presupposes the existence of individuals as a social reality. It is much the same error as thinking that the index finger is the essential item to be dealt with in violent gun-related crimes. The finger --without considering the hand to which it belongs, not to mention the rest of the body and the environmental/social conditions that affect that body, as a member of a larger society-- is a ridiculous abstraction and a purely ideological construct. Perhaps a manicurist is justified in making such an abstraction, but certainly not a social scientist. Some of the most mean spirited ideologues, on both the left and the right, are produced by such alienated modes of thought. The Vietnam War is a case in point, when President Johnson is said to have proclaimed: “Grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” He was just one of many political leaders who failed to perceive the social class interests which he represented and the conflicts his allegiance would inevitably entail. 


In contrast to both individualist and the corporatist ideological constructions, a social class mode of thinking takes on a necessarily revolutionary dimension. One good example of this is found in the introduction of Jeff Faux’s book, The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future and What It Will Take to Win It Back (2006), in which he describes his discovery of “the elephant standing in the living room.”


   The seed of this book was planted in a conversation I had with a corporate lobbyist in the main corridor of the U.S. Capitol in 1993. She was exasperated that I couldn’t see the virtues of the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which her company was promoting.

   “Don’t you understand?” she finally said. “We have to help Salinas. He’s been to Harvard. He’s one of us.”

   “Salinas” was Carlos Salinas de Gortari, then president of Mexico.

   The reference to “us” seemed odd. She and I were not in the same political party, and a one-year fellowship at the Kennedy Institute of Politics barely qualified me as a “Harvard man.” She, as it turned out, hadn’t gone there at all. It took me a little while to understand her point: we internationally mobile professionals had a shared self-interest in freeing transnational corporations from the constraints imposed by governments on behalf of people who were, well, “not really like us.” Despite the considerable political and social distance between Carlos Salinas and me, she was appealing to class solidarity.

   At that moment, I realized that globalization was producing not just a borderless market, but a borderless class system to go with it.

   Once the point was made it seemed obvious. Markets within nations inevitably produce groups of people who have more money and power than others. So, it would be odd if global markets were not creating an international upper class of people whose economic interests have more in common with each other than with the majority of people who share their nationality.

   In the years since that conversation, I have found that the morphing of national elites into a global governing class explained the politics of the new global economy better than the standard  interpretations offered by the media punditry. Certainly, the bipartisan embrace of NAFTA by American elites could be adequately understood in no other way: not in the familiar drama of Republicans versus Democrats, nor in the traditional trade politics of industry rivalry, nor imperialism or the pursuit of some clear notion of the national interests –and certainly not in the simple-minded mantra of ‘free trade’ that saturated the newsprint and airwaves. As Jorge Castañeda, who later became Mexico’s foreign secretary observes, NAFTA was ‘an accord among magnates and potentates: an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies.’(pp.1-2)


In Chapter one he proceeds to describe how Bill Clinton deceived voters into electing him President in 1992, much like Ronald Reagan had done in 1980, only to systematically violate his campaign promises and satisfy the corporate interests that had been unsuccessfully pursued by his Republican predecessor, George Bush. Another bipartisan deal was cut to satisfy corporate interests to the detriment of working people and more . . . .



The 9 items below should serve as a reminder of the class war that we have inherited and which has engaged all of us in a combat not of our choosing. The strategies, tactics and logistics of this war are inescapable and to think otherwise is to engage in self-deception, the depth of which leaves us in a vulnerable position like the proverbial ostrich who thinks himself protected from impending catastrophe. 



Francis Feeley

Professor of American Studies

University of Grenoble-3

Director of Research

University of Paris-Nanterre

Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements

The University of California-San Diego





Oublier la loi travail...






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