“Jo” Schumpeter to analyse French politics?

December 1, 2006

I am currently trying to write something on the difficulty France is having adapting to globalization as reflected in its current politics. Yet in the meantime, while having in mind, for example, the protests of the French youth against a bill aimed at making firing (and hiring) easier for the under-25s this spring, France’s refusal to back the EU bill on a single market in services, France’s No to the EU constitution, the presidential candidate Segolene Royal’s sentimental approach to economic policy, the following words make a lot of sense. This is Joseph Schumpeter, in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:

“The capitalist process rationalizes behaviour and ideas and by so doing chases from our minds, along with mystical belief, mystic and romantic ideas of all sorts. Thus it reshapes not only our methods of attaining our ends but also these ultimate ends themselves. “Free thinking” in the sense of materialistic monism, laicism and pragmatic acceptance of the world this side of the grave follow from this, not indeed by logical necessity, but nevertheless very naturally”.

“As regards the economic performance, it does not follow that men are “happier” or even “better off” in the industrial society of today than they were in a medieval manor or village. As regard the cultural performance, one may accept every word I have written yet hate it – its utilitarianism and wholesale destruction of Meanings incident to it (…).

(…) any pro-capitalist argument must rest on long-run considerations. In the short run, it is profits and inefficiencies that dominate the picture.

In order to identify himself with the capitalist system, the unemployed of today would have completely to forget his personal fate and the politician of today his ambition (…).

“Secular improvement that is taken for granted and coupled with individual insecurity that is acutely resented is of course the best recipe for breeding social unrest.”

“Unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.”

I’ll let you appreciate.


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