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"Let’s Bet on the Ungovernable Part of the Individual, in order to Dethrone the Kings"

Interview with Roland Gori

Translated Saturday 29 September 2018, by Henry Crapo

In his latest essay, The Nakedness of Power, psychoanalyst Roland Gori explores the "imposture" of the Macron moment and proposes a reflection on the nature and origin of political power. According to the initiator of the Appeal of Appeals in 2009, power maintains its strength only through our own blindness, and it is time to shout that "the emperor is naked!".

HUMA: "We are living in a new political moment, of which Emmanuel Macron’s election is both the symptom and the instigator," you say, warning against the temptation to underestimate him, as we do when we view him in a reductive image as the "clerk for financial interests". So where does the complexity of macronism hide itself?

Roland Gori: Emmanuel Macron is an interesting character, much more complex than he seems. I am one of his most fervent opponents, but I think we must recognize his qualities in order to fight him better. First of all, it seemed interesting to me to examine the extraordinary misunderstanding of his election. In 2017, most European peoples refused the logic of austerity imposed by the various liberal democratic governments. In the United States and in Europe, these democratic or social-liberal governments have pursued the same policy, the religion of the market, that the traditional right-wing movement could produce. In France, this "dégagisme" [1] has led to a completely atypical outcome: it is the product of a system that the voters no longer wanted, yet it was chosen in the election. This was a terrible misunderstanding.

Emmanuel Macron is Tancredi in Visconti’s "The Leopard": "Everything must change so that nothing changes." His opportunism reveals the opportunism of our time. In the first year of his five-year term, the "old world", which he skilfully denounced during his campaign, found in this young republican monarch one of its most fervent defenders. But that doesn’t mean we can blame him for doing what he said. This reveals several things in France. The one that must most appeal to us is that, despite the beautiful campaign led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, it did not bring enough voters together, and the left could not impose itself as a credible alternative. On the other hand, as a "reinvention" of politics, Emmanuel Macron has led to the emergence of a new "a-political" policy. This paradox is very interesting. The President of the Republic is an oxymoron incarnate.

Photo of Roland Gori: by Albert Facelli

HUMA: We’ve been talking a lot about Emmanuel Macron’s "and at the same time". How does this formula "condense the truth of a political signature", in your own words?

Roland Gori: He has skilfully made it his political trademark. From the "neither right nor left", which was a little too reminiscent of fascism, he finally claimed the "both right and left", allowing him to transcend traditional divisions and take the best of both sides. He claims this formula as an answer to the complexity of the modern world. France, finally left to the delight of a de-complexed economism and an open humanism, could assume both efficiency and justice, concern for business and social requirements. Of course, it’s a scam. Because we see it in employment, ecology, education... there is no "at the same time".

Because Emmanuel Macron was seen in a mirage, an illusion that he would advance citizens’ ideals by making them compatible with the economy. He has brought back the old St. Simonian dream that social justice will be nothing more than the product of the benefits of the economy. This explains why he places himself under the sign of progress, with the perennial illusion inherited from the 19th century, that the efficiency of machines will bring happiness. "When people talk to me about progress, I always ask if it makes us more human, or less human," said George Orwell...

HUMA: The President of the Republic "invites citizens to exploit themselves, to sell themselves better in human capital", you write. Is this the essence of the Macronian project and its "start-up nation"?

Roland Gori: His project consists in considering that business enterprise is the matrix upon which everything must be based, in individual and in collective matters. Emmanuel Macron has an entrepreneurial theology. Outside the company’s focus of experience, there is no salvation. The individual would be reduced to a liberal, self-managed microenterprise, open to competition and competition in the market of existential enjoyment. So those that do not operate as a business do not exist. This was the meaning of his speech on "those who are nothing". In other words, you are not human if you do not produce. We are here at the heart of the neoliberal project, which Macron is carrying out in a very intelligent way because he insists he is serving the State. He fully understood that deregulation must be carried out by the structures that are usually responsible for regulation, i.e. the State and the public services.

It is for this purpose that he intends to break down, to dismantle more and more of these services, and to recompose them on the model of the commercial enterprise, as in the Post Office, in the hospital, or even the university... Even social action is affected. In the name of economic efficiency and charity, it is a question of opening up the immense domain of poverty to investors and entrepreneurs. The State has not disappeared, it has changed its function to merge and recompose itself in the entrepreneurial melting pot. This is the famous "start-up nation". Macronism is imposing a world view that makes the company "the focus of experience", in the Foucault sense of the term, advocating the subordination of all sectors to the logic of the financial markets.

HUMA: So the election of Emmanuel Macron has already pushed us into a post-democratic era... ?

Roland Gori : We are at the crossroads of a transition between decaying liberal democracies and the possibility of a new form of post-democratic totalitarianism. Democracy is being liquidated in favour of a logic of technical and financial management of the population. We are no longer talking about people, but about populations, which we will manage using predictive algorithms. Faced with this depoliticization of the world, which represents a major risk, we are losing our ability to think, to speak and to decide together. The public space is liquidated. Using an algorithmic device that controls social networks, digital power eventually shapes and fabricates opinion, while prescribing pre-formatted behaviours for us. Once the time for meetings between citizens who can debate is reduced, we allow political decisions to be outsourced. Often by the economy, which then decides, instead of politics.

HUMA: Your book is built around the idea of the nakedness of power and tells from the very first pages the famous tale of Andersen’s "The Emperor’s New Clothes". So what are these mechanisms that lead to this intimate consent by which men and women are complicit in their alienation?

Roland Gori: This tale by Andersen highlights the fact that we are victims of impostures. We live under the injunction to submit to a belief in order not to be seen as a fool or a misfit. One of the operators of the submission of citizens to a power that alienates and exploits them is conformity. A consensus that leads us to adhere to illusions that deceive us. The citizen blinds himself to an imposture that appears to benefit him, all the while making him a victim. In Andersen’s tale, it is a child who will shout out that the king is naked, because he is not yet caught up in a logic of social conformity. It is the ungovernable part of the individual. And that’s what you have to bet on. It is not only through critical reason that we can bring down the transvestitures and impostures of monarchs. The revolt is born from the infantile depths of the human being, from this unbearable feeling of injustice in the face of humiliation, flouted dignity and various injustices.

If we were able to say "the emperor is naked", we could risk fulfilling the democratic desire.

HUMA: You are also a professor emeritus of psychology.

Roland Gori: What makes us outsource, to someone else, the task of guiding ourselves? I have always been interested in power, both in my practice of psychoanalysis and in my life as a committed citizen. Beyond the corruption of individuals by the desire to serve a master in the hope of benefiting from this, it seems to me that we all tend to look toward another, toward someone who can give meaning and cause to the behaviours we may have. Moreover, even if the trend is more towards positivism, for which psychoanalysis is often criticized, and is subject to more or less legitimate attacks, the patients’ demand is still there. As for power, it is our collective beliefs and expectations that make it sacred, which it does not inherently possess.

I have therefore tried to bring a psychological and philosophical dimension to this, in the manner of Walter Benjamin, with the idea that these dimensions agitate the most material mechanisms of the economy. That is why I have always been interested in the Marxist movement, more in Gramsci or Georg Lukács, than in Leninism, which has always seemed to me to be not only a rough materialism, but also politically dangerous, since I am very critical of Taylorism in my fight against evaluation. For me, this is a way of placing workers under the supervision of a freely consented submission. For Lenin, Taylor was a benefactor of humanity, for me, he is criminal with respect to the humanism of the professions. The question of power is at the intersection of the subjective alienations that my clinical practice highlights, and also of the social alienations that ultimately push individuals to submit to interests that are not their own.

HUMA: You quote from Hannah Arendt a lot, for whom the crisis is the political moment par excellence, which opens up the possibility of inventing... or of sinking into disaster. Faced with this, the requirement of invention is essential. "Inventing is not the spectacle of an innovation," you write. It means creating the conditions for an unpredictable beginning".

Roland Gori: Faced with a totalitarianism of the market, and with the danger of the extreme right, we must find a third way. It cannot be the Macronian mirage. It will be built in the workplace, where citizens can emancipate themselves and rebuild democracy. Politics must be given back its place, where it has been replaced in favour of technical and financial rules. Politics is what is built through words, works, services and actions between humans. I am convinced that we will not succeed in creating a real alternative political paradigm if we do not carry out a social analysis of work and a psychopathological analysis of the power relations that this social analysis requires. And if we do not quit using the opponent’s language, by creating a new language capable of expressing our liberation. [2]


La Nudité du pouvoir. Comprendre le moment Macron (The Nakedness of Power: Understanding the Macron Moment), by Roland Gori, les Liens qui libèrent, ed. 208 pages, 17,50 euros.

[1"staying clear" of the problem

[2Translated with aid from the free online version of DeepL.


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