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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Petit manuel décalé d’anti-économisme

by Jean Gadrey, economist

Small Unconventional Handbook of Anti-Economics

Translated Friday 13 April 2007, by David Lundy


Marrying Keynes and Freud, Bernard Maris develops an original and desperate analysis of the influence of capitalism on society.

Antimanuel d’économie, volume 2 (les cigales), by Bernard Maris, Éditions Bréal, 2006 €21.

In volume 1 of this "anti-manual", which appeared in 2003, Bernard Maris, a culturally refined and unorthodox economist, and Charlie Hebdo ("Uncle Bernard") chronicler to boot, broke down the ductile "laws" of economics: laws of supply, demand, of "pure and perfect" competition, etc. He showed that the economy is not an automatic system imposing its needs on man but that it is a human construct characterised by power play and by political domination, imitative behaviour etc.

But the visible face of standard economics remained.

It is against these hidden or unconscious aspects of these practices that Bernard Maris launches his attack in this remarkably illustrated second volume. For example, economic wealth production largely depends on other non commercial or voluntary "wealth": free research and creation for individual or collective pleasure, cooperation, and donations.

But also the more intimate urges and impulses revealed by psychoanalysis, already observed by Keynes, play a major role in this book, alongside Freud.

That gives an original and atypical analysis of the emergence and success of capitalism, and rather gloomy reflections on the direction of an evolution where "humanity lives longer, at least in the west, but at the cost of an impoverishment of life: homogenisation of place, standardisation of the planet, "slumification" of the world and the disappearance of natural beauty".

Rising GDP, elusive happiness.

One will not be able to follow Bernard Maris in all his arguments about the Freudian theory of money, of interest rates as the price of anxiety, or his research on "more-more-more" as a symptom of a dearth of desire, but it is still devilishly stimulating and acerbic.

More than an anti-manual of economics, this is a handbook on anti-economism.

Despairing enough nevertheless, with few prospects for salvation, except perhaps in a decrease (of what?) that would limit the stranglehold of the economy on human life and in the cooperative "solidarity economy" that reduces the weight of capitalist logic.

Also rather contradictory at times: Uncle Bernard believes that "men are altruistic, social, and they are led to believe the opposite".

But Maris, the talented psycho-economist, devotes a part of his book to show that we are heading for disaster due to major and rather destructive human impulses.

Again he maintains, by rightly deploring our tendency to overexploit the planet, that "our generation does not love its children. It hates them. The child it loves is itself".

This is striking, perhaps sparking reflection on collective forms of egoism. But is it true that it is "our generation" en bloc which is abusing the planet?

Who are the offenders? In some way all of us, but some more than others…

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