Passaparola by Serge Latouche, French economist and philosopher. Serge Latouche is one of the regular contributors to the journal Revue du MAUSS, he’s president of the association “La ligne d’horizon”, he’s emeritus professor of economics at the University of Paris-Sud and at the The Institute of Economic and Social Development studies (IEDES) in Paris.
“We’ve reached a point that means we can no longer go on as we are doing!
Everyone’s talking about crisis and it’s slightly paradoxical because I’ve always been hearing about a crisis ever since 1968 when there was a cultural crisis, then in 1972, with the publication of the work by The Club of Rome, there was talk of an ecological crisis, then there was the neoliberal counter-revolution and the social crisis with Margaret Thatcher and Reagan, and now there’s the financial crisis and the economic crisis after the collapse of Lehmann Brothers.
Finally, all these crises are getting mixed up and we’re seeing a crisis of civilisation, an anthropological crisis. At this point, the system can no longer be reformed - we have to exit from this paradigm - and what is it? It’s the paradigm of a growth society Our society has been slowly absorbed by an economy based on growth, not growth to satisfy needs - and that would be a good thing - but growth for the sake of growth and this naturally leads to the destruction of the planet because infinite growth is incompatible with a finite planet.
We need a real reflection when we talk about an anthropological crisis. We need to take this seriously because we need a decolonisation of the imagination. Our imagination has been colonised by the economy. Everything has become economics. This is specific to the West and it’s fairly new in our history. It was in the seventeenth century when there was a great ethical switch with the theory expounded by Bernard Mandeville. Before, people said that altruism was good and then: "no, we have to be egoists, we have to make as much profit as possible; greed is good“. Yes - to destroy our "oikos“ (our home) more quickly. And we have actually got to that point.
We can see this with Climate Change, with the loss of biodiversity, with the pollution of our air, water, and soil. We’ve reached a point that means we can no longer go on as we are doing! We either change direction, or it will be the end of humanity.
So the project is to exit from the growth society, exit from the consumer society, exit from the economy and find once more the social or better still, the societal. This revolution is primarily a cultural revolution, but it’s not a quick fix, it’s a long process that takes time.
When I started organising conferences on degrowth, I thought it was necessary to change direction before the collapse, but now I’m getting more of a pessimist. I think that we won’t avoid the collapse. We need to make preparations for the time after the collapse.. And let’s hope it’s not a total collapse and that there is a possibility for humanity to have a future, to invent a new future.” Serge Latouche