Being and Neonness, a Review by Professor Moulier-Boutang

 

The text below is a translation of the foreword that Yann Moulier-Boutang wrote for the French edition of Luis de Miranda’s book Being and Neonness, published by MIT Press in 2019.

 

I didn’t know Luis de Miranda, I hadn’t read his books. It was through a few exchanges on the Internet that we became virtual “friends.” The strength of the weak ties allows for encounters that would have otherwise required a lot of time and a lot of luck. I learned that Luis de Miranda is at the same time a philosopher, a writer, an editor, and a lover of “creativity”, or more exactly firmly decided to give a status to this notion which became otherwise, like “sustainable development”, a convenient decor to hide a staggering void of thought. So when he asked me to write a preface for his book, I said yes, despite the time constraints (time is happily expandable, despite what the complainers say). And I did not regret the little madness of adding his text to my to-do-list. Because this little book is a jewel of intelligence, finesse, culture, which takes a  technical object without froaning and turns and turns it around like Heidegger taught us to do with Van Gogh’s shoes.

This is not a hoax. Of course, when you read the title inspired by Boris Vian’s La Lettre et le Néon, you might say to yourself: I’m going to spend a pleasant hour going back to the existentialism of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Isn’t the city a mental thing and rumination or rumor of the past? Like me, no doubt, you hate utility neons – office neon, not that of city signs, for the evil that they did to our eyes in the classroom, with their light as intermittent as a television screen. And then after the first ten pages, you understand very quickly that this essay “à la française”, in the footsteps of Baudrillard and Vaneigem, advances modestly and masked, but with a youthful bravery. The promenade is anchored in the city, in the tradition of the situationist rediscovery of wandering. It is also a disillusioned and critical observation on Luna Parks, commodification, the entertainment society – but this is not the most original.

What is more striking is the ambition of meditation on the maps of  contemporary modernity, on the famous Grand Paris, without the evasiveness of the postmodern, and without the usual absurd quote. Luis de Miranda is strolling, he tells you that he is strolling, but he leads you with great mastery and knows where he wants to go.  Nothing arbitrary, nor surrealistic, in this meeting of the kebab sign on the dissection table of the Neon City. It is rather a second Cartesian meditation after Descartes and Husserl: where the stove and its heat gave way to the roaring sound of gas in a tube. I am, I create, therefore I hear. It is invigorating to finally hear an ambition: that of philosophising and thinking the “epoch” of the city, of the subject (the “superjet”), the movement, the plural, chaosmos. Be careful, then! Here, a philosophical project begins. The path narrows. Slow down, work-in-progress, reduced speed in reading!  Savour it! Luis de Miranda speaks neither of speed nor of slowness, this true movement of the senses which reconquers the city, but his essay takes a powerful part in it. 

Who knows that the Opéra Garnier was illuminated by colored neon strips in 1919? Neon is a technical object about which, usually, little is said that is significant. It is exposed here during the day, out of its halo of luminous magic, as the limit of the visible, its exhaustion (because it is a light without heat, without risk of kindling) – but it is a happy exhaustion, because it turns us towards and beyond the visible, a totally immanent beyond: “The infinite in the finite.” There are many intercessors on this journey: Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, David Harvey, the Sublimes: the Paris of the nineteenth and first-twentieth century is narrated and this technique of light is inherently fascinating for urban planners and architects, or rather “urbatects”, according to the beautiful word coined by Schuiten and Peters.  But Plato, Heraclitus, Marx, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Proust, are also part of the journey.  Luis de Miranda does not mention Bergson much this time, and only a little Félix Guattari with whom he shares the same taste for unbridled neologisms, bending language to his thought and to the construction of reality. I love his neologism, the Creal, for the real which dismisses the naivety of a matter or a spirit. His crealist perspective gives his mediation on the City a joyful tone, a stamp of copper and light horn. 

In that, this book does not resemble the great French moralist tradition to which the situationists owe much. A sentence like “The neon is a metonymy of the current identity, energetic, visible, illuminated, connected” could have been signed Baudrillard or Virilio. But I also hear a jubilation and a confidence in the future which is unique, in the aeon developed at length in the last chapters.

The other singular aspect of this little book lies in its way of dealing with technique and technology by deeply integrating it into culture. Scientific and erudite details blend into the expressiveness of the historicity of urban man. “Can we build a code that does not carry identity? Can we conceive of an individuation which is not a form, a neon, a being?”, questions the author. This recurrent question becomes one with the detailed history of Johann Heinrich Winckler’s invention of the first fluorescent tube in 1745 in Germany, up to Georges Claude, discoverer of neon in Paris in 1912, with the sign Cinzano. Who remembers today that Paris was  the absolute capital of neon signs before Los Angeles and Las Vegas, since Claude’s patent was not sold in the United States until 1923? The great Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz explored the society of his island through the opposition of  sugar and tobacco (1939). He invented transculturalism, of which Malinowski, who read it before his Argonauts of the Pacific (1940), retained only the ugly term of acculturation. Let us say that too often, the disputants of the lights of the city ​​and the reign of commodity, rely, even if unconsciously, on acculturation which distills a scent of alienation, of degradation of being. Luis de Miranda is clearly in his book on the side of  transculturalism. Why?

Because in our opinion, he is developing a theory of possible and practicable freedom, an anti-alienation, not another “look”, but another perception and construction of reality, a Creal as he fiercely calls it. Admittedly, heritage-Paris is transformed into a dead icon, a museum.  But nearby the Louvre, it is the Benjaminian experience of banal kitsch signs of small shops which opens the experience of a passage. Neon, this perfect image of cold light without apparent risk, vibrates, makes noise. When our tired, worn out, eyes, stuffed with icons, operate what Husserl would have called a radical phenomenological reduction, when they are temporarily blinded, then they hear something.

Let’s not look for the access to the city in a supervoyance, beyond The Cave, nor in a reasoned disruption of the eyes. In a strong sentence, like many of those that feed this nervous essay, Luis de Miranda writes: “Ecology must become an “echo-logy”, the poet must be more than a seer: a listener.” Ecology, economy, oikos or the surrounding, halo, rather than the overused word environment, must hear, “see with the ears” as recommended by the brilliant Shakespeare.

Primacy of hearing over sight; a recurring, Deleuzian ritournelle, the Wagnerian or Proustian leitmotif, ends almost every chapter. It dethrones the primacy of the visible in Western metaphysics. Where Heidegger and Wittgenstein, who in opposite ways both turned towards language, where Derrida wanted to come to writing, to the trace, Luis de Miranda wants to hear the voice, the music, and come to an acousmatics. The stroke of the paw also applies to Michel  Foucault: “The making of the self has light as its absolute model. Being is indeed a neon.”

Does Luis de Miranda return to Exodus, when the “I am the one who is”, echoing the supreme creator, is a voice which makes us hear the crackling noise of the consuming fire? The part of the invisible, of the inexpressible and the joy of creation are very close to the Music of the Spheres and to this City of Music mentioned in the final chapter. “To create is to listen to the invisible, the unheard-of, and maintain a loyalty to this hearing.  But incessantly, comes up the temptation to manifest this creation, to make it tangible, visible, measurable “: this sentence signals an ontological difference that is quite different from  Heidegger, in spite of the proximity of timbre. In the end we want to know more. And that’s very well; a conclusion that does not open does not increase our power to act.

 

Professor Yann Moulier-Boutang, author of Cognitive Capitalism.

 

 

5 Optimistic Predictions on What Will Change For You After The 2020 Pandemic

The current global pandemic is a gigantic social experiment on humanity. There is already plenty of dramatising information, so my contribution here will be on the positive side. Here are 5 predictions/recommendations for a better post-Corona world.

1: A new paradigm of slow growth

Few would disagree that the current events demonstrate, once more, the epidermic fragility of capitalism as we know it. The system has been praised as the only viable form of economic protocol, but it proves once again to be volatile and all but robust in its exponential growth mindset. Would you build your house on a roller coaster? Yet this is somewhat what we tolerate with under-regulated forms of financial capitalism. Of course things could eventually go back to “normal”, the “normal” being a relatively small group of privileged and anxious finance junkies playing with fire while the majority of citizens struggle to have a decent and balanced life while being treated as mere consumers or dopamine receptors. We are all on a mindless roller coaster. It’s time to try the tunnel of love boat ride. Less adrenalin perhaps, but more wonder.

The fact that the capitalist system is dependent on fears and the caprices of nature — when it does not create itself those caprices — demonstrates that we need a more robust system, one with more structural integrity (in the engineering and moral sense), yet one that does not discourage creativity and growth. A more robust economy will be based on slow growth. Slow growth is a successful model in nature and in education. We fear exponential curves in viruses – we should also refrain from desiring them in relation to financial profit. A tree needs to grow solid roots and not just rise to the sky like Icarus. For example, more welfare safety nets should be developed in places where they have been lacking.

2: More citizen resilience and philosophical health

The second conclusion we can draw from the current situation: many are mentally fragile, many have overwhelming fears and lack of self-confidence to the point that they are influenced by panic and paranoia, as well as excesses of irrational hope. This is not new but is today critically augmented by our social media addiction and their echo chambers. In sociology, the Thomas Theorem  says: “If humans define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” What makes the 2020 pandemic phenomenon dangerous is to a certain extent our global perception of it. If we nurture a collective reaction according to which a situation is dramatic and catastrophic, then, even if it is a collective hallucination, this might become a self-fulfilled prophecy. If on the contrary we remain calm, pragmatic and collected, we will avoid trying, as the French saying goes, to harm water with a sword; in other words, over-reacting in vain. Here a good philosophical reading is Nietzsche’s distinction between the active and the reactive people: to lead a healthy life, instead of reacting out of ressentiment, we need affirm healthy, fruitful and loving values and act coherently according to these axioms. We can more confidently and slowly actualise at least part of what we admire if we develop our capacity to be self-rational, to think, intuit and feel by ourselves.

Some politicians seem to be enjoying pandemic situations because it allows them to demonstrate that they can still have control over people, by forcing them to stay home for example. Here a pertinent reading is Deleuze and Foucault on societies of control. The extent to which martial states of emergency can so easily be inflicted upon us shows the fragility of our democracies. Citizens should be empowered, educated and trusted to judge by themselves what is the right thing to do in a given situation. A forced lockdown of a society is a politician’s dream but potentially a citizen’s nightmare. A philosophically healthy society is one where citizens are not considered mostly as lab-rat consumers or immature statistical instruments. Here a good philosophical reading is Kant on Enlightenment. If anything, crisis decisions should be taken more democratically, and we should not treat people as minors but help them to become fully adult, which is why education and research on philosophical health is needed.

3: Less nationalism and protectionism, more collaboration toward a global shared cosmology

The world has definitely become global. We are on the same boat and interconnected, and now we feel it. The big climate change menace was perhaps not enough to create a shared worldview. We can now thank a well-travelled virus for allowing more people to feel in the flesh that we need a shared cosmology and a global vision for our planet, not just ecological but also philosophical. I wrote the book Ensemblance to explain, via a thorough historical analysis on the phenomenon of group belonging in modernity, the limits of tribalism, competition and groupthink. This does not mean creative collaboration is to be rejected: in this paper from 2017 I explained why I think it’s time for a global social contract based on the hypothesis I call Creal.

4: The Decline of Big Cities and the Rise of Nature-Centred Remote Work

I lived in Paris for several decades, and have always considered large capitals as physically and mentally damaging for their inhabitants, even if they can be amusing for tourists. I now live in a nature-friendly area in the Stockholm archipelago and go for a walk along the water and woods every day. I have always worked from home a great deal, which does not feel claustrophobic when we surround ourselves with nature. Residential surfaces can be larger further from the city centres and rents less expensive, while our digital connections allow us to discover and co-create remote possibilities for work, communication, education and collaboration. In the next years, more people are going to distance themselves from unhealthy oversized capitals and realise they can have a much more balanced and ecological form of life by embracing remote-work and letting go of the city madness and its hazardous ecological and existential footprint. Intermediary-sized cities should become more important for cultural life and intellectual growth.

5: More courage.

Most humans today have a hard time with three co-related fears (perhaps these are aspects of the same fear): their fear of loss, the fear of daring what is good for them and the fear of being abnormal. The anxiety of missing opportunities, or making the wrong choices, of not having what others have, or being alone and not belonging generates panic, stress, procrastination or apathy (mental and physical). When we see a virus, we want to flatten the curve and avoid its becoming exponential. We ought to be consequent and get rid of the unhealthy exponential mentality for what we desire also. If we continue to think that the good should be exponentially so, then the bad will also feel exponential. This is explained in more detail in my book on Lacan, jouissance and capitalism.

As we say here in Sweden, growth should be natural, healthy and slow, in other words, “lagom.” In more philosophical terms, this is what the Ancient philosophers called the golden mean. In the sustained middle way and persistent and creative equilibrium of forces is the healing power. For Aristotle, courage is a mean between cowardice and rashness. Courage is the only thing that can prevent timidity and rage, which are two sides of the same harmful attitude. Now you will perhaps go for a walk and ask yourself: at this moment of my biography, am I being coward, rash or sanely courageous?

 

 

A Thousand Platoons – Open Access Introduction of the Book Ensemblance

Thanks to funding from the Örebro University Library, I am glad to offer the introduction of my new book Ensemblance as an open access resource. You can download the pdf here:

Introduction: A Thousand Platoons – The Enduring Importance of Esprit de Corps

Ensemblance_-_Luis_de_Miranda_-_Introduction_-_Open_Access

 

Screenshot 2020-01-13 at 16.47.08

The Loving Ring (a poem)

 

merlin_141132513_ee896064-61a0-40ba-bbac-b1a7a8555f7b-superJumbo

illustration by Brian Rea

______________

 

There was not countdown, there was no K.O.

In the loving ring of what we felt,

Without any gloves, we sensed a flow –

Above and below the belt.

 

The voices of time were our cornermen,

Saying: “Counterpunch with a caress on the chin!”

We tattooed the seeds of joy with our pen

On the silk of our featherweight skin.

 

We jabbed our fear that things won’t last,

And made it kiss the canvas,

Until it saw stars from the past –

The last crumb of doubt then left our mattress,

 

And fell through the ropes.

After the mandatory eight count,

Certainties replaced hopes,

And our triumph was paramount.

 

 

Philosophical Care of the Self (Foucault)

Socrates advised Alcibiades to take advantage of his youth to take care of himself. […] The movement by which the soul turns to itself is a movement in which one’s gaze is drawn “aloft” – towards the divine element, towards essences and the supracelestial world in which they are visible. […]

When applying oneself to oneself became an adult practice that must be undertaken throughout one’s life, its pedagogical role tends to give way to other functions.

First of all, a critical function. The practice of the self must enable one to rid oneself of all one’s bad habits and all the false opinions one may get from the crowd or from bad teachers, as well as from parents and associates. To “unlearn” (de-discere) is an important task of the culture of the self.

b. But it also has a function of struggle. The practice of the self is conceived as an ongoing battle. It is not just a matter of training a man of courage for the future. The individual must be given the weapons and the courage that will enable him to fight all his life. […]

c. But most of all this culture of the self has a curative and therapeutic function. It is much closer to the medical model than to the pedagogical model. Of course, we should remember certain very ancient facts of Greek culture: the existence of a notion like pathos, which signifies the soul’s passion as well as the body’s illness; the extent of a metaphorical field that allows expressions like nursing, curing, amputating, scarifying, and purging to be applied to both the body and the soul. We should also remember the principle, familiar to Epicureans, Cynics, and Stoics, that the role of philosophy is to cure the diseases of the soul. Plutarch could say that philosophy and medicine are mia khora, a single region, a single domain.

Foucault. Graham Burchell’s translation of The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 2005, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 494-6.

 

The Soulmate Parentheses (a poem)

 

Now he knows she is his soulmate

(For lack of a better noun

Designating the partner of fate

With whom one is harmoniously bound).

 

An equilibrium found and yet to conquer,

Between freedom and the pre-established:

(The paradox of destiny is to alter

Determinism with the accomplished).

 

Now she knows they are each other’s half

(For lack of a better formulation –

Love cannot be shown on a graph

As a mathematical equation.

 

Does one plus one equal four?

The ones we are not anymore,

And the two ones created by their complicity

Defining a unified multiplicity?)

 

Now they know they have started a novel

Of an existential kind,

A cosmology for the everyday vessel

Transporting them away from the blind

 

To the land of creation and order,

Surrendering and Mastery,

A kingdom with no other border

Than the horizon of their own mystery.

The Influential Timeline of Esprit de Corps

The following timeline is an excerpt from my book Ensemblance (Edinburgh University Press, 2020)

 

1656–58 Pascal writes Différence entre l’esprit de géometrie et l’esprit de finesse.

1662 Louis XIV’s historiographer Ren. Bary publishes L’esprit de cour.

1721 Publication of Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes, in which the author mocks the esprit du corps of the Acad.mie fran.aise.

1732 Lettres de Nedim Coggia, by Germain de Saint-Foix, praises the esprit de corps of the French musketeers.

1752 D’Alembert, in the Encyclopédie, criticises the anti-national esprit du corps of the Jesuits.

1755 Voltaire, in the Encyclopédie, distinguishes esprit de corps from its supposedly worse version, esprit de parti. In the same volume, Diderot, more critical, suggests that the Encyclopaedists must avoid catching the esprit de corps by remaining objective.

1755 Lord Chesterfield, a friend of Voltaire, introduces ‘esprit de corps’ into the English language to describe the natural ‘biased conduct’ and ‘inflamed zeal’ in closed societies, a fatal aspect of ‘human nature’.

1762 Rousseau explains in L’Emile: ‘It is not only in the military that one acquires the esprit de corps, and its effects are not always good.’

1762 The formerly autonomous management of the French military corps, previously known for their respective esprit du corps, is centralised by the royal administration.

1764 The Jesuits are banned from France, after a long public campaign in which their esprit de corps was often attacked.

1765 The Parlement of Metz addresses a remonstrance to the King of France calling for a grand national esprit de corps, also called l’esprit de patriotisme.

1776 In the Wealth of Nations, the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith criticises the ‘corporation spirit’, leading ‘every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own’.

1776 The French minister Turgot attempts to eradicate the corporations and their esprit de corps in the name of economic laissez-faire.

1779 In Calcutta, a local petition is signed by British inhabitants against the ‘esprit de corps of the Professors of Law’.

1782 The Parisian author Louis-S.bastien Mercier predicts that the individualistic dissolution of esprit de corps in labour guilds might lead to a revolution.

1787 Mirabeau criticises ‘the esprit de corps of the orders of the state that support despotism’.

1787 In America, the convention led by George Washington and the Founding Fathers debates the pros and cons of esprit de corps.

1789 Several French revolutionaries, one of whom is the Abb. Siey.s, call for a national esprit de corps to achieve the ‘adunation’ of France, against particular and local forms of esprit de corps.

1789 In the UK, Jeremy Bentham defines esprit de corps as ‘professional zeal’.

1791 In Revolutionary France, the Le Chapelier law criminalises professional esprit de corps and proclaims that free trade and free working are the new economic standard: ‘There are no longer corporations in the state, there is only the particular interest of each individual and then the general interest.’

1793 The French minister of war Jean-Baptiste Bouchotte strives to ‘annihilate the esprit de corps’ in military regiments and replace it with a unified army of citizens.

1793 In his K.nigsberg Lectures, Immanuel Kant violently criticises ‘separatists and sectarians of every kind’ and their immoral esprit de corps.

1793 A democratic reform to reduce the esprit de corps in British politics, inspired by the French Revolution, is officially discussed in the House of Commons.

1800 Napoleon and his minister of foreign affairs Talleyrand work on the organisation of a national programme of administrative esprit de corps, founded on several grands corps d’État.

1803 In France, the idea of esprit de corps is popular anew among the elites. Reversing the claims of the Enlightenment, Chateaubriand writes: ‘Esprit de corps, which can be bad in the whole, is always good in the part.’

1803 US President Thomas Jefferson calls for less esprit de corps in the leadership of banks, via a frequent rotation of directors.

1805 Napoleon calls corps enseignant the national corporation of teachers and declares that the former esprit de corps of the Jesuits is a model to be revived in education: ‘If we do not learn from childhood whether to be republican or monarchical, Catholic or irreligious, etc., the State will not form a nation.’

1808 The utopianist Charles Fourier theorises that ‘esprit de corps is enough to eradicate the most shocking vices of the civilized populace’.

1809 ‘Esprit de corps’ enters the British Dictionary of Quotations in Most Frequent Use.

1810 Napoleon’s Code pénal forbids any association of more than twenty people without authorisation from the government.

1811 In Scotland, Walter Scott laments the ‘cold and pettifogging esprit de corps’ that governs most societies.

1815 Echoing a general sentiment, the poet and politician François- Auguste de Frénilly criticises the French Revolution for favouring the rise of individualism via its destruction of esprit de corps. In doing so he coins the term ‘individuellism’.

1820 The German philosopher G. W. F Hegel praises the ‘rectitude and esprit de corps of the universal man’, servitor of the state.

1821 In England, Lord Byron wonders in a letter if one should write esprit du corps or esprit de corps.

1828 The essayist and politician Louis de Bonald writes a popular eulogy of esprit de corps: ‘The esprit de corps is the general spirit of the whole body [. . .] The esprit de corps unites and strengthens, and one can say that a body without esprit de corps is a body without a soul.’

1833 Labour strikes in France. Some workers demand the right to associate and organise themselves in syndicats.

1836 The political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville explains to John Stuart Mill and his Westminster friends that French aristocrats lost their esprit de corps in the seventeenth century with Louis XIV, which led to the Revolution. In Democracy in America, he laments that democracies hinder both our capacity for esprit de corps and for individuation, which for him are codependent.

1850 In the UK, an investigation into the University of Oxford commissioned by Queen Victoria concludes that the lack of esprit de corps in top universities is highly damaging.

1863 William de Slane translates Ibn Khaldun’s Arabic notion of asabiyah into French as esprit de corps.

1883 The writer Emile Zola defines esprit de corps as an ‘instinct’.

1884 Labour unions (syndicats) become legal in France. In this, according to the politician Hubert Lagardelle, ‘the corps of workers is recognised by the legislator as having a personal existence’.

1893 Emile Durkheim writes that ‘the spirit of ensemble’ and the related esprit de corps is a prophylactic form of professional solidarity.

1898 In his influential J’accuse, Emile Zola condemns the ‘foolish’ esprit de corps of the French army, which led to the Dreyfus affair.

1899 In the USA, James Mark Baldwin, professor at Princeton University, writes that ‘national spirit is a form of natural esprit de corps’.

1899 The sociologist Gabriel Tarde distinguishes seven useful scales of esprit de corps, from the small family sphere to the large supranational sphere. The Nietzschean philosopher Georges Palante retorts that esprit de corps is but one form of ‘social insincerity’.

1901 US President Benjamin Harrison celebrates the ‘esprit de corps of the American soldier’.

1904 Peter Traub, a US captain of the cavalry, compares esprit de corps to a divine ‘vital force’.

1907 The American activist Jane Addams calls for more esprit de corps in factories, defined as a ‘playful and triumphant buoyancy’.

1913 Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals is translated into English, celebrating ‘the chronic and despotic esprit de corps and fundamental instinct of a higher dominant race’.

1914 In Training Soldiers for War, British officer John Fuller writes: ‘What race pride is to the Empire, so should esprit de corps be to the regiment.’

1917 The entrepreneur Henri Fayol writes that the legal ‘union of the employees’ is an important principle of management. A mistranslation of Fayol’s principle as ‘esprit de corps’, suppressing the trade union aspect, would become highly popular in English business studies.

1920 W. B. Barber, a British military officer, records a ‘cult of esprit de corps’ during the First World War. He adds that in times of peace ‘esprit de corps is a very good antidote to Bolshevism’.

1921 Publication in the USA of The Management of Men: A Handbook on the Systematic Development of Morale and the Control of Human Behavior. In it the phrase ‘esprit de corps’ appears 43 times, defined as ‘a mental state making for cohesion of an organization, as necessary to commercial success as it is to military efficiency’.

1922 Nobel Prize laureate Anatole France explains that ‘esprit de corps is the intelligence of those who have none’.

1929 A handbook of rhetoric published in Shangai defines esprit de corps as the ‘spirit of the collective body’.

1929 The American businessman John Rowe calls esprit de corps a ‘happy phrase’ and a ‘universal sentiment’, ‘the essence of co-operation’.

1930 In his autobiography, Winston Churchill equates esprit de corps with the ethics and ‘honourable behaviour’ he learned when he was young.

1931 In Last and First Men, British science-fiction writer and Freud reader Olaf Stapledon speculates about the human ‘very special loyalty toward the whole group, a peculiar sexually toned esprit de corps unparalleled in other species’.

1932 The philosopher Henri Bergson compares esprit de corps to a ‘feeling of honour’ and a civilisational ‘fabulation’ creative of a ‘virtual instinct’.

1934 The future war hero and French president Charles de Gaulle explains how the military can foster a well-organised local and national esprit de corps.

1942 The US national Office of Civilian Defense publishes The Control System of the Citizens’ Defense Corps, a manual to foster ‘esprit de corps among citizens’, defined as ‘instantaneous and unquestioned obedience’.

1943 The USA army advertises in magazines to find new recruits: ‘In the army they call it esprit de corps – the stuff that builds champion teams and victorious armies in which each man is doing the job he does best.’

1949 The analytic philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in The Concept of Mind, insists that esprit de corps is an unreal ‘ghost in the machine’: ‘I do not see whose role it is to exercise esprit de corps.’

1950 Rex D. Hopper, head of sociology at Brooklyn College, writes in the journal Social Forces that ‘esprit de corps is a means of social control’.

1956 In the USA, the university field of Small-Group Studies publishes quantitative measures of esprit de corps.

1956 The Pentagon hires Rex D. Hopper, the academic specialist of ‘esprit de corps as social control’, to direct a counter-insurgency programme that would interfere in South American politics in the 1960s under the name of ‘Project Camelot’.

1957 The American entrepreneur Conrad Hilton publishes his autobiography, in which he explains that the success of his chain of hotels is based on the systematic application of the techniques of esprit de corps he learned during the First World War.

1958 De Gaulle declares in a public speech: ‘We are at the age of effectiveness, efficiency. We are at the time of ensembles.’

1961 In Life magazine, the author and diplomat Romain Gary compares esprit de corps to a collective ‘mystique of self-adoration’.

1971 Irving L. Janis publishes an article that coins the term ‘groupthink’, defined as a collective loss of critical thinking, a perversion of ‘amiability and esprit de corps’ likely ‘to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups’.

1980 The philosophers Gilles Deleuze and F.lix Guattari publish a laudatory reappraisal of ‘nomadic esprit de corps’ in Mille plateaux, which they associate with Ibn Khaldun’s asabiyah.

1989 The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu defines esprit de corps as a ‘symbolic violence’ and compares it to a ‘magical possession’.

1993 The Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics publishes a paper in which esprit de corps, abbreviated as ‘e’, is a mathematical variable within a complex equation measuring ‘organizational effectiveness’.

2002 US President George W. Bush creates the US Freedom Corps initiative to enable civilians to find ways to serve ‘their community, their country, or the world’. Citizen Corps is a component of the Freedom Corps that ‘creates opportunities for individuals to volunteer and respond to emergencies’.

2002 In Canada, Gilles Barbot founds the Groupe Esprit de Corps, a business consulting and team-building corporation.

2011 The French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen declares in a public speech: ‘I solemnly call for the esprit de corps, the innate sense of duty and of sacrifice manifested by those who have incorporated the love of the fatherland.’

2013 The Harvard Business Review recommends that corporations should develop esprit de corps as military-inspired camaraderie-in-arms ‘to push for hard work’.

2015 A review in the Wall Street Journal praises the ‘girl power esprit de corps’ of the movie Pitch Perfect.

2015 The future American president Donald Trump declares in a press conference that the USA needs ‘spirit, esprit de corps’.

2016 David Davis, the future British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, writes that too much immigration hinders the ‘national esprit de corps’.

2018 President Donald Trump, in a public speech at the White House, declares: ‘There’s tremendous spirit in our country right now [. . .] Esprit de corps . . .’

2019-2020 France is nearly paralysed for several weeks by strikes in the transportation sector demonstrating that professional esprit de corps can still act as a social force.

 

Screenshot 2020-01-13 at 16.47.08

 

Crealectics as Praxical Sublimity

A pragmatic and even political horizon of crealectics is pluralism and diversity, rather than analytical reductionism. This is why sublimity, as cosmic emotion and holistic awareness, is as much needed as focal praxis. Thompson (1997, p. 222) explains, in his reading of process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, that “thought narrows down an actual situation, in all its concrete fullness, to just certain features which are focused on as the ones important for understanding the situation. Here is where the aesthetic, an acute sensitivity to feeling, is crucial; here is where careful attention must be given to the full range of our experience. One danger is that, through insufficient attentiveness, the selection will be too narrow to catch what is important in our experience. Furthermore, since all observation is selection, and may be metaphysically biased, Whitehead says ‘it is of the utmost importance to be vigilant in critically revising your modes of abstraction. It is here that philosophy finds its niche as essential to the healthy progress of society. It is the critique of abstractions (1953 [1925], p. 59).’” This is very far from the caricature of philosophy as an abstract endeavor, disconnected from everyday experience. Philosophy studies the consequences of our beliefs, and its finality is a healthy society, in which our modes of abstraction need remain attuned with our embodiment in the realm of life as holistic creation.

E33A6CEF-9C6D-4D93-8AED-A6C4E3AEE173_1_201_a