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The rejection of the treaty is a failure on the triple level of prospective anthropology and politics

by Pierre Gonod

This article is a Post-Scriptum under the study of Pierre Gonod “L’hypothèse générale de la Prospective Anthropolitique” (the PAP project) presented at the conference “Intelligence de la Complexité” held in Cerisy from 23 to 30 June 2005. The interested reader may refer to the website www.mcxapc.org under the heading “Workshop 17, Foresight and Complexity, the anthropolitical foresight project, volumes 1 and 2”.

I find in the result of the referendum of 29 May on the draft Constitutional Treaty a confirmation of the general assumption of the PAP. Here’s why.

Since it was a question of institutionalising a political Europe, let us start with this final body. Henry Kissinger once distinguished between “organized policy” and “incidental policy”. In the first, actions created events, the Marshall Plan is of this type, in the second, events lead to actions, the Vietnam War is an illustration. The initiative to develop a treaty appears, at first sight, to be a proactive organized policy. Examination of the process that led to it shows that it is only an appearance. After ten years of negotiations between the fifteen, where each had its candidate for entry, the decision was taken to join en bloc. The Constitution is the consequence of this major decision: the enlargement to 25-27, the translation of political powerlessness into a rush forward without its consequences having been measured[1]. Putting the EU’s functioning in order had become an absolute necessity, already at 15 it was difficult, at 25 it becomes ungovernable. It is more this imperative than the confirmation of previous neoliberal orientations that constitutes the substance. To use a cybernetic language, the “variety” of the system exceeded the capacity of control (law of variety required by Asby), the right of veto being the substitute for the weakness of this capacity. The Treaty does not correspond to an organised and proactive policy, but to a policy that is reactive to the institutional impasse. It is therefore the EU’s decision-making mechanism over the last twenty years that is at stake.

Moreover, no one outside the European oligarchy (a term that Michel Gauchet[2] prefers, and I too, to that of “elites”) was calling for a Constitution. So there is no political demand! Therefore, there is an a priori suspicion regarding this consultation. And the result was an inadequate – and positive – extraordinary debate to decipher and interpret an obscure text (we know that in the week before the election it was discussed in 87% of families). There is the text and the context. And the context is that of everyday life. The No vote projects on the text the context of social dissatisfaction of the working classes[3]. Objectively, the May 29 vote is a class vote[4]. The most surprising thing is that he was against the media-political complex, the vast majority of whom were in favour of the Yes. The gap between representative and participatory legitimacy. A path is proposed in the PAP project in the associative mechanism described above.

Beyond this socio-political interpretation, Michel Serres gives an anthropological version[5]. For him, “The challenge is to accept modern society”. He explained that the debate on the European Constitution had provided an opportunity for citizens to express their views on the future of the modern project and on the “irresistible process that governs it”, referring to radically opposed “ideas of man and society”[6]. Michel Serres recalls his analysis of radical anthropological mutations in his book Hominescence (Le Pommier 2001) where he evokes the problems raised by medicine, biology, pharmacology and which are the guiding forces of the new world order, and it is against this that the No has risen[7].

It is indeed to another world order that Edgar Morin generously calls for when he writes[8]: “Here appears, beyond the yes and no, the need to elaborate a plural economy that would include the market but would develop fair trade, citizen companies, associative and mutualist developments. The need to break with all purely quantitative solutions to vital problems, including first and foremost the solution through growth. To formulate a policy of civilization in the service of the quality of life. To give Europe a global role, not only to avoid wars of civilization and religion, but also for unity in the diversity of cultures, dialogue and understanding between humans.” But the draft Constitution was more the ratification of the current order than its opening, and it could not be perceived as a social project by the younger generations. However, at the centre of anthropolitics are the generations. For men of the generations of the Second World War and the Liberation, like Morin and I, Europe represented a turning point in history, an exciting hope, the end of fratricidal wars on the continent, a community of destiny. It has evolved through exchanges, economic, cultural, political. It has been cemented mainly by the market. It now calls for a new political development that has become an identity crisis. Which Europe? What border? Why would you do that? Federation of European United States? Union Confédérale coupling supranationality and Nation-States? Union reduced to the acquests of the market economy? What is the societal project for those “born in Europe”? For these generations, Europe is a reality, they have only known it. The reference is not the past but the present and the future. This massive demographic phenomenon and its implications have not been perceived by the quinquas, sixtas and septagenarians political leaders. The political staff has aged terribly with the referendum. The vision of Europe cannot be reduced to the proposal of an institutional system, however necessary it may be. The “Born in Europe” have other requirements and need perspectives. The products of the tremendous anthropological transformation of the last twenty years, they no longer put their fate back into the media-political complex, they want to assume it.

An essential diagram of Edgar Morin’s Past, Present and Future trilogy helps us to understand.

For the “Born in Europe” there is neither past nor future, only the present. And the present is 40% of the unemployed under 25 years of age… Failing to find a vision of Europe, other generations have balanced the past with its positive and the present with its social negative for many. To think of the present, as Morin says, is to enter into the complexity of the world today, with blurred references. Confusing text, complex context. The ordinary representation can only be that of the lived and the immediate. “To think of the movements of the present world” is to start from the description of the state situation and its processes (in the sense of Herbert Simon). It is then to submit to critical and popular reflection the future trends, to identify an objective system, to self-construct a societal project (s). Nothing of this approach in the ratification process. We then understand the proposal in the PAP hypothesis to link the participatory elaboration of futures with citizen choices and the triple dialogue of foresight, anthropology and politics.

There are two main difficulties.

The first is the modelling of the system, its levels, components and time. We know how to do it, but there is a lot of progress to be made in systemography.

The second is that of citizen participation and the relationship between representative and participatory legitimacy. The shock of May 29th will activate the experiences, French but also in other European countries. Because if there is no Plan B or No, there is at least one Plan D, D for Democracy. It is not an intellectual and political vacuum. There are think tanks[9] who showed lucidity before the referendum with a “Yes-But” campaign and who were not caught off guard by the results[10]. The construction of Europe is a historical process, 50 years is short, a break may not be useless if it makes it possible to redefine the project and mobilise its peoples.

[1] 1. Many books explaining the content of the Treaty have been unexpected successes in publishing, but few have provided a basis for judging the demographic, economic and political situation created by enlargement, with the notable exception of Pierre Verluise’s book “Géopolitique de l’Europe, L’Union européenne élargie a-t-elle les moyens de la puissance” Ellipes 2005

2] Interview at the Point of June 2, 2005

3] Among the flood of articles, declarations and self-justifications, I will remember the comments of Ipsos’ director, Pierre Giacometti, who had anticipated the victory of the No and understood its components and its rise by capillarity. To stick to the composition of the No, it cuts across all categories of the population, and more particularly the working and middle classes or employees in the public and private sectors. Within the No, the vote of the relatives of the parliamentary left weighs 49%, compared to 19.5% for extreme right-wing supporters, and 6% for relatives of the extreme left. In addition to these characteristics, there is the Non-majority of young people under 25 years of age.

4] Question of the Point: “Isn’t the class struggle returning, assuming it has never disappeared? Gauchet’s reply “I have never doubted that class struggle, even if it no longer takes the forms it used to take, remains an essential dimension of the functioning of our societies. It will become more so again with the development of globalized capitalism.

5] Interview Le Figaro June 6, 2005.

6] “The main lesson I draw from the debacle of the lawyers of the Constitutional Treaty is not the observation of a duly commented political crisis these days; it is above all that this electoral “earthquake” has brought to light a deeper and more fundamental sharing – the one that concerns our idea of a desirable society. From this point of view, the debate on Europe has been an opportunity to redefine the political and sociological divisions we had become accustomed to living with over the past half-century…. In fact, well beyond what some describe as a political “tsunami”, the dramatic tour of referendum consultation in France and Holland reveals that within Western countries, over the past two decades or so, an increasing tension has emerged between different ideas of man and society. And this anthropological divide is now overturning the political, social and electoral issues through which it finds expression… What is remarkable about these referendums is that the voters have taken up the question asked to give it a global answer, very far from its purpose. Contrary to appearances, it was not the approval or rejection of the Constitutional Treaty that guided them in their choice, it was a more essential alternative – the deliberate acceptance or lucid rejection of modern society, its project and its constraints. In this sense, last Sunday’s referendum is part of the political events that alone shed light on the evolution of culture in general.

7] Strangely enough, he compares the May 29 vote with George Bush’s re-election on November 2. He explains: “Many bushists have not only said no to the liberalization of a number of moral and social constraints, to abortion, to gay marriage. They have rejected the general direction that world history seems to them to be taking. Above all, they rejected the process in which we are engaged. The analogy with the divisions that have emerged regarding the European Constitution is striking from this point of view. These are the same issues that shook voters up on May 29. For some French people, the global order of functioning of our societies is adorned with all the virtues. For others, it is intolerable. The referendum therefore revealed a much more essential divide than that between the supporters of one economic model or another or of one economic integration model or another. In my opinion, the decisive criterion was not the opinion of the French on issues as different as deregulation or the outline of trans-state sovereignty, but the assessment of the irresistible process that governs our societies – and with the radical innovations that it brings”.

8] Le Monde May 25, 2005

9] The Europe 2020 Association. See Franck Biancheri’s penetrating analyses

10] Unlike the scenarios of the EU Commission, which had not considered the unthinkable…

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