Quoi?

A friend–whom I had hoped would post a comment herself here–sent me a link to a story from the NY Times today with the following quotation from France’s Finance Minister: “France is a country that thinks … There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”

Can we not admit truth on both sides of this statement? On the one hand, those among us interested in French culture cannot deny their predilection for hyperlocution. On the other, is not one reason Sarkozy won the election the absurd condition of the French economy? Unemployment is out of control, and the mandatory 35-hour work week, embraced by a good number of disaffected young laborers who have no desire to work, makes no sense for either workers or for companies, for example. Is not the exhortation to work not a legitimate political agenda?

But, on the other hand, Lagarde has certainly created a false dichotomy–that there is something between thinking and labor, even if, as many have pointed out, thinking is labor.

The NY Times story is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/world/europe/22france.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5070&en=2e712e5d4c6891ec&ex=1185768000&emc=eta1

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7 thoughts on “Quoi?

  1. Please forgive my ill-conceived ranting here…. since as of late i have been relaxinggg….something in the grey..neither thinking nor laboring…. 😉 Thinking and Laboring—a dichotomy that is perpetuated mostly by laborers (especially if the ‘”thinkers” feel they do labor, as mk said): laborers can feel that their work is of the highest excellence, and recognize how integral it is in society…but unfortunately, pride themselves on the fact that it didn’t involve “thinking”, but merely laboring and a basic practicing of their skill.But what is most disturbing, is how this plays out in politics…by politicians who feel that with ‘mere labor’ and skill practice, they do their job proficiently. look at Bush. this leads us to the question: is labor thinking? ( clearly, not the proper question to ask…. nor the one we would want to ask)… but phenomenology would obviously answer affirmatively, since the dichotomy between thinking/labor seems to be another version of the mind/body… a dichotomy in theory only, yet collapsed in bodily experience.…. in the article…Sarkozsy is touted as a runner. This is not a question of… can we think while we are running/laboring…. but that the “attitudes” of a thinker do not include ‘running’, or even fitness (is this not jocks versus geeks or what?). so while ‘laborers’ do not take the proper time to slow down, reflect, *walk*, the ‘thinker’ cannot possibly contemplate the situation of the laborer, if he does not run. laborers will continue to perpetuate the dichotomy and as long as they disdain the ‘thinkers’ supposed ability to understand the value of the experience of laboring, without actually doing it.does Bush think? i don’t know… he sure can run though…. something he will need to have ready-at-hand when his disastrous decisions require us to flee…quickly… such a clean bill of health for someone in the ‘most stressful job’. look @ cheney…part robot…definitely doesn’t run…obviously up to ‘something’… recently, i read in the news, he took over as president for a day while Bush had a ‘colonoscopy’, who knows what kind of damage he could do in 24 hours.Thinkers that labor, that is the proper conflation of theory and practice…laborers who think…have the highest potential to create theory out of practice.

  2. Dare I ask the question: what is thinking? Is this not quintessentially a German, and not a French, problem? The French have never had a problem with this particular question (consider: Montaigne, Rousseau).Is this not also an especially precarious question for the left insofar as Marx had wanted the identity of thinking and laboring (11th thesis); but then again is this also not a formula for fascism (but not the only—Bush has yet another)?In politics there has been no shortage, even outside the left, of warnings against the conflation of thinking and labor, particularly insofar as such a conception reduces thinking to technique (see Oakeshott on “rationalism” or Ryle on “knowing-how”). And yet are not the French well aware of the gap that separates thinking and labor in politics (Badiou, Rancière)?“Is labor thinking? (Clearly, not the proper question to ask… ) … a dichotomy in theory only, yet collapsed in bodily experience.” Yes! And who else besides the French have understood this so well: Malebranche, Biran, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, etc? Marx had said that the essence of mankind was production or labor (here, as with many other things, I agree with Fromm). Has anyone since really said anything else? Forget species-being and instead speak of life: once we speak of the <>life<> of homo faber, we leave the terms of “transformation” and enter a world of creation—where each life, each moment of thought, each product of labor (each of which being roughly equivalent to the others) is, as Marx would have wanted, a <>concrete<> act of revolution (or, more precisely, evolution) insofar as nothing has greater existence (even, as I believe jb would have it, essence withdraws) than the thought that is expressed as a life (or, if one wishes, “in practices”). As MacIntyre has demonstrated, if we are always already in media res, a life is nothing else than the discipline of practices; what is missing from MacIntyre’s account is the way in which it is the <>future<> that opens us to the past and not vice versa.So yes, again: “thinkers that labor, that is the proper conflation of theory and practice…” (one wonders if this lesson will ever be learned—one might argue that this is precisely what was understood by the Da Mo and what has always been understood by the Taoists). “Laborers who think…have the highest potential to create theory out of practice.” Imagine just what kind of theory this would be! Might we not even move beyond the term “theory”? Is the field of experience opened by the “thinking laborer” one of the concept or perhaps, as Brecht had wanted, the affect? As I believe Rancière would agree, is not the problem for the thinking laborer not the name of politics (that is the problem for the philosopher or the political theorist) but the very <>act<> or <>event<> of politics?

  3. hey jd!… i think i know who you are… you’re (wait… are we not outting ourselves on this blog? umm…)this article is funny. if the french capitalists all come back home, to where may the intellectuals flee? Where may they find the pathways they seek, untouched by the hordes of uncouth men training their bodies for action?the dichotomy i don’t get is the one between walking and jogging. i think the true confluence of mind and body, thought and labor is in speedwalking. but who on the left or the right is prepared to take up the mantle of speedwalking?

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