Archives For July 24, 2015

The Rise of the TechnocratIn ‘Augustine and the Limits of Politics,’ political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain lamented:

‘Albert Camus’ work, ‘The Rebel’ is understudied and underestimated.’ (p.115)

Elshtain’s work is peppered with references to Camus. Her affinity with the French agonistic and “existentialist” philosopher is easy to observe. Elshtain sees a good amount of Camus’ questions and conclusions as relevant to contemporary discourse.

That is of course, where dialogue and dissent are allowed, which to the keen observer like Elshtain and Camus, are things fast being forced into private. This is because the pathos in post-modern monologues (such as: facebook rants, easy likes, mob put downs and whip statements) are taking over. (It was from this that Elshtain later wonders whether or not, ‘democracy can survive social media and the rise of the technocratic class. See: ‘‘State Of Democracy’)

Earlier in her book, Elshtain provides some commentary on  a post war lecture Camus gave in 1946 at Columbia University:

‘To what was no doubt a hushed auditorium, Camus went on to enumerate the clear symptoms of what he called a ‘crisis of world-dimensions; a crisis in human consciousness.’ He described these as a rise in terror, following upon such a perversion of values that man, woman or historical force is judged today not in terms of human dignity but in terms of success (consider here: doing and saying whatever makes you popular – or gets the most likes). The crisis is based, as well, on the growing “impossibility of persuasion.” Human beings live and can only live by “retaining the idea that they have something in common,” a starting point to which they can return […] Camus noted two other symptoms of the crisis. One he called the substitution of the “political” for the “living” person.’ (p.70)

Citing Camus, Elshtain then points to the unhealthy ‘growth of bureaucracy.’ – ‘For what counts now is whether or not one has helped a doctrine to triumph, not whether or not one respects a mother and spares her suffering” (ibid). All these, Elshtain asserts, ‘can be summed up in a single tendency – the cult of efficiency and abstraction.’ (ibid)

Camus’ conclusion is then highlighted:

 “That is why the man in Europe today experiences only solitude and silence; for he cannot communicate with his fellows in terms of values common to them all, and since he is no longer protected by a respect for man based on the values of man, the only alternative henceforth open to him is to be a victim or an executioner.” (Ibid)

What stands out the most, though, is Elshtain’s own conclusion about what Camus was on about:

‘Camus lays the crisis squarely on the doorstep of an unchecked will-to-power. And from that flows the terrible notion that one can cleanse the world, purge the old, the tired, the imperfect, though terror.’ (p.71)

Directly connected  to this is a post-war assessment made by Albert Camus in 1948:

‘Between the forces of terror (coercion) and the forces of dialogue (persuasion), a great unequal battle has begun. I have nothing but reasonable illusions to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought, and I know that certain men and women have resolved to do so. I merely fear that they will occasionally feel somewhat alone, that they are in fact alone, and that after an interval of two thousand years we may see the sacrifice of Socrates repeated several times.’
(Camus, A. ‘Resistance, Rebellion & Death: Essays’ pp.73-74)

I agree with Elshtain, Camus has the potential to wake The West up from its slumber; to bring technicolour back into focus and persuasively correct the current politically correct technoblur. He names that which should be named and wasn’t afraid to address what needed to be addressed. It’s also helpful to note that after he published,’The Rebel’, French communists (among them was J.P. Sartre) labelled Camus, who was one of their own, a reactionary et.al. Simply because he questioned the ideology and where that ideology landed. He disagreed with them and spoke out against it. As a result he was threatened, ridiculed into submission, excommunicated and disowned by his friends. Which, for the Christian who participates in these realms and seeks responsible dialogue translates into:

‘You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.’
(Jesus, Mark 13:13)


Sources:

Camus, A. 1960 Essays: Resistance, Rebellion and Death, Vintage Books, Random House

Camus, A. 1946-1947 The Human Crisis, pp.20-24

Elshtain, J.B 1998 Augustine and the Limits of Politics, University of Notre Dame Press (pp.70-71 & p.115)

The image used here is my own.