What Politics?

The tricky thing is to provide an explanation of globalization that is not from the outset negative (or positive), but which addresses its possibilities. One cannot deny the political dimension of globalization, which largely comes down to economics. The most visible economic factor is the shift from national economies (as in nation states) to a global economy. In political terms, this translates as the journey from national sovereignty to “empire.”9 This empire, controlled by finance and the globalized economy, is more economic than political (or, if one prefers, its economic power is soon translated into the political decisions that suit it). There results a profound change in conceptions of the political and a withdrawal of politics. This marked withdrawal, observable since the end of the world’s division into capitalist and socialist systems, specifically in the 1990s, coincides with the promotion of the “tout-culturel” and “cultural democracy”

(as described by Alain Brossat), which give the cultural an appearance of power, even as citizens lose their grip on political life. Art withdraws in the face of the cultural, since everything can be cultural. The status of the artist loses its luster, as it is subject to cultural activity, which tends to erase political awareness and power. Schooling, education, and even the university are no longer considered sites of knowledge, or as capable of explaining the world and instructing the public. From this point on, political and economic elites are only interested in art, particularly contemporary art, as an object for speculation: theater has lost its prestige as a critical art useful for understanding and transforming the world. Analyzing the ideological mechanisms of consumption leads to the observation that, more often than not, a political formulation “transforms itself, from a progressive slogan in a political space, into a pure and simple consumerist slogan.”10

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