“Elon Musk personifies this “geeko-libertarian” ideology to the extreme”

“Elon Musk personifies this “geeko-libertarian” ideology to the extreme”

For more than ten years, the philosopher Eric Sadin has been developing a lively critique of the “technoliberalism” from Silicon Valley, which infuses everywhere, to Emmanuel Macron, president of the “start-up nation”. Especially in this world of « technodiscourse “, the billionaire Elon Musk, boss of Tesla and SpaceX, would be none other than the last apostle of a new ideology of capitalism weakening the common cause. Interview.

Between his electric cars, his space conquest and his fortune, Elon Musk is erected as a hero of modern times. What does that say about us?

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A lot ! Beyond Musk, as humans, we feel the visceral need to worship savior figures. History is punctuated by these kinds of demi-gods who seem endowed with the power to remedy all the difficulties of an era. Rather than striving to transform things collectively, we prefer to rely on those who promise bright tomorrows to supposedly better govern the course of our lives. However, it is now obvious that, for two decades, our naivety has played into the game of contempt for the common good, the fight against inequalities and all regulation.

Billionaire, visionary, reactionary: the disturbing faces of Elon Musk

What do you mean ?

For about forty years, the neoliberal credo has imposed the principle according to which the first vector of virtuous transformation of the world would be the private sector. He would be, in all fields, the most efficient, the most inventive and, by extension, the engine of the good dynamism of the company. Conversely, everything that comes under public institutions would be struck with lethargy. Deliberation and political choice can only lead to excesses, being inept at taking charge of the proper organization of collective affairs. This libertarian-minded ideology – which has spread around the world – presumes that any major evolution, at bottom, only depends on the penetrating vision of a few individuals driven by their own interests and from which we would all benefit.

This axiom echoes the specifically American myth of the self-made man. Either the fact that all success story, capable of modifying the course of our lives, depends only on the energy of a single man, as if touched by grace. By aggregation, only genius and daring entrepreneurs are the cause of great advances; in this, it is advisable at all costs not to hinder them. Even more, they must be encouraged to give substance to their projects. This explains the unconditional support that politicians have for years given to the said “digital innovation”. While the latter only seeks above all to commodify all aspects of our lives and to establish a hyper-rationalization of society.

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Eric Sadin

Elon Musk appears to fit this description, between the many state aids for his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, and his tax optimization.

Elon Musk is not a simple industrialist like Rockefeller was [le premier milliardaire du capitalisme américain, NDLR]he embodies the myth of the providential techno-entrepreneur of the 21ste century. To the extent that digital technologies, in their exponential growth, are called upon to fill all our deficiencies. It’s more than solutionism, since there is this underlying logic: God did not complete creation, the world being then steeped in defects. And above all, the man, who must be constantly perfected. It is in this light that we understand the transhumanist project of” to improve “ the human being to save him from his flaws – the ultimate of which would be death. Musk personifies this ideology to the extreme “geeko-libertarian”. What has been striking over the past fifteen years is the fascination of politicians on all sides for the digital industry and its desire to administer all aspects of life. That’s what I called the “Silicolonization of the world” [titre de son ouvrage, sous-titré « L’irrésistible expansion du libéralisme numérique » et paru aux Editions l’Echapée en 2016].

How does this political fascination translate?

By adhering to a doxa which affirmed that this economic turning point augured gigantic deposits of wealth, would promote the creation of jobs, but also new management methods, “cool and horizontal” – those supposed to prevail in start-ups. As many components being able to bring out a “inclusive capitalism” in a way, from which everyone, if they wish, can make the most of them, as well as forms of personal fulfillment. This is what allowed the emergence of platforms, with all the abuses observed today. The recent “Uber Files” leaks [des milliers de documents internes à la société de VTC qui ont notamment mis en lumière un deal entre Emmanuel Macron et les dirigeants de l’entreprise] are ultimately indicative of a powerful phenomenon: the gradual handover from politics to the techno-economic world.

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However, everything is not so linear: the excesses of multinationals, in particular technologies, are regularly denounced, even condemned by heavy fines.

Of course, consciences have evolved. Tax evasion, implacable management conditions, pollution due to all our digital activities are now patent… In addition, social networks have contributed to making one’s own word prevail over that of others, to increasing brutality reports, to logics of suspicion and permanent denunciation. All this verbal overflow only eradicating any common base. However, the concern, legitimate – but so much in the image of liberal individualism -, to preserve our private data has ended up obscuring the major fact: the full term commodification of our lives and the hyperoptimized organization in progress of the company. In this, we are not dealing with a “surveillance capitalism”but to that of the administration – with our consent – “of our well-being” and helping to promote a “social hygiene”aspiring to a supposed perfection in everything.

What would be the solution? A revival in the face of the apostles of this technoliberalism?

It is time to submit to criticism all these technodiscourses forged by consulting firms and repeated everywhere on a loop. That’s why I believe it’s time to testify. Let us tell the story of the effects of this ideology of “digital transformation” from all sectors of society. That people from the world of work, education, public hospitals, etc., tell us the facts from the ground level of daily lived realities. Against representations that only aim to respond to private interests and a strictly utilitarian vision of the world. In this respect, it would be beneficial one day to have an Elon Musk and his Tesla cars, for example, confront specialists in the ecosystem and living things. It would only take a few minutes to lift the hood and discover that the alleged ecological arguments put forward are nothing but window dressing. In this, developing – in action – our critical sense, at all levels of society, seems to me to represent a major moral and political duty of our time.