Emancipate boldly, something will always stick
Emancipation continues today to inspire social and ideological struggles and seeks to do away with all the powers that govern us, whether they concern our physical holdings, cultural archetypes, hierarchies, shackles of wage labor, sometimes archaic traditions. in which we operate. Even our human condition questioned by transhumanist currents or now the machine. So many chains to blow up.
Like progress, no part of society escapes the need for emancipation.
With some hindsight, one is entitled to wonder if this systematic emancipation is necessary? Does tradition really bear all the reactionary flaws we blamed it for?
What if emancipation was only an injunction born from modernity, supported by meta-narratives we should mistrust?
Meta-narratives like the dominant one about the industrial revolution, whose discourse of emancipation through labor and wages prompted many peasants-turned-workers to “alienate themselves to the machine”. There is also the meta-narrative about the emancipation of the individual, one that needed to happen through the advent of the automobile in the 1950s and largely contributed to shaping our cities and our ways of working, which are now called in question. Tobacco lobbies have also helped shape an iconography of a liberated individual. Emancipation and consumption then mingled together sometimes to the point of being confused for one another. The condition of women suffered from it too, when innovations mostly contributed to accentuating sexual and domestic archetypes. Last but not least, there is the great meta-narrative of cybernetics, the personal computer and the Internet in which we are immersed.
Promises of emancipation from the past are replaced by new alienations. We may be more free to travel, but at the cost of our independence and privacy. Work, mobility, consumption, connectivity. All of these successive emancipations are contemporary narratives strongly questioned today. Travail, mobilité, consommation, connectivité. Toutes ces émancipations successives sont des récits contemporains qui sont aujourd’hui fortement remis en question. Breaking free of these meta-narratives resonates like a new form of emancipation. A “mise en abîme” that questions the paradoxal injunctions we are submitted to by innovation. Investing in A.I. before being obsolete, being the first to set a foot on Mars, transforming France into a Start-up nation… Those are the new narratives that carry hope.
But to what destination?