"In ordinary life, people ask for a job, but in economic theory, employees offer work, so everything is put on the head," says the economist and philosopher Frederick Lordon. "The purpose of the profits today, it is not going to be to increase the value of the company by making it innovate but to increase in the short term the financial value of the company on the markets", After a while, Beatrice Cherrier, historian of economics at the University of Cergy-Pontoise. "Punchlines" of this kind, there are dozens in "Work, salary, profit", the documentary series in 6 episodes aired tonight on Arte and available then in full version on Arte.tv until December 13 . A sum in which the committed author Gerard Mordillat, who had already leaned with Jerôme Prieur on the astonishing destiny of Christianity with "Corpus Christi" in 1997, questions this time the dogmas of our modern religion that is the economy capitalist. A marathon of economic thought that he co-directed this time with the associate Bertrand Rothe, who still teaches the subject in IUT and with which he had already published There is no alternative (Threshold, 2011).
The result is sometimes a bit arduous, like a subject that, despite all the good pedagogical intentions, keeps its conceptual dryness. Hence the interest of this thematic leaflets to discover at its own pace. But it has the immense merit of showing the state of current critical knowledge concerning a "science" that is more than imperfect and heckled on all sides. A total reversal of economism, the panel of 21 researchers from around the world and from all disciplines – economists but also sociologists, historians, anthropologists, a jurist and a philosopher, etc. – makes it possible to embrace an extremely broad field of knowledge and to distance concepts that are often emptied of their meaning by being serinated as lessons of catechism.
Is wage labor dead?
What is work and how does it differ from a simple commodity at the time of the uberisation and platforms of "putting in relation"? Why does it stop being confused with employment? The wage that Marx defined as "The sum of money that the capitalist pays for a fixed working time or for the supply of a particular work", Is he dead at a time when people are talking about a universal income or a salary for life? Can the globalization of the sacrosanct market end otherwise than in a commercial war with the risk of degenerating into wars between nations? So many bases of reflection that are here debated and refined in pathways of thought that unfold from the assumptions submitted by the two authors, invisible on the screen. These academics who have for them the historical depth and the control of the long time draw on their knowledge to draw alternatives to the current system as when a German historian states as obvious that our modes of production could perfectly accommodate a time working hours reduced to 14 hours a week.
The device, shot in the studio in Paris in a situation of comfort conducive to reflection, is minimal: a simple black background without any comment or voice over leaving all the time it takes for each speaker to specify the best. The editing, very rigorous and tight, does the rest, keeping only the most intelligible six to eight hours of discussions with each speaker subjected to an identical grid of questions. Some will regret that most of these "High-level athletes of intelligence" interviewed by Gerard Mordillat belong to the current "heterodox", without counterpoint from the proponents of "rationality" in economic behavior. Others will answer that liberal thinking is dominant enough to be heard everywhere else.
To extend in another form this choral documentary work, a book by the same authors (The laws of capital, ed.Seuil) accompanies the release of this event series.
"There is unanimity on the fact that neoliberalism is at the end of the cycle"
Three questions to Gerard Mordillat and Bertrand Rothe, the two authors of "Work, salary, profit" broadcast tonight on Arte then replay on Arte.tv.
What was the starting point of this series?
The economy is our daily life but by dint of being immersed in it ends up losing the sense of things. One only has to see how much the word work is an unmarked term that we do not always know how to define very well. Our ambition has been to shed light on this daily but in a theoretical way, by giving the floor to those whose work is precisely to continue to clear all those concepts that structure our lives so deeply and often unconsciously.
Are not you afraid that the unfamiliar public of these learned concepts will be put off by the lecture side of this lesson in economics?
If you hear by lesson telling people what to think, it's the opposite of our approach in which we try to give the viewer what television most of the time denies him: the exercise of his critical mind. There is no unambiguous conclusion that can be drawn from what we have conceived as a show of intelligence in action, opinions are decided, which does not detract from the fact that we see in the end a certain number of convergences between all these participants.
Whatever their obediences and their origins, very diverse – we have for example interviewed a Chinese researcher, another African – everyone agrees that the system is bad and no longer works. There is, for example, unanimity on the feeling that neoliberalism, which has been very dominant in economics since the 1970s, is at the end of the cycle, be it on the theoretical level or in the way in which it inspires public policies. When we question these researchers on the notion of the market, some put forward the fact that globalization has paradoxically led to the resurgence of forms of mercantilism, this theory appeared in the XVIe century with the idea that the enrichment of nations is good for the economy and allows to dictate its law to the rest of the world. It is a dead-end of globalized neo-liberalism that risks leading to violence and war.
Ecology and the question of sustainable development are curiously absent from the series. Is not this, however, what today challenges the most paradigms of the capitalist system?
One can not treat everything in six hours, it is the illusion and the skew, of some who mix all the prisms of readings to end up in the end only to a catalog without guideline. It was already extremely ambitious to want to question all these dogmas of the classical economy that appeared for two centuries. We have a second series in project in which we will question the myths of the modern economy among which that growth, very bad point too. This time we have only limited ourselves to the fact that at the end of the month we have a certain amount of money in our pockets. This seemed to us the most pedagogical and relevant way to keep a coherence in this story that we tried to put into perspective.