Tender egoism or a normative schema for new Europe?

Article published on Dec. 6, 2002
community published
Article published on Dec. 6, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

On what paradigms can we base the construction of our societies? How can politics integrate these paradigms? And can the European construction integrate these concepts of "tender egoism" and "itinerancy"?

We are here in a 3rd millennium that is facing a construction like never before, but, with deception after deception, we don't know what to think of it anymore, nor in which direction we must follow. It is the death of art in the work of Hegel, the death of God in Nietzsche's, the collapse of reason in Kandinsky's, the death of man in Foucalt's, the end of History in Fukuyama'sGilles Lipovetsky describes this process well in his book, "Towards an empty era": Man never stops wondering about that which kills everything in hindering a new world order. The political crisis which our societies are faced with today is, in my opinion, directly linked to this process of remission that is permanently in question.

What meaning can we give to our actions? To what glorious future must we now turn? Which path should we take? Must we throw ourselves once and for all into the face of absolute pessimism? And the ultimate temptation for the Eastern Countries? To be able to at least indulge in the delights of feeling lost, the sublime attraction of decadence.

Today the European construction calls for serious consideration of the meaning of our actions and the inflexion we wish to give them. Here is my design for Europe:

It's up to Man to construct

What leading line should we take in the construction of our societies? Firstly, there is no way, no concept, which forces itself upon us by way of hard evidence. Determinism doesn't exist. And if history today is no longer determined linearly, we are again made aware of our responsibilities, bound to make choices. It is thus up to man to construct and to do so on CONSTRUCTIVE premises. To be free to interpret reality as each individual sees fit. It isn't truth which exists but truths. The question is no longer about knowing if a concept has the value of a dogma but if it will allow us to construct ourselves positively, in harmony with our environment. Pure pragmatism, at last the Anglo-Saxons are going to feel listened to in France!

I hereby propose to you a constructive premise, totally banal and well-known in our Christian societies, that of "tender egoism". These are the two emotions best known to man, egoism and love, the two greatest driving forces behind our actionsegoism (understood well) realises that the happiness of others is just as essential for its own well-being. We are in actual fact now at the heart of the communication theory of Habermas. Individualism and corporatism do not contradict but complement one another and cannot exist one without the other. Their dualism is a delusion. "Tender egoism" thus reaffirms man's primate as being above all other objectives, it is moving towards the search for an harmonious world development. Moreover, globalisation, if it does not lead to a world unification, comes well beneath this positive aspect: true solidarity between men will naturally lead us to act for the good of all, it makes the idea of a fairer distribution of riches and an harmonious development of the planet more likely. "Need creates invention", goes a Moroccan proverb!

Finality resides in the way and not in the end

What remains to be added to the principle of "tender egoism" is that of "itinerancy". A fashionable concept we in this era call post-traditional. Because man has learnt over two centuries, with deception after deception, that bliss amongst men will probably never be achieved, that the fixation with unattainable goal sees divisions, is always tainted by totalitarianism, and leads man to cast aside his reason and critical judgement, because man only constructs himself on premises, he must bear in mind the relativity and finitude of these premises in order that they are never made dogmas. We must introduce the principal of itinerancy. Edgar Morin theorises this concept very well in his book, "Towards an anthropolitic of man". According to him, finality resides in the way and in the act and not in an end. This way is the discipline of thought, engagement, consideration in movement - multidimensional and open to love.

The thing to do now is to firmly analyse what are our chances of reintroducing this principal into politics and above all, what capacity for real action is available to us in today's politics. This question leads us to consider globalisation, systems of reification and European construction. To follow.