The One Idea System

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The One Idea System

Bogged down. In today’s democracies, an increasing number of free citizens feel bogged down, glued down by a kind of sticky dogma which is in the process of surreptitiously engulfing any contrary way of thought by inhibiting it, by disturbing it, by paralysing it and in the end, by squeezing it shut. This dogma is the One Idea System, the only idea allowed by an invisible but nevertheless omnipresent opinion police.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the communist regimes, and the socialist movement’s generalised loss of self-confidence, the arrogance, impudence and haughtiness of this new Gospel have reached such heights that one can safely characterise this ideological frenzy by the name of modern dogmatism.

What is the One Idea system? It is the translation into allegedly universal ideological premises of the interests of an assemblage of economic forces (actors?), especially those (represented by) international capital. As a matter of fact, the One Idea System had already been defined and announced at Bretton Woods in 1944. It mostly originates from the big monetary and economic institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OCDE, the GATT, the European Commission, the Bank of France, etc. By way of funding these institutions (are able to) enrol numerous research centres, universities, and foundations across the globe. These, in turn, refine and disseminate the Gospel.

This anonymous discourse is then picked up and reproduced by the main providers of economic information, most prominently by the bankers’, stockbrokers’ and investors’ favourite papers: The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist, The Far Eastern Review, Les Echos, Reuters, etc. (Needless to say that…) For a large part, these organs are owned by big industrial or financial groups. And almost everywhere, economics departments (of universities), journalists, essayists and also politicians make these new ten commandments their own, and incant them ad nauseam, relayed by the mass media. All in the knowledge that in our age of thoroughly mediatised societies, repetition means proof.

The leading premise of the One Idea System is all the more powerful since (avowedly absent-minded) Marxists would not contradict it. It states that the economic sphere takes precedence over the political one. It is on the basis of this very premise that, to take but one example, a major political instrument such as the (Reserve) Bank of France was made independent (of the government) in 1994, and this without noticeable opposition. The Banque has been, as they say, “shelved from the vagaries of politics”. “The Bank of France is independent, non-political, and cuts across the parties” states its CEO, Jean Claude Trichet, only to add: “We do however ask (the government) to reduce the budget deficit (and) we do pursue a stable currency strategy” As if these objectives were anything but political objectives!… It is in the name of (this same) “realism” and “pragmatism” that Mr Alain Minc comes to the following statement: “Capitalism will not collapse, because capitalism is the natural state of society. Democracy is not the natural state of society. The market is.”, and proceeds to put the economy “at the helm”. And of course we’re talking here of an economy that has been “freed” from the embarrassment of the social sphere, that horrible and pathetic straightjacket which stands accused of being the root cause of our recessions and economic crises.

Other key features of the One Idea System are well known: The market, that deity whose “invisible hand corrects the asperities and dysfunctions of capitalism”, and then most of all, the financial markets, whose “signals guide and determine the general trends of the economy”; competition and competitivity, who “stimulate and dynamise enterprises, by inducing them in a process of permanent and beneficial modernisation”; borderless free trade, “source of an unending increase of commercial exchanges, and thus of the development of society”: globalization, both of industrial production and of financial flows; international division of labour, which “keep the union’s demands in check and lowers the costs of labour”; strong currency, “an (important) stabilising factor”; deregulation; privatisation; liberalisation, etc. “Less and less State”, a permanent arbitration in favour of incomes deriving from capital above those deriving from work. And an absolute disregard for all ecological consequences.

The constant reiteration of this new catechism in all the media by almost all politicians, whether they belong to the left or to the right, endows it with such an intimidating power that it stifles any attempt to think freely about it, and renders next to impossible any opposition against this new obscurantism.

One would almost come to think that the 17.4 million jobless Europeans, the collapse of the inner cities, the widespread sentiment of insecurity and marginalization, the generalised corruption, the riots in the highrise ghettos of the urban peripheries, the environmental carnage, the return of religious, political and racist extremism, and the rising tide of the excluded are mere phantasms, nay, are criminal hallucinations which culpably disrupts the envisioning of that most marvellous of all possible worlds which is being built for us and our anaesthetised consciences by the One Idea System.

Originally published in Le Monde Diplomatique, January 1995.

Translated by Patrice Riemens, University of Amsterdam.