The economist Bernard Maris, who wrote for Charlie Hebdo and was killed in the attack on its offices in 2015, published a short book about his friend Houellebecq only a few months before he, Maris, was murdered. In this book, Maris claims that Houellebecq understands the modern economy better than any economist—not that Maris has any regard for his own profession or for economics as a discipline—and he quotes with delight the words of a university teacher of the subject who appears as a character in Houellebecq’s novel La Carte et la Territoire, that her work consists of “teaching evident absurdities to arriviste cretins”.
Maris claims that Houellebecq’s target is what the French call neo-liberalism. The latter is a lazy portmanteau word, because by no stretch of the imagination can France, or indeed any Western country, be called liberal, unless it be accepted at the same time that it is also socialist, in short that it is corporatist. It is not market relations that supposedly have replaced all others, even in the bedroom, that Houellebecq reprehends, but the destruction of the human personality by managerialism in the absence of all other belief. Houellebecq has nothing to say about, or against, the relations existing between customer and merchant in Adam Smith’s famous passage about the benevolence of the butcher and baker; and indeed no one could have been harsher than he about French intellectuals’ espousal, largely humbug, of left-wing economic ideology. His target is the dehumanisation of life by a Taylorism of the soul, which requires two conditions to come about: the necessity to work in large impersonal organisations and an absence of belief in anything, be it in God, country, or even an ideology.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor