It comes to us swirling up from the student protests taking place in France. (The PM of France, Dominique de Villepin, has introduced legislation that would make it easier for companies to fire young workers. Students are unhappy and now voluble:)
As students and workers continue to occupy the Sorbonne and march through the streets of France, we will join them with our virtual bodies from around the world. SOLIDARITY WITH THE STUDENTS OF FRANCE! SOLIDARITÉ!
The reference to "virtual bodies" aside, this is pretty much "politics as usual" for the French. What caught my attention is one the ideas at work here.
[P]eople around the world are suffering from the system that the French students are protesting against. The neoliberal, corporate model of society increases the precarity of life for everyone through employment instability, war and environmental destruction. It must be stopped. Youth all over the world face bleak prospects under the current models. New economic and social models must be developed.
Precarity, huh? Notice how elegantly it brings together three disparate topics (employment, war and environment) and bundles them so to recruit a larger body of protest. (The fragmentation that makes life interesting for all of us is especially intense in youth cultures, and this makes it hard to establish consensus and mobilize action.)
But what a strange little idea this is! That life should not be precarious. Wow. If one idea has passed from currency, it’s the notion that liberal democracies can make life predictable and orderly. The sheer force of dynamism in every aspect of contemporary life makes this unthinkable.
But who knows, this might be the little idea that could. Perhaps it will sew together acts of umbrage and outrage. Perhaps it will mobilize students around the world. In an odd way, it gets at the symptom of our contemporary condition most precisely. Naturally, I can’t help feeling that when it moves French students to shut down parts of Paris, the notion of precarity is itself an agent of precarity. But what do I know? You can’t make a souffle without breaking a few eggs.
For more on the protest in France, and the source of materials quoted in this post, go here