The End Of The Status Quo

Popular anger is a reaction to the diminishing returns of the current paradigm. Today, the fragile rationality of the disciples of the status quo, and the momentum of those carrying heterodox visions, are confronting each other. It represents an opportunity for renewal, all while posing a colossal risk.

By Raffaele Alberto Ventura.

Translated by Arthur Boyle and Élise Blackburn.

In the mainstream media’s narrative, populism is nothing less than the enemy of all that is good, beautiful, and true. It doesn’t serve the people, it manipulates them, inviting them into its reversed world: conspiracy theories, alternative medicines, fantastical political offers, ridiculous monetary theories… It would seem the citadel that shelters us is under siege from obscure forces, like in the cult series Attack on Titan, which proposes a powerful metaphor of the era1. The intellectuals, the economists, and the doctors are incessantly convened to defend their scientific consensus, built on years of experiences, theories, and debates, against the often frivolous opinions of demagogic orators and vindictives. But who decides that which is good, that which is beautiful, that which is true? It is of course the same media and the same intellectuals. Just like emerging countries, the Occident has its “decolonizers,” who re-question the political, scientific, and cultural foundations of modern civilization: they too reclaim the “nation” or the “people” against the “experts,” and rail against universalism, henceforth perceived as an instrument of domination.

The historian of science Thomas Kuhn, whose method we gladly follow, wrote, “political revolutions aim to change institutions with the processes that those institutions themselves have forbidden.”2 It’s not about defending the most contemptible populist narratives, nor of feigning a good-natured relativism–because real danger does await us–but of recognizing that we are actively living an epistemological rupture. We cannot content ourselves with analyses produced inside the dominant paradigm, because those are both judge and jury. We must take seriously the radical criticism that comes to us from populist movements, with its “irrational” appearance, to ask ourselves if that rationality isn’t situated at another level. We have too often weighed supposed truth against supposed falsehood without realizing that what really matters is the efficiency of the paradigms: we fell into metaphysics, when the problems we had were eminently economic. For this reason, we propose here a reading of ideological cycles, vaguely inspired by the theory of Joseph Schumpeter on industrial cycles.

If populism grows, it’s not because it’s right, nor because its adversaries are wrong, but simply because the paradigm currently in place has entered a phase of diminishing returns. The economy, politics, and medicine still “work”–at least better than “thoughts and prayers”– but each additional unit of cost no longer generates an equivalent social effect: the system had plateaued. And yet, the tribute demanded by that system in order to continue functioning never ceases to grow, because it must maintain the costs of its structure. Faced with this machine of knowledge-power, the benefits of which no longer correspond to its rising costs, we have to consider other machines, whether they call themselves sovereignty, direct democracy, or decreased growth. They can’t yet claim the strongest economic performances, in fact it’s quite to the contrary, but we can always hope for a strong learning curve in the meantime. In any case, that was the gamble made by previous “decolonizers,” who knew they needed a transitional phase before they could obtain real results. Basically, as the philosopher of science Paul K. Fereyabend remarked, Galileo was wrong for a long time before he was finally right3. In the same way, we might say that populism has a rationality that rationality doesn’t know, like Ernesto Laclau has already shown4.

Let’s be perfectly clear: there’s no political gamble riskier than playing with populism’s fire. Most of those who have tried to tame it have burned themselves. The 20th century had its fascisms and its aborted decolonizations, from Germany to Zimbabwe. But when the fire is in front of us, we have to try to understand how it came to be, because in the end, it might be the right choice5.


We can affirm, with Etienne de la Boetie, that servitude is always voluntary. That is to say that it doesn’t “proceed because of exterior constraints, but because of an interior consent of the victims themselves, become complicit with their tyrant.”6  A power dynamic is, at its base, a form of exchange–e.g., between work and pay, or between protection and obedience–which does not persist unless it’s advantageous for both parties. But we have to remember that this exchange is unequal: it always translates pre-existing power dynamics. The economist Arghirir Emmanuel, in his celebrated 1969 essay7, denounced this characteristic mechanism of the division of labor between nations: because of different levels of productivity (that is to say capitalization), certain nations yield the fruits of certain eras of labor, and others yield the fruits of grossly inferior eras. This is why we speak of a center and a periphery, forever linked in a dependent relationship8: the former, offering merchandise at a higher added value, can help itself to the production of the latter. But isn’t this unequal exchange between services at different levels of capitalization structured in the same way as daily life in each nation? As we’ve known since Bourdieu9, there’s a particular type of capital which is distributed in an unequal manner amongst individuals, since it incorporates years of social experiences and educational investments: cultural capital. The unequal distribution of this unit of capital is related to the unequal exchange which we call the division of labor. It thus allows the creation of an elite in every sense, of, symbolically speaking, a highly capitalized technostructure, which coincides with the “managerial class” described in 1941 by James Burnham: the executives, the bureaucrats, the “organizers…”10 And, of course, the intellectuals, according to Antonio Gramsci’s definition: “the dominant group’s assistants in the exercise of subaltern functions of the social hegemony and the political government.”11

The society of classes, exactly like the entire global system, can be represented by the relationship between a center and a periphery; although each center has its center and each periphery has its periphery, of course. Christophe Guilluy described this relationship within the French territory, where the administrative centralization and the concentration of economic activities causes geographic data and social hierarchy to overlap to some extent12 . Michael Onfray spoke of “decolonizing the provinces.”13 Their analyses took on a political sense for peripheral forces seeking legitimacy, from the French right-wing14 to Daesh (ISIS)15. The Indigenous movement of the Republique identified a similar relationship between the dominant classes and the European issues of North African and African immigration16. In this sense, the elites’ political, economic, and cultural power exercises itself under a perfect colonial modality, which is to say like an exchange, fundamentally unequal, between the services rendered by the center, and those rendered by the periphery. By the mediation of revenue, the technician or the intellectual leverages their services against other services, which allow them to feed and house themselves, and even acquire wealth: they “give meaning” and take goods; they produce signifiers and amass signifieds. Does the periphery really have agency to refuse exchange with the class that has the monopoly on symbolic capital?

Here, we see the colonial structure of the ideology at work, and at the same time we understand why it has historically been so difficult, in all places and all times, to cut the bonds of the colonial yoke: because if a hegemonic dynamic exists, it’s often the most reasonable short-term choice for the dominated. The status quo’s blackmail functions under the guise of a simple calculus of costs and benefits, and because every process of modernisation implies a dependent relationship17. The technostructure often survives large revolutions–like the tsarist administration did in 1917–by guaranteeing continuity with the past. And if it’s not exactly the same men, it will be their science, their method, their know-how…. That’s why, in Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes writes that a century and a half after the Anglican schism there remained a priority to liberate–we could equally say decolonize–academic knowledge from papal influence18.

But what precisely is this service at a high added-value lended by the class of experts? What is the particular service that we call “giving meaning”? We offer several examples at once: a scientist is supposed to accelerate technological innovation; an economist to propose effective long-term planning and regulation; a sociologist to identify dysfunctions which affect the collective; an artist to offer myths and symbols that construct or maintain social cohesion… In the end, their performances can be measured with economic indicators: by their capacity to generate a shared social value; in bettering everyone’s life. Thus they’re good because they affirm that the elites matter, and because the elites can then leverage the products of their labor at a higher cost than others. It’s valuable, too, for the political class, which has to organize the state’s action in order to guarantee the best interests of the largest possible majority; for the entrepreneurs, who coordinate the work-force with the goal of generating wealth which can indirectly benefit society as a whole; even for the bankers, who are supposed to provision the capital market. But what happens when the cost of these elites exceeds their added value redistributed to society? There comes a moment, in each cycle of accumulation, where the unequal exchange ceases to be advantageous for the periphery: this opens a turbulent period of translation, which, according to Immanuel Wallerstein, began in the 1970’s19.


In On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzche writes that “Europe’s greatest threat is weariness.”20 The historian Paul Kennedy has a formula to define the condition of imperial power that can no longer guarantee its own domination, a condition he calls “imperial overstretch;” an excessive imperial deployment21. As soon as a political subject’s sum of interests exceeds its capacity to defend them, it assists in a stretching of power which can lead to a serious tear. Kennedy was describing the condition of the United States in its period of economic slowdown, pre-empting the debate on the “end of the American century” which occupied a number of historians, sociologists, political scientists, and demographers22. Almost twenty years later, in June of 2017, a Pentagon report states that the post-WWII world order “risks collapse,” which would drive the United States to lose its position of primacy23. This collapse concerns more than just America: “All the governments and traditional structures of political authority are undergoing rising pressures from forces both endogenous and exogenous.” The report thus issues warnings: “The fracture of the post-Cold War global system is accompanied by the collapse of the internal political, social, and economic tissues of virtually all governments.”

If the center is having more and more difficulty in extracting its tribute from the periphery, it offers less and less in exchange to its clients to guarantee their voluntary servitude. What matters for empires can also matter for nations and classes, or for a certain dominant order or paradigm (comprised of values, knowledges, methods, and commercial relationships) that coincide with the global capitalist system. Yet what do we see when examining the state of the system’s health with the performance indicators which it itself produced? The growth rates of GDP in OECD countries has decreased decade by decade since the 1960’s24, a trend started well before any attempt at a kind of “neoliberal” reform. Because of this deceleration of growth, the portion of work-related revenue was reduced disproportionately in relation to the revenue of capital, worsening inequalities which themselves then act negatively on growth25. And yet, the productivity of capital also diminished over the course of this period26, which some have interpreted as confirmation of the Marxist theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF)27.

According to Keynesian doctrine, the apparatus which was supposed to regulate the economic cycle, the State, has entered into a serious fiscal crisis28 which has rendered it more and more dependent on financial markets29. The marginal productivity of public spending has thus fallen since the 1950’s: for each euro or dollar more that the State debits, it generates fewer and fewer benefits for the collective. Furthermore, one also notes the increasing cost of risk management: that is to say, everything that society spends on the basis of the precautionary principle to prevent events which are unlikely but potentially destructive, especially in the realms of security and public health30. As the complexity of the system increases, it becomes more cumbersome to insure against the risks which threaten its very existence. In the absence of growth, the weight of interest on debt contributes to the strangling the country. The political technology which we call the State which is supposed to govern the economy in times of late capitalism has entered a crisis. It’s increasingly difficult for the class of organizers which embody this system to justify their existence. The more that class appears indispensable, the more its limitations are exposed, and the more it’s perceived as parasitic. If we consider this like an ecological problem, one obtains an distortion of the predator-prey equilibrium, conforming to the Lotka-Volterra model: the center can only levy the periphery for a certain amount of value, limited by the collapse of the system31. It’s a question of a crisis at once economic and epistemological: it’s a crisis of paradigm.

This crisis isn’t an effect of the refutation of mainstream models, which are still part of university curricula and guide expert decisions. It presents itself under the guise of a discrepancy between the performances predicted in theory and the performances realized in practice. It pertains to a flexible example of that which economists since the time of David Ricardo called the law of diminishing returns. It’s the principle which states that marginal productivity obtained by using a factor of additional production–for example, a hectare of cultivated land, or a euro of additional public expenditure–tends to decrease. Namely, that for each new hectare of cultivated land, a return on investment will be less and less satisfying. The economist Paul Collier applied this concept to aid given to developing countries, showing how each round of additional aid had weaker effects than the previous32. Others, like William Easterly, went farther, showing how this aid was actually having a real negative effect33. Ivan Illich spoke similarly of a “marginal disutility;” an effect of augmenting counter-productivity.

Yet this system has, for a long time, guaranteed extraordinary performances, thanks to its economies of scale, its technological progress, and a virtuous dynamic of state-building since the 19th century. It’s the story that Robert J. Gordon recently told in his work The Rise and Fall of American Growth, which asserts that no innovation can restart the American capitalist machine35. Its central argument, announced in a 2015 article, is that the digital revolution entered too fast during a phase of diminishing returns36.


If the law of Ricardo is important, it’s because it reminds us that it’s useless to wait religiously for ROIs on the simple basis of linear projections realized during a historical series of sensational results. Certainly, we saw amazing correlations during the Glorious Thirty, but it’s not obvious that the ratio of proportionality still remains: the system could have reached its peak, as Antonio Gramsci said37. After a period of growth, it starts to be eroded by diminishing returns.

It’s a pathology that affects structures at an advanced stage of their development, when–as in the model of Paul Kennedy–their weight surpasses their height. As Leopold Kohr wrote in 1957 in The Breakdown of Nations, “wherever something is wrong, something is too big.”38 According to the Austrian economist, “whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions.”39 This law touches political structures, but also businesses, affected by structural costs which gradually become more unsustainable as they gain mass: e.g. costs of transactions40, maintenance of relationships41, bureaucracy42, risk management43, productivity loss44, wastes, financial exposure45, loss of accountability46; basically anything that falls under the larger category of diseconomies of scale47. It’s precisely the stance of business theorists, the sociologists of organizations, and even management experts that things must further worsen in order to better understand the mechanisms that prevent structures–economic, political, ideological–from improving their performances in rhythm with their growth.

The curse of diminishing returns also affects the paradigms of the hard sciences, which, having reached a peak, innovate at a slower and slower pace: Lee Smolin explained in detail how, over the course of recent decades, physics was taken hostage by a costly research program which was incapable of producing concrete results48. This curse affects public health in equal measure, still under threat of bankruptcy49. It affects, obviously, the science of economics. Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains all of this by the process of bureaucratic centralization and the intellectual division of labor which increasingly distances theorists from the consequences of their actions: “Entire disciplines, like economics and the social sciences, have become charlatan-esque, because no one has any skin in the game.”50 More generally, the curse of diminishing returns affects knowledge, or more precisely, the system of production and reproduction of knowledge: if the cost of investments in research and development doesn’t stop increasing, the value generated won’t grow at the same rate51. Gradually, as the frontiers of the discipline move farther away, it’s more and more costly, in terms of years of studies, to master it and propose useful results. As the economist Tyler Cowen explained, “It can take you ten years of studying to reach the contemporary edge of a discipline, and at the moment that you arrive there et produce an innovation, your contribution is marginal, and even a little dated. The edge moved while you were learning how to master the discipline.”52 Furthermore, he remarks that the great innovations in history were produced when the disciplines were still immature, often by outsiders and not within the dominant paradigms, which tend to become bureaucracies busy with guaranteeing their own survival. In recent times, Cowen continues, “we’ve had a number of advancements in the sciences, but the world seems to be conceptually much more disordered.”53

It’s precisely where scholastic theology arrived during the course of its secular history: as it gradually became more complete and coherent, it also became more difficult to handle, more distant from the preoccupations of its time, more rigid. The degree of complexity of the model demanded an enormous “computing power” to resolve all the anomalies which continued to pose themselves. But as Jacques Le Goff said, medieval universities were, above all else, “incubators for senior officials.”54 Between the 14th and 16th centuries, the technical knowledge that they were able to produce was “paid” for by an increased “price” of courses of study, which reached 6 or 8 years for a bachelor’s degree, even 15 years for theology; the studies often financed by a heavy private debt and by public taxation through tithes55. This generate a growing mass of frustration among those excluded; a larger and larger number in a system that grew more and more selective. And all of that for what? To respond to questions like those offered by Erasmus: “Could God have been incarnated in a woman? And in a devil, and in a donkey, and in a pumpkin, and in a pebble?”56 We arrive, as the expression is known, at discussing the “sex of angels”: that which doesn’t exist elsewhere without reminding us of the subjects studied in certain American departments of comparative literature.

Between the 14th and 17th century, the cost of the scholastic system seemed less and less justified by its output. This crisis of the scholastic paradigm is incarnate in the the fate of the entire classe, that of the hyper-developed “senior official,” whose highly technical knowledge is no longer able to furnish a sufficient added-value to the society which is supposed to remunerate them. A new generation of intellectuals called humanists (rather populist intellectuals, incidentally, and fairly ignorant by the criteria of their era) suddenly appear from the periphery to lay siege to the center. And yet, as Pierre Chaunu wrote: “Let’s be fair, scholastic latin is language that is precise and rigorous, that 20ths century philosophers admire, but which is not understood at the start of the 16th century by the humanist mileu, which contests the object as much as the technique of knowing it.”57

Are we not in the process of reliving the same crisis? The general increase of educational attainment in advanced countries has ceased to translat into gains in productivity58, and now appears exclusively as a pure positional cost intended to reduce competition in the job market59. To obtain the same performance in the highly qualified trades, a company must pay more, because we must take into account the cost of the growth of the signaling process60. Yet a manager in 2018 isn’t ten times better paid than a manager in 1968 because she’s ten times more productive, but simply because she’s ten times more difficult to select61. It’s precisely these costs of selection, totally unproductive, which weigh on the cost of services offered by the managerial class. That’s why we speak of a diminishing return of elites: although the center demands a growing quantity of resources from the periphery, each additional unit of capital demanded–and it demands more and more–always returns a bit less. It serves reproduction more than production. All of which seems to confirm the forumula of Clément Juglar: “The greatest prosperity and the the greatest misery are sisters, and always follow each other.”62


This is how dynasties fall, according to the great 14th century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun:  they embark on an escalation of wastefulness in order to finance internal competition between elites63. Sociologist Jack A. Goldstone is credited with rediscovering this analysis at the end of the 1980s, making “intra-elite competition” one of the pillars of his history of revolutions64. In his work entitled Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, he denounces the “factionalism within the elites” that “paralyzed decision making.” Indeed, as Ibn Khaldun demonstrated, “Struggles for prestige and authority took precedence over a united approach to resolving fiscal and social problems”65. The self-destructive effects of intra-elite competition are clearly visible today in the ways the media and political figures cultivate certain populist codes to acquire gains in the short term. In Ibn Khaldun’s view, the race for prestige (jâh), or the accumulation of symbolic unproductive capital66, interferes with activities related to the production of collective wealth: we could speak of a crisis of overaccumulation of symbolic capital, or a mismatch between the skills pool of individuals and the opportunities to valorize those skills. Thus the center (hadara) requires the work of the periphery (badawa) in exchange for less and less efficient services. The center swells until it can no longer maintain its hegemony. As Yeats put it so well, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”67.

In reference to intellectuals who profess populism— such as Jean-Claude Michéa —we often hear of “treason of intellectuals,” to quote Julien Benda, or of a “revolt of the elites,” to quote Christopher Lasch. But this would be a moral or moralizing reading of the phenomenon that does not do much in the way of actually explaining the mechanisms that brought us to this state of crisis. In a time of transition, the dominant paradigm will remain the most efficient frame of reference when compared to its competitors, even if the marginal returns fall and the management costs increase. It’s the “worst…except for all the others” to cite Churchill, but being the least bad option is not good enough. To trigger a system-wide crisis, there only needs to be a relative gap–that is, returns only have to be lower than expected.  Above all, this is a crisis of legitimacy. In one of his last conferences of 2017, physician Stephen Hawking spoke of a global revolt against experts68. It is in this spirit and with this conviction that the intellectual class—what is known as “intellectual yet idiot”69—is no longer capable of driving change. In 2016, Nassim Nicholas Taleb publicly expressed his preference for presidential candidate Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, who was viewed as representing the technostructure. With his countercurrent positions and his eccentric style, Taleb is perhaps the most lucid of the anti-system thinkers, as he has best identified the contours of this crisis: not a revolt against capitalism itself, nor against the super-rich, but in fact a hostile reaction to technocratic infrastructures.

To explain the specificities of this phase, science historian Thomas Kuhn calls upon the irrational dimension of feeling:

“Political revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created. In much the same way, scientific revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, again often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way.”70

He immediately specifies: “In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution”71. This resonates with the work of jurist Gaetano Mosca, a great theorist of elite behavior, who wrote in 1896 that “ the political classes decay when they are unable to exercise those activities through which they attained their goal or when these activities lose meaning in relation to the political power.”72

Expectations for the existing system are defined by the range of previous performances (for example, the growth in GDP between 1945 and 1955) but also by the objectives defined within the system itself during its phase of legitimation. Why, asked the post-war world, should we allow industrialization to disfigure our cities and countrysides? Because, as technocrats would respond, it’s the price to pay to gain entry to the era of opulence—you won’t be disappointed, there’s enough for everyone. Why, asked peasants in 1789, should we accept the administrative centralization and relaxation of internal customs; that is, accept to put the moral economy of the Ancien Régime in danger? Because we are promising you “l’égalité, la liberté et la fraternité !” For no other system can guarantee the fulfillment of all of the promises that had to be made for the system to come into being. In each great transition, in 1789 and in 1945, the new ruling class was obligated to commit to promises that it could not maintain in the long-term. The elites even constructed political myths: they then had to confront the disappointment they generated. It is this very term, “disappointment,” (Enttäuschung) that Nietzsche employs to explain the nihilist movement of his era73. A few years prior, he wrote: “We begin to glimpse the discrepancy between the world we venerate and the world in which we live: the world that we are.”74 In their prospect theory, economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky developed a concept that translates this feeling of disappointment: loss aversion, a cognitive bias that pushes humans to become more attached to a loss than to a gain of equal amount75.

The contrast that Nietzsche evokes is all the more striking because these expectations have been generously cultivated. Legitimacy constitutes a debt that must sooner or later be paid. In 1984, Italian political scientist Norberto Bobbio denounced the “6 broken promises’ of classical liberal thought: the incompleteness of plural society, the revenge of self-interest, the persistence of oligarchy and invisible power, the limited space for enforcement of policy, and the failure of education76.

Realists would argue that it would be unrealistic to expect a political system to create heaven on earth: this is true, but if we live in the “empire of the lesser evil,” to cite a “populist” intellectual like Michéa77, then the mistake would be to pretend, without being able to guarantee, that this is the “best of all possible worlds.” As diverse authors such as Alexis de Tocqueville78, Joseph Schumpeter79 and Fred Hirsch80 have convincingly argued, the fragility of liberal society lies in the structural contradiction between the aspirations it must spark and the opportunities it can guarantee. Following the exportation of this model throughout the world, these contradictions have reached an entirely different scale, as postcolonial intellectuals have demonstrated. Debt has reached a planetary scale; it is unclear how it could possibly be paid off.


The rising tide of disappointment from the paradigm in crisis also has a sociological explanation: given that the selection process of the ruling class has a tendency to become increasingly onerous, it generates more and more waste81. The center does not have the capacity to absorb all of the individuals who have been trained to become a part of it: they do not have sufficient quantities of symbolic capital, or “jâh” as Ibn Khaldun would phrase it, to find their place in the intellectual labor market, but they have enough symbolic capital to represent a threat to the system’s stability82. Individuals from this excluded class, the disappointed and frustrated, are the ideal candidates to guide the revolt of the periphery against the center. It is fundamentally the same story told by the fairy tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, made famous by the brothers Grimm: since the city refused to pay the pied piper for his musical talents, he sought revenge by training the children of the village to throw themselves off of the top of the mountain at the sound of his instrument. According to Peter Turchin, the overproduction of elites is one of the factors that triggers, today as it did at the fall of the Roman Empire, a long period of political instability83.

Ibn Khaldun himself was excluded from the managerial class of his time, the class of scholars of the Quran, and perhaps he benefited from his position as an outsider to think more independently than his peers. Today we would consider his thinking to be disruptive. He proposed a theory that moves in this disruptive direction, since according to the Arab historian himself it is the outsiders — the barbarians — who allow for the dynastic cycle to restart84. A few years ago, Italian novelist Alessandro Baricco put forth the same “barbarian” metaphor to describe a new humanity that operates according to entirely new norms that would be utterly indecipherable to inhabitants of the old world85. Similarly, Erasmus and Hobbes, were rejected from the elite academic world; humanists generally came from academic backgrounds such as the liberal arts, meaning they embarked on shorter periods of study that inspired less prestige, studied ‘lesser’ subject matter, experienced academic and professional failures, and so on. Even if Erasmus ended up receiving only a “second-rate” doctorate degree from the University of Turin, the topics covered in his dissertation remain in public knowledge and were still eventually given to the future author of the Leviathan (who would be forever disillusioned by academia) during his time at Oxford in 1608. In the words of Hobbes: « S’il serait mieux d’avoir une seule langue pour tout le monde ou plusieurs langues dans chaque nation ; si une colossale inondation de toute la terre serait une catastrophe plus grande qu’une glaciation… »86

By the nature of these studies, this new socio-political class was more fond of rhetoric than logic; it was therefore through rhetoric, not strictly through logic, that they fought their cultural battle. The boundaries between academic disciplines was more accessible and it was thus less costly to innovate and produce visible results. Among humanists, having a way with words was enough to undercut an entire theological paradigm: take for example the treatment that Rabelais reserved for Duns Scot87, a philosopher fond of nuance who was not rediscovered until the 20th century. It is an operation of this type that made Descartes famous, as centuries later Nietzsche understood when he accused him of sophistry for restructuring science on the basis of a pun88. As Paul K. Feyerabend wrote: “It is clear that the attachment to new ideas must be provoked […] by irrational means such as propaganda, emotion, ad hoc hypotheses, and appeals to prejudices of all kinds. We need these irrational means.”89 With this he describes the unspeakable reality behind these changes to the paradigm, that his mentor Karl Popper had hidden behind a logic of scientific discovery that was ultimately unrealistic. Nietzsche put it the same way: « Mais vous êtes-vous jamais assez demandé vous-même à quel prix l’édification de tout idéal en ce monde a été possible, combien pour cela la réalité a dû être calomniée et méconnue, combien on a dû sanctifier de mensonges, troubler de consciences, sacrifier de divinités. » Taking a decidedly visionary tone, his conclusion anticipates the Schumpeterian vision of economic cycles: “If a temple is to be erected, a temple must be destroyed; that is the law! Let anyone who can show me a case in which it is not fulfilled!”90

A revolutionary is always a populist; a populist has won. Until a new paradigm can be substituted, we can only guarantee the same results as the dominant paradigm. The status quo paradigm generates no real results, but it compensates for its shortcomings by drawing from its surplus of legitimacy that was gained by appeals to emotion. Again, this strategy is consistent with that of the decolonizers. As pan-African leader Thomas Sankara once said, long before Steve Jobs or any other management guru : “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today.”91

If we accept La Boétie’s definition of power relations as voluntary servitude, or a rational calculation of the costs and benefits of submission, madness–as embodied in feelings such as hate or honor–appears as a necessary precondition of a changing paradigm. In its most extreme form, trade on unequal terms is presented as a choice between life or death. To reclaim freedom, the slave must renounce the certainty of not being killed by his master. He makes an absurd gamble, a more or less conscious error in his calculation. History is fraught with these calculation errors; since the time of Moses, who mobilized his people for the cause of national liberation, a cause that only achieved success thanks to pure coincidence (divine coincidence, according to some) that brought together multiple rare atmospheric phenomena. No risk matrix could possible justify such decisions; nevertheless, these choices appear necessary in retrospect.


Even if the changing paradigm appears necessary in the long term, it is never inevitable: the system can scrape by almost indefinitely in its phase of diminishing returns. Only an improbable event could bring about its anticipated end: a reckless battle, a disconcerting electoral victory…The likelihood that such an event takes place is particularly high in this phase of hegemony in transition, because the center’s crisis of legitimacy pushes the excluded periphery to take more and more irrational risks to attack it. Thus it is by a stochastic effect that we get the impression that history has already been pre-ordained or, thinking of the victory of Constantine at the battle of the Milvian bridge, that there is some sort of divine will orchestrating the course of history. What is more, an improbable victory like that of Constantine produces a surplus of legitimacy that that new ruling class can enjoy for a time. This begins the second phase of the hegemonic transition, at the intersection of two curves: after the increasingly irrelevant former paradigm’s curve of decreasing returns, the new paradigm’s learning curve attracts our attention.

A paradigm, as we have already explored, is rarely operational at the exact moment when it comes into being. Like a new piece of industrial equipment, it takes a certain period of time before it will achieve its optimal productivity level. This is precisely what Economists describe as a learning curve, increases in performance with experience that can only take place after a phase of unsatisfactory performance92. This initial, very costly phase is made even costlier when a functioning, yet potentially declining machine is replaced by another, which is not yet functioning. It amounts to an investment that should be amortized in the phase yet to come, when the new system will function at full capacity (before it is made obsolete by diminishing returns and is itself replaced). However, Schumpeter formulated a theory according to which firms have the tendency to expand up until the point where they could no longer risk the costs of innovation, as this would expend too much capital. These large structures were fated to lose out to competition from newer, more agile firms93. The Austrian economist coined the term “creative destruction,” and this applies quite accurately to paradigm substitution. This too exhibits periodic crises that bring about  relentless depreciation or destruction of cultural, symbolic, and also human capital, since this the paradigm shift is a process of replacing one class of individuals with another, sometimes violently in contexts of revolution. Democratic systems have a gentler method of change management, at the risk of complicating the process of liquidating the stock of excess capital. This is also what historian Alberto Aquarone observes in relation to fascism and its incapacity to have significantly permeated the judicial and administrative technostructure of the Italian state94. Despite the lofty promises of the Duce, the technostructure survived all attempts to upend it —and these attempts to dismantle the establishment still had devastating externalities.

As soon as the victory of Donald Trump, entrepreneur and media celebrity with a heterodox platform, put an end to the election of 2016, the sitting president Barack Obama abandoned his campaigning tone in favor of a more reassuring one. Through his press conferences, he wished to relay the message that the American political system remained rolid. The state, perhaps even the deep state, could absorb the shock of an impetuous and inexperienced man arriving at its highest office.“This office has a way of waking you up”, Barack Obama explained. “Those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.”95 The events that followed bear witness to the incredible resilience of the system, which neutralized the some of Donald Trump’s positions and their destructive potential. But the risk has only been postponed: if the system does not find some way to reinvent itself, a new crisis will arise sooner or later. This observation has given rise to political phenomena such as Emmanuel Macron in France or the Movimento Cinque Stelle in Italy. If the system does not have much to fear from this moderate “clear-outism,” what should worry us instead is the unsatisfied demand for change that will not be going anywhere. Neither Emmanuel Macron, nor the Movimento 5 Stelle, nor even Donald Trump appear to represent any threat to the technostructure, yet that technostructure is exactly what is in crisis.


Today, the paradigm crisis has become civilizational, since it involves the fundamental values of Western modernity. The ideological nucleus of the liberal world order, long sheltered from questioning, is now exposed. According to Wallerstein, the universal values promoted by the West since the sixteenth century have always served as a justification for hegemonic ambitions, and are not universalistic96. Another Marxist, Slavoj Zizek, said that human rights are an « alibi for militarist interventions, sacralization for the tyranny of the market, ideological foundation for the fundamentalism of the politically correct »97. Marx himself, especially in The Jewish Question In 1843, had denounced these « so-called rights of man, that is, of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community »98.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his latest book, also makes a critique of universalism, by proposing a curious evolutionist update of Dasein (Heidegger’s notion of human existence) through the concept of « Skin in the game ». He concludes that it is impossible in practice to reconcile ethnicity and universality: respect for the other is only possible at the communal level. Today, these ideas are gaining popularity on the Right: among the sovereignists, the nationalists, the Trumpians or the « Lepenistes ». Is this a recovery? Not necessarily, since it is in the conservative European thought that we find the origin of the critique of Universalism, which is more often associated with the Left. Modern cultural relativism sprang from the writings of Edmund Burke on the freedom of the colonies99 and is formalized in the famous historical argument of Joseph de Maistre: « Now, there is no such thing as ‘man’ in this world. In my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, and so on. » 100 Not to mention Carl Schmitt, whose radical critique of liberalism inspired many communist intellectuals and activists from the 1960s onwards101. Postmodern philosophers before their time? Why not. If, as Wallerstein explains, the great political myth that bases the world order is that of Enlightenment — with their ever-promised and never-achieved universalism — it is no wonder that the radical counter-powers claim ownership of, explicitly or not, the tradition of the Anti-Enlightenment, as the historian Zeev Sternhell has said 102. German philosophers and jurists of the first half of the nineteenth century were the first to understand that if Universalism had initially served the project of internal colonization of French territory, with Napoleon it became the instrument of an attempt of European colonization103. Nietzsche denounced a sham: « The history of Europe is the teleology of reason: But the nihilist catastrophe reveals that these « ideas of reason » are only « fatal prejudices »104.

The denunciation of these often hypocritical prejudices is an understandable strategy, perhaps the only effective one, in order to disarticulate the ideological fabric of the dominant order. But we cannot silence the terrible consequences that may affect minorities, as long as we decide to liquidate the universalist values that have been used to protect them since 1789. If one rethinks the consequences of the conservative revolution of the inter-war period in Germany, with the rise of anti-Semitism and the arrival of Hitler in power, we can evaluate the dangers that hover over Europe today. Is the great weariness of the dominant order not likely to trigger a similar reaction?

The legitimacy of modern times is — again — challenged on all fronts: the center is besieged to its right as it is to its left. The parable derived from the German conservative philosophy (Nietzsche, Schmitt and Heidegger above all) to the French Theory (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida…) until Anti-colonial and Post-colonial Thought (Fanon, Saïd, Gayatri Spivak…) is a beautiful paradox that can help to explain some similarities between today’s populists and the decolonizers of yesterday. If Slavoj Zizek and other radicals seemed for a moment to be seduced by the anti-globalist values carried by the candidacy of Donald Trump105, for his part, the Russian Aleksandr Dugin, one of the most influential thinkers of the new international right, greeted in his Chetvertaya Politicheskaya Teoriya (2009) the work of deconstructing universalist values, carried out by philosophers such as… Michel Foucault. We speak in the Anglo-Saxon world of « Regressive Left » to evoke a relativistic Left who, having abandoned the universalist and progressive values of classical liberalism, suffers the influence of religious minorities106. But can the « Progressive Left » that has supported the unfortunate military interventions in Iraq and Libya still give lessons to anyone? The West has done even worse than embarking on unjust wars: it has lost them.


Schumpeter made his prophecy in 1942: « By breaking the precapitalist frame of society, capitalism not only broke the barriers that prevented it from advancing, but also the buttresses that prevented its collapse. » And he concluded: « the capitalist process, roughly in the same way that it destroyed the institutional framework of feudal society, also destroys its own framework »107.

We are experiencing the deterioration of the old dominant order. Populists and decolonizers are putting the People and the Nation at the core of their struggle, in order to better attack the Universalist ideology that serves the interests of the center against the periphery. It is known that the radical Right has for some time liked to cite Marx, to present itself as the heir of the Socialist Left108; we should not be surprised to see that they also appreciate the words of Malcolm X109(who was himself a reader of Oswald Spengler and defender of his racialist theory110), not to mention that of Thomas Sankara111. This is not to discredit certain ideas by sending them back to back, but to admit that the reconfiguration of the ideological spectrum has produced genealogies that go beyond the right-left cleavage. Since the European Union embodies today the values of liberal universalism, it is inevitable that anti-European sovereignism will gradually absorb the codes, methods, and myths of Anti-colonial and Post-colonial Thought. Are the Italy and France of tomorrow going to be like the Algeria of yesterday? In such a logic of polarization112, the divergence to the extremes can only bring about the radicalization of the center, making the elites even more difficult to realize the reforms that would be necessary for their survival.

Perhaps liberal universalism still remains the most convincing paradigm on paper; but the list of its failures (sometimes of its crimes) weighs heavily in the cost-benefit analysis, and weighs mainly on the context of deception which surrounds it, because of its decreasing yields. It is curious to note that part of the Western middle class, under threat of exclusion from the center, has arrived at exactly the same long-standing conclusions of decolonial activists. It does not matter that the analyses differ on the true nature of the periphery, which is called Christophe Elizabeth (Is it the former rural territories?) or Houria Bouteldja (… or rather the suburbs?): there is total agreement on what is to be considered the center, embodied by the hypocrisy of the « bobos », the arrogance of the experts, the corruption of politicians, the deceptions of Universalism and, why not, the inheritance of Descartes, as Heidegger wrote before Bouteldja113.

In this phase of crisis — this interregnum, Gramsci wrote, when the elder dies and the new cannot be born — one must be prepared for the unexpected to come; it cannot be delayed to infinity. To conclude, we would like to quote the Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management, rather than a philosopher: « If a system or process is systematically delivering poor outcomes, it is an indicator of fragility. Discard or redesign the system. »114 It seems obvious that a cycle can only begin again after colossal destruction — affecting the elites and their symbolic capital, accumulated in the form of cultural and scientific paradigms — that would restore a new viable balance between the center and the outskirts. Since the question is no longer about who is right and who is wrong, but how to replace the engine of this machine that no longer works at its optimum performance level. The Donald Trumps of the world, as well as the 5 Star Movements of the world, these populisms are already under guardianship by their respective techno-structures, and only represent an anticipation of what is bound to happen. History today asks for a gigantic sacrifice; hopefully, the disasters of the past have taught us some caution, and among all the types of populism that are in the running to replace the dominant order, we will know how to choose the least devastating. For as the first great theorist of the crises of capitalism wrote, Jean Simonde de Sismondi: « A certain balance is restored, it is true, in the long run, but it is through dreadful suffering. »115


1. Sur la signification politique de la métaphore du siège dans la culture pop, et notamment dans la série animée « L’Attaque des titans », voir l’article de Tommaso Guariento, « Sotto assedio », publié sur le site Prismo (
2. Thomas Kuhn, La structure des révolutions scientifiques, Paris, Flammarion, 1983, p. 133.
3. Paul Feyerabend, Contre la méthode. Esquisse d’une théorie anarchiste de la connaissance, Paris, Seuil, 1979.
4. Ernesto Laclau, La raison populiste, Paris, Seuil, 2008. On nous pardonnera le grand nombre de références bibliographiques que présente cette tentative synthétique d’esquisser un modèle général de la transition populiste, car ici notre but est justement de relier des champs disciplinaires lointains et des expériences historiques variées.
5. Ce texte est une version synthétique du noyau théorique de mon livre à paraître en Italie en 2019 aux éditions Minimum Fax, La guerra di tutti.
6. Présentation de Tristan Dagron in Etienne de La Boétie, Discours de la servitude volontaire, Paris, Vrin, 2002.
7. Emmanuel Arghiri, L’échange inégal. Essai sur les antagonismes dans les rapports économiques internationaux, Paris, Maspero, 1969.
8. Les recherches de Arghiri et d’autres économistes, sociologues et politologues convergent dans l’analyse des systèmes-monde, théorisée par Immanuel Wallerstein. Cf. Immanuel Wallerstein, Comprendre le monde. Introduction à l’analyse des systèmes-monde, Paris, La Découverte, 2006.
9. « J’appelle capital symbolique n’importe quelle espèce de capital (économique, culturel, scolaire ou social) lorsqu’elle est perçue selon des catégories de perception, des principes de vision et de division, des systèmes de classement, des schèmes classificatoires, des schèmes cognitifs, qui sont, au moins pour une part, le produit de l’incorporation des structures objectives du champ considéré, c’est-à-dire de la structure de la distribution du capital dans le champ considéré. » (Pierre Bourdieu, « Un acte désintéressé est-il possible ? », Raisons pratiques, Paris, Seuil, 1994, pp. 160-161).
10. James Burnham, L’Ère des organisateurs, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1947.
11. Antonio Gramsci, Cahier de Prison 12, § 1, Cahiers de prison, tome III. Cahiers 10 à 13, Paris, Gallimard, 1978.
12. Christophe Guilluy, La France périphérique : comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires, Paris, Flammarion, 2014.
13. Michel Onfray, Décoloniser les provinces, Paris, Les Editions de l’Observatoire, 2017.
14. Cf. Roger Martelli, “La gauche dans le piège de Guilluy”, sur le site de la revue Regards,,8073.
15. Malgré les opinions plutôt critiques du philosophe sur la religion musulmane, des extraits d’une vidéo où Michel Onfray critique la politique néocoloniale de l’Occident envers les pays musulmans ont été repris en novembre 2015 dans une revendication de l’organisation Etat Islamique.
16. Cf. Houria Bouteldja, Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire, Paris, La Découverte, 2016. Voir aussi Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel, Sandrine Lemaire et Olivier Barlet, La fracture coloniale. La société française au prisme de l’héritage colonial, Paris, La Découverte, 2005.
17. Alberto Martinelli, La modernizzazione, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2010.
18. Thomas Hobbes, Léviathan, Paris, Folio, 2000.
19. Terence K. Hopkins, Immanuel Wallerstein, The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World-System 1945-2025, Londres, Zed Books, 1996.
20. Friedrich Nietzsche, Généalogie de la morale, Ire dissertation, § 12 et IIIe dissertation, § 13, § 17 et § 20 in Œuvres philosophiques complètes, VII. Par-delà bien et mal – La Généalogie de la morale, Paris, Gallimard, 1971. Edmund Husserl s’exprime de façon semblable dans sa conférence de 1935, La crise de l’humanité européenne et la philosophie, Paris, Gallimard, 1976. Cf. Jean Vioulac, « De Nietzsche à Husserl. La phénoménologie comme accomplissement systématique du projet philosophique nietzschéen », Les Études philosophiques, 2005/2 (n° 73), Presses Universitaires de France, 2005.
21. Paul Kennedy, Naissance et déclin des grandes puissances, Paris, Payot, 1991.
22. Par exemple Allan H. Meltzer, “End of the American century”, in Economic and Political Studies, Volume 1, 2013 – Issue 1, pp. 79-88. Voir aussi Emmanuel Todd, Après l’empire, Paris, Gallimard, 2002 et Immanuel Wallerstein, The Decline of American Power. The U.S. in a Chaotic World, New York, The New Press, 2003.
23. Mr. Nathan P. Freier, Colonel (Ret.) Christopher M. Bado, Dr. Christopher J. Bolan, Colonel (Ret.) Robert S. Hume, Colonel J. Matthew Lissner, At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World, Strategic Studies Institute du U.S. Army War College, mise en ligne le 29 juin 2017,
24. Données Banque mondiale, World Development Indicators.
25. Cf. l’argument de Thomas Piketty dans Le Capital au XXIe siècle, Paris, Le Seuil, 2013.
26. Données Ameco Data Bank of European Commission :
27. L’analyse récente la plus complète est probablement celle de Andrew Kliman, The Failure of Capitalist Production. Underlying Causes of the Great Recession, Londres, Pluto press, 2011. En France, nous signalons les recherches de Marcel Roelandts. Du côté des économistes mainstream, il faut signaler Martin Feldstein, Lawrence Summers and Michael Wachter, “Is the Rate of Profit Falling?”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Vol. 1977, No. 1 (1977), pp. 211-228.
28. Le premier à dénoncer cette tendance dans une perspective marxiste fut James O’Connor dans The Fiscal Crisis of the State, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1973. Pour une critique marxiste de Keynes, la référence reste le texte de Paul Mattick, Marx et Keynes. Les limites de l’économie mixte, Paris, Gallimard, 1972.
29. Costas Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing. How Finance Exploits Us All, Londres, Verso, 2014.
30. Sur le débat autour du principe de précaution, voir Cass Sunstein, Laws of fear. Beyond the precautionary principle, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012 ; ainsi que Gregory N. Mandel, James Thuo Gathii, “Cost-Benefit Analysis Versus the Precautionary Principle : Beyond Cass Sunstein’s Laws of Fear”, University of Illinois Law Review, p. 1037, 2006. La question des « coûts socialement acceptables pour des mesures à mettre en œuvre dans l’application de la précaution » est aussi soulevée par Robert Kast, « Calcul économique et mise en pratique du principe de précaution », Économie publique, 21, 2007/2 :
31. Une application de l’équation Lotka-Volterra à la reproduction des élites est proposée dans Peter Turchin, “Long‐Term Population Cycles in Human Societies”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2009. Dans une veine similaire, voir aussi Nikolay K. Vitanov, Zlatinka I. Dimitrova, Marcel Ausloos, « Verhulst–Lotka–Volterra (VLV) model of ideological struggle », Physica A : Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 2009, Vo. 1162, Issue 1, pp. 1-17.
32. Paul Collier and David Dollar, “Aid Allocation and Poverty Reduction”, Development Research Group, World Bank, 1999.
33. William Easterly, Le fardeau de l’homme blanc. L’échec des politiques occidentales d’aide aux pays pauvres, Paris, Markus Haller, 2009.
34. Ivan Illich, Energie et équité in Œuvres complètes, I, Paris, Fayard, 2004.
35. Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2016.
36. Robert J. Gordon, « Secular Stagnation. A Supply-Side View » American Economic Review, 105 (5), pp. 54-59.
37. « Quando si può immaginare che la contraddizione giungerà a un nodo di Gordio, insolubile normalmente, ma domandante l’intervento di una spada di Alessandro ? Quando tutta l’economia mondiale sarà diventata capitalistica e di un certo grado di sviluppo: quando cioè la “frontiera mobile” del mondo economico capitalistico avrà raggiunto le sue colonne d’Ercole. Le forze controperanti della legge tendenziale e che si riassumono nella produzione di sempre maggiore plusvalore relativo hanno dei limiti, che sono dati, per esempio, tecnicamente dall’estensione della resistenza elastica della materia e socialmente dalla misura sopportabile di disoccupazione in una determinata società. Cioè la contraddizione economica diventa contraddizione politica e si risolve politicamente in un rovesciamento della praxis. » (Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere, vol. II, Einaudi 1975, pp.1278-79).
38. Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations, Londres, Routledge & K. Paul, 1957.
39. Ibid., p. 12.
40. Oliver E. Williamson, “Transaction Cost Economics. The Natural Progression”, American Economic Review, Vol. 100, No. 3, June 2010, pp. 673-90. Voir aussi le classique Ronald H. Coase, « The Nature of the Firm », Economica. 4 (16), 1937, pp. 386-405.
41. Selon le psychologue des organisations J. Richard Hackman, les groupes humains trop importants ont tendance à être dysfonctionnels, car avec l’augmentation de l’échelle, le coût de la gestion des liens sociaux (“managing the links”) entre chaque individu dans le groupe augmente de façon exponentielle. Cf. J. Richard Hackman, Leading Teams. Setting the Stage for Great Performances, Harvard, Harvard Business Review Press, 2002.
42. David Graeber a dénoncé l’augmentation des tâches inutiles (“bullshit jobs”) qui ponctionnent la génération de valeur sociale dans David Graeber, Bureaucratie, Paris, Babel 2017. Voir aussi la thèse de Staffan Canbäck, Bureaucratic Limits Of Firm Size. Empirical Analysis Using Transaction Cost Economics, 2002.
43. Il s’agit de la critique de la fragilité des grosses structures, formulée dans Nassim NIcholas Taleb, Antifragile. Les bienfaits du désordre, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2013. Une loi plus générale est que “As a system grows bigger, the relative size of a stressor required to break it will decline disproportionately” (Atif Ansar, Bent Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier, Daniel Lunn, “Big Is Fragile: An Attempt At Theorizing Scale” in Bent Flyvbjerg (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, Chapter 4, pp. 60-95.
44. En management, on parle d’effet Ringelmann, du nom de l’ingénieur agricole Maximilien Ringelmann, qui analyse la façon dont la productivité des membres d’un groupe diminue tandis que sa taille augmente. Maximilien Ringelmann, « Recherches sur les moteurs animés. Travail de l’homme », Annales de l’Institut National Agronomique, 2nd series, 1913, vol. 12, pp. 1-40.
45. “Size may lead such firms to assume leverage risks that are unsustainable » (Nassim N. Taleb, Charles S. Tapiero, « Risk externalities and too big to fail », Physica A, 2010, vol. 389(17), pp. 3503-350)
46. Une analyse des conséquences de la division bureaucratique du travail, au niveau de l’entreprise mais aussi de la politique, est proposée dans Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game. Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, New York, Random House, 2018.
47. Cf Joaquim Silvestre, “Economies and Diseconomies of Scale” in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, pp. 3440-3446 et Staffan Canback, “Diseconomies of scale in large corporations. Theory and empirical analysis”, Industrial Organization, EconWPA, University Library of Munich, 2004.
48. Lee Smolin, Rien ne va plus en physique ! L’échec de la théorie des cordes, Paris, Le Seuil, 2010.
49. “Clinical applications of the law of diminishing returns have been mentioned by several authors. Sonnenberg, writing about gastrointestinal interventions, wrote that the physician “has to weigh the benefit and harm of each sequential medical intervention and decide how far to extend the therapeutic chain and how much longer to proceed in fine-tuning the patient’s health.” Luke and colleagues, discussing the benefits and harms associated with maternal weight gain, wrote, “These findings suggest that, beyond a certain level of weight gain, there is a point of diminishing returns (increase in birth weight) at the expense of increasing maternal postpartum obesity…” (James W. Mold, Robert M. Hamm, Laine H. McCarthy, “The Law of Diminishing Returns in Clinical Medicine. How Much Risk Reduction is Enough?”, Journal of the American Board for Family Medecine, May-June 2010 vol. 23 no. 3, pp. 371-375).
50. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, New York, Random House, 2018, p. 24.
51. T. Ravichandran, Shu Han, & Sunil Mithas, “Mitigating Diminishing Returns to R&D. The Role of Information Technology in Innovation”, Information Systems Research, 2017, 28:4, pp. 812-827.
52. Tyler Cowen, Average is over. Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation, Boston, E.P. Dutton, 2013.
53. Ibidem.
54. In Henri-Charles Puech (sous la direction de), Histoire des religions, Volume 2, Paris, Gallimard, 1970, p. 839.
55. Jacques Verger, Les universités au Moyen- âge, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2013.
56. Erasme, Eloge de la folie, in Gérard Chaliand, Sophie Mousset, L’Héritage occidental, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2002, p. 494.
57. Pierre Chaunu, Le temps des réformes. La réforme protestante, Paris, Editions Complexe, 1984, p. 299.
58. Alison Wolf, Does Education Matter? Myths About Education and Economic Growth, Londres, Penguin, 2002.
59. L’économiste américain Robert H. Frank a beaucoup travaillé sur ce sujet, cf. Robert H. Frank, J. Cook, The Winner-Take-All Society, New York, Martin Kessler Books, 1995 et Robert H. Frank, Darwin Economy. Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2011.
60. Il s’agit du modèle du marché du travail proposé par Michael Spence, composé d’individus qui envoient des signaux qui expriment leurs compétences. Cf. Michael Spence, “Job Market Signaling”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Aug., 1973), pp. 355-374.
61. Un débat sur ce sujet a été lancé par Bryan Caplan, The Case against Education. Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2017.
62. Clément Juglar, Des crises commerciales et de leur retour périodique en France, en Angleterre et aux Etats Unis, Paris, Guillaumin et Cie, 1862, p. 253.
63. Ibn Khaldûn, Le livre des exemples, Paris, Gallimard 2002. Sur la philosophie de Khaldûn, voir aussi Abdesselam Cheddadi, « Le système du pouvoir en Islam d’après Ibn Khaldûn », Annales, Année 1980, 35-3-4, pp. 534-550.
64. Jack A. Goldstone, « Révolutions dans l’histoire et histoire de la révolution », Revue française de sociologie, Année 1989, 30-3-4, pp. 405-429. Ce numéro de la revue est entièrement consacré à la sociologie de la révolution.
65. “Nations that were the richest countries in their day suffered fiscal crises because elites preferred to protect their private wealth, even at the expense of a deterioration of state finances, public services, and long-term international strength. (…) At [certain] times, elites have turned into competing factions (…) starving the national state of resources needed for public improvements and international competitiveness.” (Jack A. Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991, p. 487).
66. Lilia Ben Salem, « Ibn Khaldoun et l’analyse du pouvoir : le concept de jâh », SociologieS [En ligne], Découvertes / Redécouvertes, Ibn Khaldoun, mis en ligne le 28 octobre 2008, consulté le 09 juin 2018. URL :
67. William Butler Yeats, “The second coming”, 1919.
68. Vidéo de la conférence :
69. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game. Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, New York, Random House, 2018.
70. Thomas Kuhn, La structure des révolutions scientifiques, Paris, Flammarion, 1983, p. 134.
71. Ibidem.
72. Gaetano Mosca, Elementi di scienza politica (1896), cap. II, cité dans Élites. Le illusioni della democrazia, Roma, Gog, 2017, p. 53.
73. Friedrich Nietzsche, Fragments posthumes (1887-1888), 11 [99], p. 242 ; KSA, 13, p. 46.
74. Nietzsche, Fragments posthumes (1885-1887), 2 [131], p. 132-133 ; KSA, 12, p. 129.
75. Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk”, in Econometrica, 1979, 47, p. 263-291.
76. Norberto Bobbio, Le futur de la démocratie, Paris, Le Seuil, 2007.
77. Jean-Claude Michéa, L’empire du moindre mal, Paris, Flammarion 2007.
78. Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, I (1835) in Œuvres, II, Paris, Gallimard 1992.
79. Joseph Schumpeter, Le capitalisme peut-il survivre ?, Paris, Payot, 2011.
80. Fred Hirsch, Social limits to growth, Harvard, Harvard University Press, 1976.
81. C’est le sujet de mon livre Teoria della classe disagiata, Rome, Minimum Fax, 2017.
82. Cette lecture de Ibn Khaldun est proposée par Peter Turchin, War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires, New York, Plume, 2006.
83. Peter Turchin, Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History, Chaplin, Beresta Books, 2016.
84. Sur ce point voir aussi Gabriel Martinez-Gros, Brève Histoire des empires. Comment ils surgissent, comment ils s’effondrent., Paris, Le Seuil, 2014 et l’article de Hamza Garrush, « La modélisation de la prise de pouvoir selon Ibn Khaldoun », French Journal for Media Research, Mises en scène du politique contemporain, 2016.
85. Alessandro Baricco, Les barbares. Essai sur la mutation, Paris, Gallimard 2014.
86. Cité dans Jean Terrel, Thomas Hobbes : philosopher par temps de crises, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2012.
87. Pour le dire dans les mots d’une efficace note en bas de page d’une ancienne édition : « Rabelais traite ici de barbouillements les ouvrages de ce moine, tant à cause que dans dix sept volumes in-folio qu’ils contiennent, et qu’on réimprima à Paris en 1659, il ya de quoi se barbouiller l’esprit à proportion du papier que Scot y a barbouillé, que parce que ces mêmes œuvres donnent à qui les lit l’idée d’un autre barbouillement que le peintre Holbein, sur un endroit de son exemplaire de La Folie d’Érasme avait fort naïvement représenté par Jean Scot à qui l’âme sortait par la bouche, sous la figure d’un enfant stulta cacantis logicalia » (Œuvres de Rabelais, Paris, Dalibon, 1823, p.199).
88. Friederich Nietzsche, Par delà le bien et le mal, I, 17.
89. Paul K. Feyerabend, Contre la méthode, Paris, Le Seuil, 1979, p. 166.#ref89″>↩
90. Friederich Nietzsche, La généalogie de la morale, 2, 24.
91. Thomas Sankara, « Inventer l’avenir », Entrevue avec Jean-Philippe Rapp, 1985, in Thomas Sankara parle. La révolution au Burkina Faso 1983-1987, New York, Pathfinder Press, pp.202-206.
92. Louis E. Yelle, “The learning curve: Historical review and comprehensive survey”, Decision sciences, Vo. 10, Issue 2, April 1979, pp. 302-328.
93. Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalisme, Socialisme et Démocratie, Paris, Payot, 1990.
94. Alberto Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, Torino, Einaudi, 2003.
96. Immanuel Wallerstein, European Universalism. The Rhetoric of Power, New York, The New Press, 2006.
97. Slavoj Zizek, “Against Human Rights”, New Left Review, 34, July-August 2005, pp. 115-131.
98. Karl Marx, Sur la Question juive, Paris, La fabrique, 2006. Pour le débat autour de la position de Marx voir aussi André Senik, Marx, les Juifs et les droits de l’homme. À l’origine de la catastrophe communiste, Paris, Denoël, 2011.
99. Daniele Niedda, Governare la diversità. Edmund Burke e l’India, Roma, Storia e Letteratura, 2013.
100. Joseph de Maistre, Considérations sur la France (1796), Paris, Complexe, 2006, p. 87.
101. Jan-Werner Müller, Carl Schmitt. Un esprit dangereux, Paris, Armand Colin, 2007.
102. Zeev Sternhell, Les anti-Lumières. Une tradition du XVIIIᵉ siècle à la guerre froide, Paris, Folio, 2010.
103. Emanuele Conte, « Per una storia del diritto medievale nel XXI secolo », in Diritto Comune, Bologna, Il Mulino 2009.
104. Friedrich Nietzsche, Fragments posthumes (1885-1887), 2 [131], p. 132-133 ; KSA, 12, p. 129.
105. Vidéo “Slavoj Zizek on Trump and Brexit – BBC News” :
106. La revue Cités a récemment consacré un numéro, plutôt polémique, au sujet : « Le postcolonialisme : une stratégie intellectuelle et politique », Cités 2017/4 (N° 72).
107. Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalisme, Socialisme et Démocratie, Paris, Payot, 1990
108. Citons par exemple le numéro 115 de la revue Éléments dirigée par Alain de Benoist, qui annonçait comme programme « Délivrons Marx du marxisme ».
109. Sam McPheeters, « Le jour où Malcolm X a rencontré les nazis », Vice, 25 mai 2015 :
110. Malcolm X on The Black Revolution (April 8, 1964) :
111. Au catalogue des éditions Kontre Kulture, fondées par Alain Soral, peuvent ainsi figurer les mémoires de Jean-Marie Le Pen, le Testament politique d’Hitler et les discours de Thomas Sankara.
112. Les recherches de l’équipe dirigée par Walter Quattrociocchi au Laboratoire de sciences sociales computationnelles à Lucques (école MIT des hautes études) ont montré ce mécanisme de polarisation des idéologies. Voir Walter Quattrociocchi, Antonio Scala, Cass R. Sunstein, “Echo Chambers on Facebook” (June 13, 2016) : ou
113. Martin Heidegger, « L’Époque des conceptions du monde », in Chemins qui ne mènent nulle part, Paris, Gallimard, 1986, pp 99-146.
114. Bent Flyvbjerg, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, Chapter 4, pp. 60-95.
115. Simonde de Sismondi, Nouveaux principes d’économie politique, t. 2, Daleunay, Paris, 1819, p. 217.