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  • Writer's picturegabriellehalpern

"Social, economic and professional hybridization is the major political issue"

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Credits ©Frédérique Touitou

This interview has been published in July 2021 by the french magazine La Vie

Philosopher and author of “Let us all be centaurs ! A praise for hybridization ", Gabrielle Halpern deciphers the concept of "hybrid" at work in our contemporary lives.

Today everything is "hybrid", from our telecommuting lifestyles to some cars. Is this phenomenon a "plus" for humans?

What is mixed, heterogeneous, contradictory is "hybrid". In other words, this is the improbable marriage, this is all that is wrong with our boxes! Everything is not yet hybrid, but everything is becoming so and the health crisis has only accelerated this phenomenon. Take the cities: greening projects are multiplying, urban farms are developing to the point that the border between town and countryside tends to become more and more tenuous.

This hybridization of nature and town planning is taking place in parallel with that of professional universes, training courses and trades: universities, research laboratories, companies, public administrations are starting to collaborate more closely; what enriches and intersects training and professions, increases creativity, allows better collaboration between worlds which, until now, did not "speak the same language" and puts an end to these terrible silos through which we had a fragmented view of the world. From now on, we feel more free to be a banker-designer, a philosopher-startuper or a physicist-lawyer!

We are also seeing the proliferation of “third places” ...

Yes ! New places combine industry, crafts, digital, research or culture ... Tomorrow, all places will be third places and will combine activities, audiences, different uses: this will affect schools, museums, restaurants, hotels or even shopping malls. We can already see painting exhibitions in shopping centers or even nurseries in retirement homes! Finally, companies are becoming aware of their social responsibility; the social and solidarity economy, a hybrid economy par excellence - since it is a question of hybridizing economic logics and social and solidarity logics - could well become the model of tomorrow.

Can these hybridizations destabilize us?

Yes, but they make us better! First, they teach us that we should question our old huts, by reinventing the city, the school, the museum or the business; it will make us smarter and more creative, more humble and less dogmatic. We see it in the light of the health crisis: for companies, for example, the ability to hybridize sectors, products or services can be a survival strategy. These hybridizations teach us that identity logics, wherever they come from, lead to nothing good except to lock up others and lock up oneself.

Hybridization is not the merging, juxtaposition, assimilation or annihilation of the other, but the metamorphosis of each. It is only possible if everyone agrees to step out of their identity to take a step towards the other. Social, economic, professional, territorial, generational hybridization constitutes the great political stake of the years to come to destroy the current fractures and it is an opportunity for the human being, because it constitutes a life impulse!

Is this phenomenon inevitable?

Hybridization is Nature's very movement ... If I, as a human being, stop hybridizing myself, if a company, if a profession, if a sector stops hybridizing, they die! All living things are called to metamorphosis, plants, like animals and human beings; it is only the dead that do not change... This is perhaps what makes death so terrible! We, who often find it so hard to experience changes, should remember that their very possibility is the luxury of the living. The fact that hybridization is the big trend of our time is a positive sign that we are finally ready to take a step aside ... to the other!

Should we see in hybridization the premises of augmented man that are valued by transhumanist theories?

No. My "Praise for Hybridization" is the opposite of an invitation to transform human beings into robots: the term "hybridization" is misrepresented, when it is used by some to speak of "human / machine hybridization". There is in my opinion no "hybridization" in this. All this is the result of a will for the omnipotence of human reason, which we transfer to our technologies and other machines, without realizing that we are also transferring all our faults and all our biases to them ... Only one returning to humanism will allow us to come to terms with reality and stop abusing it.

Isn't accepting this hybridization a way of putting our fallibility at bay?

On the contrary, to accept hybridization is to recognize that we are imperfect, that we are constantly missing something or someone, and that we must make efforts to increase ourselves with new knowledge, new encounters, new worlds… Elias Canetti, one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century, said that since “life is an eternal shrinkage”, there is only one way to resist it, by “casting one's anchor as far as possible” towards what is radically different from oneself. This is hybridization! It is not the new technologies that will increase us, but ourselves, by having the courage to transform ourselves in contact with otherness. To love "your neighbor" - the one who is close to you - is easy; to love what is foreign is more difficult; however, this is precisely the idea of ​​hybridizing!

You write that the hybrid is a repressed Western thinker who has always analyzed what exists in terms of identity. Doesn't the all-hybrid create in reaction the temptation of a return to a more homogeneous reality, to more "pure" identities?

There is in each of us a terrible drive for homogeneity which leads us to hang out only with people who resemble us, to only be interested in what we already know or in what confirms our opinion, and so we build around us a homogenizing bubble. This drive pushes us towards a deadly quest for “purity”. It is by virtue of this drive that we have worshiped identity for centuries, with the dramatic consequences that history has known. Now, the word "identity" comes from the Latin identitas, - "quality of that which is the same" ... But who is the same? No one is the same! Everyone changes and the world changes. In life, there is no identity, there are only combinations and recombinations. Nature is not in identity either; she has a lot more imagination! Identity gives the illusion that each of us or everything has a one and indivisible definition, given once and for all and immutable. But this is not true, identity is only a provisional truth!

However, there is a nostalgia for purity in some people ...

If the phenomenon of the hybridization of our world testifies to our liberation from these old demons, there is indeed currently, among some, a nostalgia for purity made up of radicalizations and abuses of all kinds. If we do not fight today, wherever it is found, this dangerous tendency to identify, to between oneself, tomorrow everything will be identity, everything will be claimed as an identity. We will have humans and horses and we will die of not being centaurs!


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