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  • Writer's picturegabriellehalpern

Political interview in French newspaper L'Opinion: "A country never stops changing".

Photo credits @Frédérique Touitou

On the occasion of the publication of her comic book, "La Fable du centaure" (Humensciences, 2022, illustrated by Didier Petetin), the philosopher Gabrielle Halpern was interviewed by the journalist Matthieu Deprieck in the newspaper L'Opinion.

Your research work focuses on hybridisation. How would you define this concept?

Hybridisation consists of bringing together things, people, activities, uses or functionalities which, at first sight, had little to do with each other or which might seem contradictory. These unlikely combinations produce third places, third services, third objects or third economies such as the social and solidarity economy. The field of application is infinite. The telephone is no longer just a telephone but also a television, a newspaper, a camera. Jobs, sectors and technologies are also hybridising. At the territorial level, with the greening of urban areas, urban farms or vegetable gardens, the border between town and country is becoming blurred... Hybridization is the great trend of the world to come!

One area seems to escape any kind of hybridisation - politics.

Political parties are not aware of the hybridisation that the the French people are experiencing, and local and national politicians are cutting up the nation into pieces and proposing categorical programmes. This political marketing reinforces divisions and silos. We can't think of the suburbs without the city centre, start-ups without craftsmen, young people without the elderly, without creating rifts.

By refusing to hybridise, is the political world isolating itself?

Even worse, it's regressing. Before, parties represented schools of thought. They provided intellectual training; today they're nothing more than logistical machines. They're looking for hard-hitting measures; they're no longer looking for ideas (...).

You've worked in ministerial cabinets. What lesson do you draw from this?

The duty and responsibility of political staff is to propose a societal vision before a programme. They mustn't fall into demagogy and allow people to believe that shaky bearings can be consolidated with crutches. It should rather set new benchmarks for the future. I've seen this in ministerial offices. The advisers in charge of writing speeches, the 'pens', were almost all historians. I had written a speech presenting a bill. A counterpart in another cabinet was surprised that I didn't start the speech with a historical review. That was the only way he could make sense of it. But meaning is not to be found in the past! The government didn't introduce this law because a century ago a certain profession was born, but because the profession had changed. We all take the past as a grid for reading and evaluating the future. But how does the past give legitimacy to anything? We suffer from chronopathology, an unhealthy relationship with time. All this is the fault of this sacrosanct moral value called "coherence". It is because of coherence that we don't change our jobs or our lives and that we remain locked in the past...

In the comic strip that you are publishing at the moment, you write: "Identity does not exist". This is destabilising. The political debate never stops talking about identity. There is even a political family designated as "identity". Does identity not exist or are we talking about it too much? It's not the same thing.

We devote too much space to it, that's for sure. But it's also a fantasy, that of the existence of a permanent core, intact from our birth to our death. Etymologically, identity means 'that which is the same': but who is the same? No one is or remains the same! I prefer to speak of 'singularity'. Singularity is what makes me "me", what makes me "unique". But this uniqueness is reinvented every day. Identity is a refusal of metamorphosis, whereas metamorphosis is the characteristic of the living. Only the dead have an identity, only the dead no longer metamorphose. By clinging to identity, we cling in vain to the unchangeable.

You talk about personal identity. What about collective identity?

There is no such thing as an eternal France either. A country, too, never stops changing. It grows, goes through events that alter us, nourish us or destroy us. Politicians have an educational role. They must explain these metamorphoses and give them meaning, rather than denying them or choosing them. Furthermore, I reject both identitarianism and communitarianism. They are two sides of the same coin. In both cases, one assigns or locks oneself into a residence, one seeks purity and homogeneity, rejecting otherness (...).

Your theses would make a conservative convulse.

Perhaps, but we can no longer continue like this, sinking into juxtaposition. We have reached the end of what we can bear. We have to change gear. In economic terms, even major business leaders have understood the value of a hybrid strategy (...).


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