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The Age of Happiness - Page 30


In the order of power, mediation consists of false needs in which the illusion of legal reform appears as the sole general will arising from mediations. These false needs have grown to a greater and greater extent, but are today threatened by the dictatorship of the consumable (VII), the primacy of exchange over gift (VIII), the cybernetic techniques (IX) and the reign of quantity (X).


The contemporary welfare state belatedly provides the guarantees of survival which were demanded by the disinherited members of the production society of former days (1). Richness of survival entails the pauperisation of life (2). Purchasing power is licence to purchase power, to become an object in the order of things. The tendency is for both oppressor and oppressed to fall, albeit at different speeds, under one and the same dictatorship: the dictatorship of consumer goods (3).


The face of happiness vanished from art and literature as it began to be reproduced along endless walls and hoardings, offering to each particular passerby the universal image in which he is invited to recognize himself.

Three cheers for Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham: happiness is not a myth! The more we produce, the better we shall live," writes the humanist Fourastié, and another genius, general Eisenhower, takes up the refrain: to save the economy, we must buy, buy anything." Production and consumption are the dugs of modern society. Thus suckled, humanity grows in strength and beauty: rising standards of living, all mod. cons, a choice of entertainments, culture for all, the comfort of your dreams. On the horizon of the Khrushchev report, the rosy dawn of Communism is breaking at last, a new era heralded by two revolutionary decrees: the abolition of taxes and free transport for all. Yes, the golden age is in sight; or rather within spitting distance.

In this upheaval one thing has disappeared: the proletariat. Where on earth can it be? Spirited away? Gone underground? Or has it been put in a museum? Sociologi disputant. We hear from some quarters that in the advanced industrial countries the proletariat no longer exists, what with all these stereograms, TV sets, slumberland mattresses, mini-cars, tower blocks and bingo halls. Others denounce this as a sleight of hand and indignantly point out a few remaining workers whose low wages and wretched conditions do undeniably evoke the 19th century. Backward sectors", comes the retort, in the process of reabsorption". Can you deny that the direction of economic development is towards Sweden, Czechoslovakia, the welfare state, and not towards India?

The black curtain rises: the hunt is on for the starving, for the last of the proletarians. The prize goes to the one who sells him his car and his mixer, his bar and his home library; the one who teaches him to see himself in the leering hero of an advertisement that reassures him: You smile when you smoke Cadets."

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