The One Idea System
Bogged down. In today's democracies, an increasing number of free
citizens feel bogged down, glued down by a kind of sticky dogma which is in the
process of surreptitiously engulfing any contrary way of thought by inhibiting
it, by disturbing it, by paralysing it and in the end, by squeezing it shut.
This dogma is the One Idea System, the only idea allowed by an invisible but
nevertheless omnipresent opinion police.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the communist
regimes, and the socialist movement's generalised loss of self-confidence, the
arrogance, impudence and haughtiness of this new Gospel have reached such
heights that one can safely characterise this ideological frenzy by the name of
What is the One Idea system? It is the translation into allegedly
universal ideological premises of the interests of an assemblage of economic
forces (actors?), especially those (represented by) international capital. As a
matter of fact, the One Idea System had already been defined and announced at
Bretton Woods in 1944. It mostly originates from the big monetary and economic
institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OCDE,
the GATT, the European Commission, the Bank of France, etc. By way of funding
these institutions (are able to) enrol numerous research centres, universities,
and foundations across the globe. These, in turn, refine and disseminate the
This anonymous discourse is then picked up and reproduced by the main
providers of economic information, most prominently by the bankers',
stockbrokers' and investors' favourite papers: The Wall Street
Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist,
The Far Eastern Review, Les Echos, Reuters, etc.
(Needless to say that...) For a large part, these organs are owned by big
industrial or financial groups. And almost everywhere, economics departments (of
universities), journalists, essayists and also politicians make these new ten
commandments their own, and incant them ad nauseam, relayed by the mass media.
All in the knowledge that in our age of thoroughly mediatised societies,
repetition means proof.
The leading premise of the One Idea System is all the more powerful
since (avowedly absent-minded) Marxists would not contradict it. It states that
the economic sphere takes precedence over the political one. It is on the basis
of this very premise that, to take but one example, a major political instrument
such as the (Reserve) Bank of France was made independent (of the government) in
1994, and this without noticeable opposition. The Banque has been, as they say,
"shelved from the vagaries of politics". "The Bank of France is independent,
non-political, and cuts across the parties" states its CEO, Jean Claude Trichet,
only to add: "We do however ask (the government) to reduce the budget deficit
(and) we do pursue a stable currency strategy" As if these objectives were
anything but political objectives!... It is in the name of (this same) "realism"
and "pragmatism" that Mr Alain Minc comes to the following statement:
"Capitalism will not collapse, because capitalism is the natural state of
society. Democracy is not the natural state of society. The market is.", and
proceeds to put the economy "at the helm". And of course we're talking here of
an economy that has been "freed" from the embarrassment of the social sphere,
that horrible and pathetic straightjacket which stands accused of being the root
cause of our recessions and economic crises.
Other key features of the One Idea System are well known: The market,
that deity whose "invisible hand corrects the asperities and dysfunctions of
capitalism", and then most of all, the financial markets, whose "signals guide
and determine the general trends of the economy"; competition and competitivity,
who "stimulate and dynamise enterprises, by inducing them in a process of
permanent and beneficial modernisation"; borderless free trade, "source of an
unending increase of commercial exchanges, and thus of the development of
society": globalization, both of industrial production and of financial flows;
international division of labour, which "keep the union's demands in check and
lowers the costs of labour"; strong currency, "an (important) stabilising
factor"; deregulation; privatisation; liberalisation, etc. "Less and less
State", a permanent arbitration in favour of incomes deriving from capital above
those deriving from work. And an absolute disregard for all ecological
The constant reiteration of this new catechism in all the media by
almost all politicians, whether they belong to the left or to the right, endows
it with such an intimidating power that it stifles any attempt to think freely
about it, and renders next to impossible any opposition against this new
One would almost come to think that the 17.4 million jobless
Europeans, the collapse of the inner cities, the widespread sentiment of
insecurity and marginalization, the generalised corruption, the riots in the
highrise ghettos of the urban peripheries, the environmental carnage, the return
of religious, political and racist extremism, and the rising tide of the
excluded are mere phantasms, nay, are criminal hallucinations which culpably
disrupts the envisioning of that most marvellous of all possible worlds which is
being built for us and our anaesthetised consciences by the One Idea System.
Originally published in Le Monde Diplomatique, January 1995.
Translated by Patrice Riemens, University of Amsterdam.
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