“Praise of the commons”: desire a common society

Praise of the commons

by Patrick Pharo

PUF, 272 p., 20 €

Praise of the commons was written before the coronavirus epidemic, but the current context gives its reading an acute topicality. Patrick Pharo, a researcher in moral sociology, wonders about what connects phenomena such as ecological disaster, the decline of the social state or the rejection of migrants. The author’s diagnosis is that of “ erosion, for half a century, of the obligations that arise from belonging to a human community (…), what we can call the common share Under the pressure of a drift of capitalism.

→ BOOK. “What if the employees revolted? “, Indictment against the excesses of capitalism

This thesis is not a radical novelty, but it unfolds here in an interesting way, by a return to the emancipatory ideals of liberalism and socialism. Against the apostles of ” gluttonous capitalism “, Patrick Pharo recalls the limit posed to private property by John Locke (1632-1704) himself, which is not without flavor.

For the English philosopher, the right to property resulting from work is only legitimate if, once certain goods are monopolized, they remain ” enough and as good ” for the others. These words will give rise to endless exegesis, but their reminder immediately condemns many current practices.

“Free access for all to common goods and free use within the limits of their preservation”

In response to unbridled capitalism, Patrick Pharo praised a philosophy of the common, based on two principles: Free access for all to common goods and free use within the limits of their preservation “And” availability of livelihood resources for all ” These principles do not require arbitrary equalization of social positions as the communist regimes have been able to practice. They are in no way intended to force the richest or the most talented to work for the poorest. They aim ” only to ensure that there are enough goods available and of sufficient quality For everyone.

We have to do ” common cause “Pleads Patrick Pharo,” not always and everywhere, but at least in certain areas and occasions crucial for common life », Like the environment, energy, health, education, culture, traffic, basic livelihoods…

The book is especially stimulating by the place it gives to desires, emotions and feelings. Because, for Patrick Pharo, we are now in the presence of a “ addictive capitalism Based on systematic stimulation of human reward neurological devices. This thirst for reward, which comes to meet a need for recognition deeply rooted in human beings, justifies the consumption of goods that will quench it, as in the case of a drug.

Offer other rewards to redirect our desires

Difficult to get out of this ” insatiable culture “Which breaks down the social link, but Patrick Pharo offers an interesting avenue: take inspiration from the” recovery » – recovery, recovery – these detoxification projects offered to people addicted to alcohol or drugs, who try, at first and sometimes for lack of anything better, to limit the expression of their toxic appetites.

We must “Substitute other objects of reward for those which are offered to us today, by reintroducing those of equality and solidarity”. It is nothing less than orienting our individual and collective desires more constructively.


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