deconstruct the economy and work

Delivered. What weaknesses in the world economy has the Covid-19 pandemic exposed? Can we irrigate the economy with a philosophical and ethical reflection? Can you run an economy like you fly an airplane? How does gross domestic product (GDP) moralize our economic relations? Felwine Sarr and Gaël Giraud answer these questions, and many others as well, in The economy to come (The Links that liberate).

The work is the transcription of a discussion between two economists in the great tradition of political economy which, from Adam Smith to Amartya Sen, considers the economy as indissolubly linked to questions of politics, morality, history, geography, law or religion. Gaël Giraud is a Jesuit, research director at CNRS, director of the Georgetown Environmental Justice Program at Georgetown University. Felwine Sarr is a Senegalese writer, professor at Duke University in North Carolina.

Their interview combines philosophy, spirituality, politics and economics, and in turn invites Derrida, Kant, René Char, or even Giorgio Agamben. It is about the Rwandan economy, the peaceful protest movement denouncing the abuses of Occupy Wall Street financial capitalism, structural adjustment plans imposed on sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s, hospitality, theology. Sometimes difficult to access, but always inspiring and erudite, the book invites us to question the presuppositions and the cultural and ideological foundations of economies.

A dynamic confrontation

The Catholic economist and the Muslim philosopher are reviving the role of orality, prized in Greek or African philosophy. A role that is little known today, orality is no longer tolerable until it is programmed to lead to publications. “In the determinist and productivist regime which governs scientific institutions today, conversations of this kind are considered as wasted time, which annoyingly distracts researchers from the programs assigned to them”, regrets Alain Supiot, lawyer specializing in labor law, in his preface.

One of the first to understand the apparent paradox which gives rise to the most useful discoveries in a work driven by curiosity alone and without concern for utility was Abraham Flexner (1866-1959), the founder, in 1930, from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. Flexner set out his research philosophy in an essay with the explicit title: “On the usefulness of unnecessary knowledge” (1939). The resounding success of that of Princeton inspired in the United States and in Europe the creation of other institutes of advanced studies, like that of Nantes, where Gaël Giraud and Felwine Sarr were residents during the academic year 2018-2019.

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