Virilio and the financial crisis

Cryptom.org presents Paul Virilio’s take on the financial crisis, first published in Le Monde, now translated by Patrice Riemens. For Virilio, the current crisis is the ‘integral accident’ par excellence, i.e., a catastrophe with massive global resonance, whose seeds were lain in the very technology that led to progress in the financial field. The eyes of thousands are trained upon one issue. He argues that we can not undestand the crash if we think of it as a political and economic issue. We must consider the political economy of speed, the speed brought about by technological progress. Le Monde’s interview:

Gerard Courtois/Michel Guerrin:

In 2002 you produced an exhibition at the Maison Cartier under the title “Ce qui arrive” (‘that which occurs’). It was about the accident in contemporary history: Tchernobyl, 9-11, the Tsunami… A statement by Hannah Arendt was the banner of your demonstration: “progress and catastrophe are the two faces of the same coin”. Is this where we have come to with the ‘crash of the stock exchange’?

Paul Virilio:

Well, of course. In 1979, at the time of the mishap at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the U.S., I did mention the occurence of an “original accident” – the kind of accident we bring forth ourselves. I said that our technical prowess was pregnant with catastrophic promises. In the past, accidents were local affairs. With Tchernobyl, we have entered the era of global accidents, whose consequences are in the realm of the long term. The current crash represents the perfect ‘integral accident’.

Its effect ripples far and wide, and it incorporates the representation of all other accidents.

For thirty years now, the phenomenon of History accelerating has been negated, together with the fact that this acceleration has been the prime mover of the proliferation of major accidents. Freud said it, speaking of death: “accumulation snuffs out the perception of contingency”.

Contingency is the key word here. These accidents are not contigent occurences. For the time being, the prevalent opinion is that researching the crash of the stock exchange as a political and economic issue and in terms of its social consequences is adequate enough. But it is impossible to understand what is going on if one does not implement a (policy based on the) political economy of speed, the speed that technological progress engenders, and if one does not link (this policy) to the ‘accidental’ character of History.

Let’s take just one example: the dictum “time is money”. I add to this, and the stock exchange testifies to it: “speed is power”. We have moved from the stage of the acceleration of History to that of the acceleration of the Real. This is what ‘progress’ is: a consensual sacrifice.

[…]

Full interview in English at cryptome.org.

On a different similar note:

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