vendredi 29 mars 2013

Questions Dogmatiques E01.

Jean Morin, Memento Mori, Détail de Gravure, d'après le Tableau de Philippe de Champaigne, 1650.

La vanité est ancrée dans le cœur de l'homme qu'un soldat, un goujat, un cuisinier, un crocheteur se vante et veut avoir ses admirateurs et les philosophes mêmes en veulent, et ceux qui écrivent contre veulent avoir la gloire d'avoir bien écrit, et ceux qui les lisent veulent avoir la gloire de les avoir lus, et moi qui écris ceci ai peut-être cette envie, et peut-être que ceux qui le liront...

Pascal, Pensées

Le Jansénisme en France au XVIIe siècle

Aux origines du Jansénisme

Au début du XVIIe siècle, l'Église française se préoccupe davantage de réformes et de renouveau spirituel que de questions dogmatiques. Toutefois, la controverse avec les protestants a ouvert un courant en Sorbonne - alors faculté de théologie - attachée à  l'étude des écrits des pères de l'Église, particulièrement à saint Augustin, pour les questions liées à la Grâce. La publication de l'Augustinus de Cornelius Jansen (1640), son succès en France au moment de la mort de Richelieu (décembre 1642) ouvre une ère de polémique dans les rangs des théologiens française, avec, notamment, la publication, en août 1643, de la Fréquente communion d'Antoine Arnauld, docteur en Sorbonne et frère de la mère Angélique.

Condamnation romaine et polémique en France

À la demande de la Sorbonne, le pape condamne, en 1653, cinq propositions jugées extraites de l'Augustinus. Loin de clore la controverse, la bulle Cum occasione attise une polémique violente, menée par Antoine Arnauld. En 1655, dans sa Lettre à une personne de condition et sa Seconde lettre à un duc et pair, Arnauld accepte la condamnation des Cinq propositions, mais garde sur leur attribution à Jansenius un silence respectueux. Obligée de prendre parti, la Sorbonne choisit d'exclure, en 1655, Antoine Arnauld et avec lui, une centaine de docteurs - le tiers de ses membres. Les débats orageux dans les Provinciales (1656-1657) se font l'écho, font connaître à un plus large public le contenu du "Jansénisme", cette hérésie condamnée par Rome.

Formulaire et "Paix de l'Église"

La première année de son règne personnel en 1661, Louis XIV obtient de l'assemblée du Clergé de France, un formulaire destiné aux séculiers, consignant l'adhésion de cœur et d'esprit à la condamnation pontificale de Cinq propositions. L'édit royal du 29 avril 1664 impose une signature sans restriction du formulaire.

Sous l'impulsion du pape Clément IV, Rome obtient l'apaisement en France en 1668 pour une dizaine d'années. Dès la paix de Nimègue signée en 1679, le roi de France reprend l'offensive contre les protestants en révoquant l'édit de Nantes en 1685, puis contre les jansénistes qui s'exilent massivement.

Auteur non attribué, Musée National de Port-Royal des Champs, s.d.

vendredi 22 mars 2013

Symbolic Analysts.

Deutsche Telekom, Overview of Current Cyber Attacks, 2013 (via The New Aesthetic)

Essentially, three broad categories of work are emerging, corresponding to the three different competitive positions in which Americans find themselves. The same three categories are taking shape in other nations. Call them routine production services, in-person services, and symbolic-analytical services


Routine production services entail the kinds of repetitive task performed by the old foot soldiers of American capitalism in the high-volume enterprise. They are done over and over - one step in a sequence of steps for producing finished products tradeable in world commerce. Although often thought of as traditional blue-collar jobs, they also include routine supervisory jobs performed by low- and mid-level managers - foremen, line managers, clerical supervisors, and section chiefs - involving repetitive checks on subordinates' work and the enforcement of standard operating procedures.

Routine production services are found in many places within a modern economy apart from older, heavy industries (which, like elderly citizens, have been given the more delicate, and less terminal, appelation: 'mature'). They are found even amid the glitter and glitz of high technology. Few tasks are more tedious and repetitive, for example, than stuffing computer circuit boards or devising routine coding for computer software programs.

Indeed, contrary to prophets of the 'information age' who buoyantly predicted an abundance of high-paying jobs even for people with the most basic of skills, the sobering truth is that many information-processing jobs fit easily into this category. The foot soldiers of the information economy are hordes of data processors stationed in 'back offices' at computer terminals linked to worlwide information banks. They routinely enter data into computers or take it out again - records of credit card purchases and payments, credit reports, checks that have cleared, customer accounts, customer correspondence, payroll, hospital billings, patient records, medical claims, court decisions, subscriber lists, personnel, library catalogues, and so forth. The 'information revolution' may have rendered some of us more productive, but it has also produced hige piles of raw data which must be processed in much the same monotonous way that assembly-line workers and, before them, textile workers processed piles of other raw materials.

Routine producers typically work in the company of many other people who do the same thing, usually within large enclosed spaces. They are guided on the job by standard procedures and codified rules, and even their overseers are overseen, in turn, by people who routinely monitor - often with the aid of computers - how much they do and how accurately they do it. Their wages are based either on the amount of time they put in or on the amount of work they do.

Routine producers usually must be able to read and to perform simple computations. But their cardinal virtues are reliability, loyalty, and the capacity to take directions. Thus does a standard American education, based on the traditional premises of American education, normally suffice.


In-person services, the second kind of work that Americans do, also entail simple and repetitive tasks. And like routine production services, the pay of in-person servers is a function of hours worked or amount of work performed; they are closely supervised (as are their supervisors), and they need not have acquired much education (at most, a high school diploma, or its equivalent, and some vocational training).

The big difference between in-person servers and routine producers is that these services must by provided person-to-person and thus are not sold worldwide. (...) In-person servers are in direct contact with the ultimate beneficiaries of their work; their immediate objects are specific customers rather than streams of metal, fabric, or data. In-person servers work alone or in small teams. Included in this category are retail sales workers, waiters and waitresses, hotel workers, janitors, cashiers, hospital attendants and orderlies, nursing-home aides, child-care workers, house cleaners, home health-care aides, taxi drivers, secretaries, hairdressers, auto mechanics, sellers of residential real estate, flight attendants, physical therapists, and - among the fastest-growing of all - security guards.

In-person servers are supposed to be as punctual, reliable, and tractable as routine production workers. But many in-person servers share one additional requirement : They must also have a pleasant demeanor. They must smile and exude confidence and good cheer, even when they feel morose. They must be courteous and helpful, even to the most obnoxious of patrons. Above all, they must make others feel happy and at ease. It should come as no surprise that, traditionnaly, most in-person servers have been women. The cultural stereotype of women as nurturers - as mommies - has opened countless in-person service jobs to them.

By 1990, in-person services accounted for about 30 percent of the jobs performed by Americans, and their numbers were growing rapidly (...) In the United-States during the 1980s, well over 3 million new in-person service jobs were created in fast-food outlets, bars, and restaurants. This was more than the total number of routine production jobs still existing in America by the end of the decade in the automobile, steelmaking, and textile industries combined.

Symbolic-analytic services, the third job category, include all the problem-solving, problem-identifying, and strategic-brokering activities we have examined in previous chapters. Like routine production services (but unlike in-person services), symbolic-analytical services can be traded worldwide and thus must compete with foreign providers even in the American market. But they do not enter world commerce as standardized things. Traded instead are the manipulations of symbols - data, words, oral and visual representations.

Included in this category are the problem-solving, -identifying and brokering of many people who call themselves research scientists, design engineers, software engineers, civil engineers, biotechnology engineers, sound engineers, public relations executives, investment bankers, lawyers, real estate developers, and even a few creative accountants. Also included is much of the work done by management consultants, armaments consultants, architectural consultants, management information specialists, organization development specialists, strategic planners, corporate headhunters, and systems analysts. Also: advertising executives and marketing strategists, art directors, architects, cinematographers, film editors, production designers, publishers, writers and editors, journalists, musicians, television and film producers, and even university professors.

Symbolic analysts solve, identify, and broker problems by manipulating symbols. Theysimplify reality into abstract images that can be rearranged, juggled, experimented with, communicated to other specialists, and then, eventually, transformed back into reality. These manipulations are done with analytic tools, sharpened by experience. The tools may be mathematical algorithms, legal arguments, financial gimmicks, scientific principles, psychological insights about how to persuade or to amuse, systems of induction or deduction, or any other set of techniques for doing conceptual puzzles.

Some of these manipulations reveal how to more efficiently deploy resources or shift assets, or otherwise save time and energy. Other manipulations yield new inventions - technological marvels, innovative legal arguments, new advertising ploys for convincing people that certain amusements have become life necessities. Still other manipulations - of sounds, words, pictures - serve to entertain their recipients, or cause them to reflect more deeply on their lives or on the human condition. Others grab money from people too slow or naïve to protect themselves by manipulating in response.

Like routine producers, symbolic analysts rarely come into direct contact with the ultimate beneficiaries of their work. But other aspects of their work life are quite different from that experienced by routine producers. Symbolic analysts often have partners or associates rather than bosses or supervisors. Their incomes may vary from time to time, but are not directly related to how much time they put in or the quantity of work they put out. Income depends, rather, on the quality, originality, cleverness, and occasionally, speed with which they solve, identify, or broker new problems. Their careers are not linear or hierarchical; they rarely proceed along well-defined paths to progressively higher levels of responsiblity and income. In fact, symbolic analysts may take on vast responsibilities and command inordinate wealth at rather young ages. Correspondingly, they may lose authority and income if they are no longer able to innovate by building on their cumulative expericen, even if they are quite senior.

Symbolic analysts often work alone or in small teams, which may be connected to larger organizations, including worldwide webs. Teamwork is often critical. Since neither problems nor solutions can be defined in advance, frequent and informal conversations help ensure that insights and discoveries are put to their best uses and subjected to quick, critical evaluation.

When not conversing with their their teammates, symbolic analysts sit before computer terminals - examining words and numbers, moving them, altering them, trying out new words and numbers, formulating and testing hypotheses, designing and strategizing. They also spend long hours in meetings or on the telephone, and even longer hours in jet planes and hotels - advising, making presentations, giving briefings, doing deals. Periodically, they issue reports, plans, designs, drafts, memoranda, layouts, renderings, scripts, or projections - which in turn, precipitate more meetings to clarify what has been proposed and to get agreements on how it will be implemented, by whom, and for how much money. Final production is often the easiest part. The bulk of the time and cost (and, thus, real value) comes in conceptualizing the problem, devising a solution, and planning its execution.

Most symbolic analysts have graduated from four-year colleges or universities ; many have graduate degrees as well. The vast majority are white males, but the proportion of white females is growing, and there is a small, but slowly increasing, number of blacks and Hispanics among them. All told, symbolic analysis currently accounts for no more than 20 percent of American jobs. The proportion of American workers who fit this category has increased substantially since the 1950s (by my calculation, no more than 8 percent of American workers could be classified as symbolic analysts at midcentury), but the pace slowed considerably in the 1980s - even though certain symbolic-analytical jobs, like law and investment banking, mushroomed.

Robert Reich, The Three Jobs of the Future in Frank Webster (ed.), The Information Society Reader, Routledge, 2003, p.205-209.

vendredi 15 mars 2013

Comprehensive Design.

Non attributed, Buckminster Fuller, s.d.

Fuller, like Emerson, saw the material world as the reflection of an otherwise intangible system of rules. But unlike Emerson and the Transcendentalists, Fuller linked that system of rules not only to the natural world, but also to the world of industry. During World War I, Fuller had watched his four-year-old daughter Alexandra die of infantile paralysis, contracted in part, he believed, because the family’s home was badly built. At the time, he was working as a contractor with the navy. Earlier, as a junior officer, he had seen how, with proper coordination, extraordinary industrial resources could be mustered to solve military problems. In his view, his daughter had died directly from a disease but indirectly from a failure to distribute the world’s resources appropriately (1). This conviction grew during World War II and the early years of the cold war, when once again Fuller saw the full scope of industrial production at work, as well as the inequality with which the world’s resources were distributed. What humankind required, he came to believe, was an individual who could recognize the universal patterns inherent in nature, design new technologies in accord with both these patterns and the industrial resources already created by corporations and the military, and see that those new technologies were deployed in everyday life.

In a 1963 volume called Ideas and Integrities, a book that would have a strong impact on USCO and Stewart Brand, Fuller named this individual the “Comprehensive Designer” (2). According to Fuller, the Comprehensive Designer would not be another specialist, but would instead stand outside the halls of industry and science, processing the information they produced, observing the technologies they developed, and translating both into tools for human happiness. Unlike specialists, the Comprehensive Designer would be aware of the system’s need for balance and the current deployment of its resources. He would then act as a “harvester of the potentials of the realm,” gathering up the products and techniques of industry and redistributing them in accord with the systemic patterns that only he and other comprehensivists could perceive. To do this work, the Designer would need to have access to all of the information generated within America’s burgeoning technocracy while at the same time remaining outside it. He would need to become “an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist” (3). Constantly poring over the population surveys, resource analyses, and technical reports produced by states and industries, but never letting himself become a full-time employee of any of these, the Comprehensive Designer would finally see what the bureaucrat could not : the whole picture.

Being able to see the whole picture would allow the Comprehensive Designer to realign both his individual psyche and the deployment of political power with the laws of nature. In contrast to the bureaucrat, who, so many critics of technocracy had suggested, had been psychologically broken down by the demands of his work, the Comprehensive Designer would be intellectually and emotionally whole. Neither engineer nor artist, but always both simultaneously, he would achieve psychological integration even while working with the products of technocracy. Likewise, whereas bureaucrats exerted their power by means of political parties and armies and, in Fuller’s view, thus failed to properly distribute the world’s resources, the Comprehensive Designer would wield his power systematically. That is, he would analyze the data he had gathered, attempt to visualize the world’s needs now and in the future, and then design technologies that would meet those needs. Agonistic politics, Fuller implied, would become irrelevant. What would change the world was “comprehensive anticipatory design science” (4).

Both Stewart Brand and the members of USCO were steeped in Fuller’s writings by the mid-1960s. Brand would go on to write to Fuller, to attend his lectures, and, in the first edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, to claim that “the insights of Buckminster Fuller are what initiated this catalog”. In retrospect, it is easy to understand Fuller’s appeal to cold war American youth. Like McLuhan, he simultaneously embraced the pleasures and power associated with the products of technocracy and offered his audiences a way to avoid becoming technocratic drones. Moreover, according to Fuller the proper deployment of information and technology could literally save the human species from annihilation. As he put it in Ideas and Integrities, “If man is to continue as a successful pattern-complex function in universal evolution, it will be because the next decades will have witnessed the artist-scientist’s spontaneous seizure of the prime design responsibility and his successful conversion of the total capability of tool-augmented man from killingry to advanced living-adequate for all humanity” (5). In Fuller’s view, the Comprehensive Designer not only did not need to don a gray flannel suit when he went to work ; he actually needed to become an artist and an intellectual migrant. To a generation preoccupied with the fear of becoming lockstep corporate adults on the military model of Brand’s imagined Soviet Army, Buckminster Fuller offered a marvelously playful alternative.

Fuller’s vision of the Comprehensive Designer carried with it, nonetheless, intellectual frameworks and social ideals formulated at the core of military research culture. Foremost among these was Fuller’s notion of the world as an information system. In his numerous autobiographical writings, Fuller traces the origins of his ideas about the world as a system to his Transcendental lineage and especially to his time on board ships - which he considered closed systems - when he was a naval officer. Yet his writings also bear the imprint of cold war-era military-industrial information theory. For Fuller, as for Wiener and the systems analysts of later decades, the material world consisted of information patterns made manifest. The patterns could be modeled and manipulated by information technologies, notably the computer. The computer in turn could suffice as a model for the human being. After all, although Fuller’s Comprehensive Designer promises to be psychologically integrated as specialists are not, that integration depends on the Designer’s ability to process vast quantities of information so as to perceive social and technological patterns. Fuller’s Comprehensive Designer is, from a functional point of view at least, an information processor, and as such he is a descendent of cold war psychology and systems theory as much as a child of Fuller’s own imagination.

Even Fuller’s work style echoes the collaborative ethos of World War II research. According to Fuller and, later, his countercultural admirers, the Comprehensive Designer came by his comprehensive viewpoint only by stepping away from the industrial and military institutions in which specialists had long been trapped. Only the freestanding individual “could find the time to think in a cosmically adequate manner,” he explained. Fuller himself lived accordingly : for most of his career, he migrated among a series of universities and colleges, designing projects, collaborating with students and faculty - and always claiming the rights to whatever the collaborations produced (6). In his writings, Fuller offered his travels as a model of the proper behavior for a Comprehensive Designer and suggested that such a life was genuinely new. Yet a quick glance back at MIT’s Rad Lab in World War II would have reminded Fuller’s audiences that interdisciplinary migration and multi-institutional collaboration were key features of the military research world.

Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, University of Chicago Press, 2006, p.56-58.


1. Fuller, R. Buckminster, Ideas and Integrities : A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure, Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice Hall, 1963, 35-43.
2. Ibid, 173.
3. Ibid, 176.
4. Ibid, 63.
5. Brand, Stewart, Buckminster Fuller in Whole Earth Catalog, edited by Stewart Brand, 3, Menlo Park, CA : Portola Institute, 1968, 249.
6. Fuller quoted in Fuller, R. Buckminster & Snyder, Robert, R. Buckminster Fuller : An Autobiographical Monologue Scenario Documented and Edited by Robert Snyder, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1980, 38. By the early 1960s, Fuller was traveling more than two-thirds of every year. Kenner, Hugh, Bucky : A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller, New York : Morrow, 1973, 290.

vendredi 8 mars 2013

Californian Ideology.

Foster + Partners, Apple Headquarters, 2011.

Foster + Partners, Apple Headquarters, 2011.

Foster & Partners, Apple Headquarters, 2011.

At the end of the twentieth century, the long predicted convergence of the media, computing and telecommunications into hypermedia is finally happening (1). Once again, capitalism's relentless drive to diversify and intensify the creative powers of human labour is on the verge of qualitatively transforming the way in which we work, play and live together. By integrating different technologies around common protocols, something is being created which is more than the sum of its parts. When the ability to produce and receive unlimited amounts of information in any form is combined with the reach of the global telephone networks, existing forms of work and leisure can be fundamentally transformed. New industries will be born and current stock market favourites will be swept away. At such moments of profound social change, anyone who can offer a simple explanation of what is happening will be listened to with great interest. At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age : the Californian Ideology. 

This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian 'free market' model for building the 'information superhighway', cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the 'post- human' philosophers of the West Coast's Extropian cult (2). With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete. 

See here and there.

Richard Barbrook & Andy Cameron, The Californian Ideology in Mute, issue n°3, 1995. 


1. For over 25 years, experts have been predicting the imminent arrival of the information age. See Alain Touraine, La Société Post-Industrielle, Paris, 1969 ; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages : America's Role in the Technetronic Era, New York, 1970 ; Daniel Bell, The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society, New York, 1973 ; Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave, London, 1980 ; Simon Nora and Alain Minc, The Computerisation of Society, Cambridge, 1980 & Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom, Harvard, 1983. 
2. See Martin Bangemann, Europe and the Global Information Society, Brussels, 1994 (available through and the programme and abstracts of the Warwick University's "Virtual Futures 95 Conference".

vendredi 1 mars 2013

Nomade Motorisé.

Wim Wenders, Paris-Texas, 1984.

"Je voyage beaucoup. Non pas parce que je suis à la recherche de quelque chose en particulier, mais parce que je préfère m'enfuir de ce qui deviendrait pire si je restais."

Robert Eroica Dupea,
dans Five Easy Pieces de Bob Rafelson

Si l'on tente de fixer le profil du nomade moderne que la société de la mobilisation générale produit, on est aussitôt frappé par son caractère transparent. À l'homme des foules du XIXe siècle, le passant rêveur ou fouineur des grandes villes (Londres, Paris, Berlin, etc.), dépeint par Poe et Baudelaire, décortiqué par Valéry et Benjamin, succède l'homme ambulant, errant sur les routes désertiques, le vagabond sans destination ni passé, l'amnésique désorienté de Paris-Texas qui échoue dans un motel miteux aux confins du néant sans savoir d'où il vient ni où il va. Le nomade sans nomadisme, c'est-à-dire sans la connaissance de ce qu'il fait ni la justification a posteriori de ses actes. Celui qui ne connaît rien d'autre que l'irrémédiable nécessité de se laisser conduire par le bandeau jaune et continu des highways. Un être perdu dans la communauté et pour la communauté.

Dans les rues surpeuplées des cités européennes du XIXe siècle, le flâneur pressé ou nonchalant, concentré ou distrait, se retrouve toujours dans un environnement familier qui lui rappelle, par sa disposition ou sa décoration, les salons bourgeois où il vit et ne voudrait plus vivre. La rue n'est que le prolongement de son être. Entouré par ce qu'il reconnaît sans peine, discernant à chaque coin de rue ses repères ordinaires, le flâneur se sent chez lui. Mais cette redondance lui pèse, car s'il s'aventure au dehors, c'est précisément pour fuir l'étroitesse de ses salons et de son code de vie, la morne régularité de son existence. Ses stratégies sont toujours d'évasion. Enfermé dans l'intimité de la ville du Moi, il cherche à se perdre, à s'oublier, à apparaître sous d'autres visages. Il veut s'altérer. Aussi, dès qu'il arpente la ville, est-il toujours en quête de l'Autre, à l'affut de ce qui pourrait venir distraire tout d'un coup la familiarité des lieux. Lassé de l'uniformité du chez soi et du dehors qui le répercute, il passe son temps à fouiller dans les placards sombres de la ville, comme s'il s'agissait de ceux de sa chambre, à la recherche de ce qui, s'il était mis au jour, modifierait par son altérité l'implacable répétition de l'ordinaire. Voyeur qui ne supporte pas de se cacher, il regarde sournoisement la ville comme à travers un œilleton, guettant à tous les carrefours l'intrusion soudaine du bizarre et de l'insolite, la produisent même si son occasion spontanée ne se présente pas. Il est, comme l'avoue S. Kracauer dans Souvenir d'une rue de Paris, méthodiquement à la recherche des "excitations" : "sur ces routes, je menais une vie vagabonde et devais éveiller en chaque passant l'impression d'un flâneur sans but. Et pourtant, au sens strict, je n'étais pas sans but" (1). Prince de l'autopersuasion psychique, il garnit les rues de la ville d'évènements extraordinaires et voudrait mettre tout sans dessus dessous, sans même que personne s'en aperçoive. Coins et recoins, cours intérieures et passages, cage d'escalier et voies sans issue forment les lieux favoris de ses escapades sur les façades desquels son désir de l'évasion pure peut projeter à loisir ses fantasmes, comme sur l'écran public de sa rêverie.

La situation psychique et affective de l'homme errant dans les zones périurbaines est en revanche tout autre. Elle ne se caractérise pas par une recherche débridée ou réglée du merveilleux. Dans les suburbs, le nomade motorisé ne vise pas sa propre disparition ni celle de sas jalons habituels. Déjà perdu, déjà effacé, déjà égaré, il répond simplement à une pulsion cinétique sans intention. Il peut certainement songer de temps en temps, comme James Crumley, que la route lui réserve toujours des surprises qui pourront peut-être le révéler à lui-même et fait office d'une nouvelle sorte de Bildungsroman : "mais quand vous êtes enfermé à l'intérieur de votre voiture, avec seulement des kilomètres et des kilomètres de montagnes (...), vous ne pouvez pas vous empêcher de croire que vous êtes redevenu un homme libre et meilleur" (2). Néanmoins cette liberté reste à éprouver et il n'est pas sûr que l'expérience de la route recèle autant de nouveautés que le laisse entendre l'écrivain du Montana. 

Si clair qu'il puisse voir dans ses propres motifs, le nomade motorisé est d'emblée jeté dans un monde profondément inconnu, d'où il se sent tout de suite exclu. Stupéfait, il est continuellement livré à un univers étranger, indifférent ou hostile. Dans cet espace quasi lunaire qui ne lui rappelle rien, le "gitan du gasoil" (S. Lewis) s'efforce tant bien que mal de retrouver, dessaisi de ses repères habituels, un élément ordinaire qui viendrait calmer pour un temps son inquiétude. L'immensité sans détail qui l'entoure n'éveille chez lui aucun sentiment de grandeur, ni aucun appel à l'expansion du moi dans le monde. Tout se donne au contraire sur le mode de l'hétérogénéité la plus totale. Pour lui, il ne s'agit donc pas de se mettre en danger en laissant advenir l'étrangeté soudaine, mais de s'approprier ce qui est encore humain, comme les vestiges d'une socialité perdue, de donner un corps à l'évanescence des lieux et des signes qui se succèdent devant lui sans qu'il puisse arrêter leur défilé. Dans cet univers menaçant en vertu de son altérité absolue, même si le plus souvent aucun danger précis ne se montre, il collecte patiemment les éléments ordinaires de son oekoumène, et la banalité agit sur lui comme un baume apaisant. Aussi l'errant est-il toujours plus attentif que le flâneur, qui joue à se faire peur et à perdre, aux traces d'un monde s'effaçant et aux indices incertains d'une familiarité révolue.

En vérité, une seule chose explique sa déambulation inquiète dans la ville : la reconnaissance. Non la simple reconnaissance de soi par les autres, mais inversement plutôt celle des autres par soi. Cet acte de reconnaître ce qui l'entoure joue un rôle déterminant dans son humeur fondamentale, car, si les significations sociales proviennent de convention établies par d'autres qu'il lui faut apprendre sous peine d'être définitivement rejeté du monde urbain, il doit dès lors savoir à qui il a affaire. L'errant a sans cesse besoin qu'on lui confirme les choses. En sorte que, dans le labyrinthe infini des panneaux de signalisation et des bâtiments toujours identiques, il essaie tant bien que mal de retrouver son chemin, de se raccrocher à des formes connues (un monument significatif) ou à des signes familiers (le numéro d'une autoroute) qui peuvent lui rappeler une expérience passée ou à venir. L'excitation esthétique du choc soudain n'est pas son fort, et la quête de l'inattendu le laisse indifférent. Il vit plutôt toujours sur sa réserve, à la fois ébahi et coi. Intimidé par la ville, il s'efforce continuellement de la domestiquer par le statu quo. Le flâneur poursuit ce que l'errant fuit.

À la différence donc du flâneur parisien (Baudelaire, Aragon, Hessel, Fargue, Pérec, Réda, etc.) qui exprime à chaque pas la plus ferme assurance et maîtrise jusqu'à l'excès son environnement urbain, de sorte qu'il peut se laisser sans danger dériver dans la ville, dévier de son chemin et aller de par les rues, sachant toujours en son for intérieur comment rentrer chez lui à bon port (3), le nomade américain (London, Steinbeck, Algren, Kerouac, Shepard, DeLillo, Banks, etc.) donne toujours l'air de venir de débarquer d'un pays étranger et de ne plus reconnaître sa propre ville. Au volant de sa voiture, il roule avec un sentiment d'angoisse total et non feint, une étrangeté absolue à tout ce qui l'entoure qui l'oblige, en fin de compte, à se tenir constamment sur ses gardes et à enregistrer le réel dans ce qu'il a de plus banal (et non de plus fantastique). Seule en effet la vie ordinaire peut venir calmer son trouble de désorientation (4). D'une manière ou d'une autre, il tente de transformer le présent en quelque chose de familier, d'assimiler les choses. Cela étant, il s'agit bien d'un soin uniquement palliatif. De ses multiples efforts d'adaptation, on retire l'impression que, plus il s'échine à amoindrir l'étrangeté de son environnement, plus la ville se plaît à le rendre lui-même étranger. Pour cette raison, le mode d'être habituel de l'errant équivaut à une sorte d'état de stupéfaction, voire d'hypnose, qui lui envie le flâneur européen, lequel recherche ces moments d'étonnement qu'il n'éprouve pas naturellement. Inapte à toute lecture de la ville (dans laquelle excelle le flâneur), l'errant est une sorte d'analphabète urbain. Les panneaux de signalisation, les marquages routiers, les bâtiments, les parkings et les voitures représentent des signes incompréhensibles qu'il essaie en vain de déchiffrer. Parfois, il balbutie un mot ou deux, mais s'en tient d'ordinaire au mutisme le plus complet.

Voir également ici et .

Bruce Bégout, Lieu Commun, Éditions Allia, 2003, p.90-96.


1. S. Kracauer, Rues de Berlin et d'ailleurs, Paris, Le Promeneur, 1995, p.14.
2. James Crumley, L'esprit de la route in Putes, Paris, Payot, p.195. L'auteur parle ainsi de la route comme "d'une corvée de jeune garçon" (p.206).
3. Le flâneur peut jeter l'ancre et se laisser dériver dans la ville, parce qu'il sait flotter. Cette impuissance et cette passivité face à l'étrange sont la marque la plus forte de sa maîtrise. Il est celui qui peut suspendre ce qu'il sait de la ville et des autres : "Le flâneur ou le passant est don un spectateur qui fait constamment abstraction de sa faculté de jugement et qui, en retour, est capable et même tenu, dans certains circonstance, de mettre entre parenthèses ce qui ne le regarde pas, d'éclipser une partie de l'assistance constituée de participants non ratifiés", I. Joseph, La Ville sans qualités, Éditions de l'Aube, 1998, p.61.
4. En raison de cette désorientation constante de l'espace, l'agencement du motel a recours au subterfuge de la sursignalisation. Une butée en béton peinte en jaune indique ainsi la limite de leur place de parking aux conducteurs qui seraient tentés de faire entrer leur véhicule dans la chambre. Partout, signes, lignes, numéros, en une véritable géométrie urbaine, rationalisent et formalisent l'espace vide qui entoure le bâtiment.