Democratic Metaphysics and Political Anxieties in Houellebecq's Novels.
Houellebecq's fiction addresses numerous dominating political anxieties in present-day France. (Williams and Sweeney, 2019) In Houellebecq's novels a mechanism of de-politicization is identifiable that advances throughout the generations (Alican, 2017; Blacker, 2018; Coavoux, 2018; Fox, 2017; Michailidou, 2018; Nica, 2017; Petcu, 2018; Smith and Stirling, 2018), together with an acceptance of, or submission to, the worldwide market economy. (Bowd, 2019) Houellebecq conveys a practically distinct insurgent view integrated into despotic and benevolent perspectives. In Submission, Houellebecq employs the European notion of multiculturalism to invalidate the political architecture from within, articulating a substantial condemnation of French society and European advancements. (Demker, 2019)
2. Political Anxieties in the Alienated Capitalism
Houellebecq depicts the damaging dynamics of neoliberalism and consumerism. The May 1968 student demonstrations contributed to the radical individuation and objectification (Alican, 2018; Buchely, 2018; Coburn, 2018; Kozaki and Nakamura, 2018; Mihaila, 2018; Nica, 2018; Suojanen, 2018) operating in present-day Western society. The militants' requirements for new civil liberties worked out in demolishing the only remaining traces of a moral order that functioned as a barricade at odds with human segregation. (Willging, 2019) Houellebecq initiates an inflammatory condemnation of Islam: both literary approach and authorial magnetism substantiates the contentious themes of his texts. (Williams, 2019) In the anxious political setting of contemporary France, when extreme fear, migration, and Islam generate significant scrutiny and when the anti-elitist right is ascendant, Submission operates as a political channel in government-supportive view making and as a feasible resource for detractors who orient themselves as defending massive migration and integration policies. (Agerup, 2019)
Houellebecq's Submission delineates various paths of precarity, analyzing different kinds of dire straits. (Taylor, 2019)
Houellebecq's caustic nihilism appears through a largely parodic presentation of characters and conflicts--most of which are spinning in a postmodern void of meaninglessness. [...] France in 2022 is in a state of irreversible social and cultural decay and so too is western civilization. The prevailing, post-Enlightenment ideologies and their accompanying moribund institutions that have been sustaining the social network are quickly fading. [...] For Houellebecq, the novel's not-to- distant bleak future is not crafted to be ultimately resolved or reclaimed by history or art. [...] Submission, for the far-right, nativist, reader, is an urgent warning about the rise of Islam and the decline of the west. France, in this view, is being made fatally precarious by secularism, open immigration, and social permissiveness. [...] There is no triumph of an imperfect secularism at the end of Submission. In this context, precarity is further extended into the failure of western democracies, which are exposed as just as politically and socially inadequate as any possible theocracy, Islamic, medieval Christian, or other. [...] The Islam presented in the novel is corrupt and used as a poorly disguised tool to perpetuate the domination by an elite class at the expense of others (subalterns), mainly women. [...] In the final passages the reader sees the irony of the French Islamic republic, a republic that fulfills the contradictory excessive desires of liberalism and secularism more effectively than these political ideologies themselves are able to do. (Taylor, 2019: 170-177)
Houellebecq calls into question the confines of political and ethical controversies, and redesigns fashionable approaches on European societies and their prospects. (Agerup and Larsson, 2019)
By creating captivating stories on provocative subjects such as cloning, sex tourism and euthanasia, Houellebecq has revealed Western society's ongoing identity crises and political malfunctions. Highly esteemed for his sociological intuition and satirical wit, Houellebecq belongs to the small minority of authors who are both bestsellers and prize-winners. His works are often perceived as provocative: Houellebecq's novels have been subjected to contention and debate on many occasions, and the author has been accused of racism, sexism and Islamophobia. (Agerup and Larsson, 2019: 1)
3. The Social Metaphysics of Genomic Cloning
Across Houellebecq's fiction, theology and metaphysics take turns as religious and secular issues negotiate authority. The Elementary Particles conceptualizes the techno-utopian narrative of a genetically advanced humanity, while Submission focuses on a religiously coherent social order developed under Islam, distrusting the positivist claim that humanity can surpass religion and metaphysics, and implying that metaphysics and its accompanying principle of individual rights and self-determination predictably disintegrates back into theology. (Betty, 2019a)
Genomic cloning, in The Elementary Particles and The Possibility of an Island, claims humanity self-governance from the aggressive and predestined reproductive relations of contemporary capitalist society in addition to evolutionary biology. Houellebecq's clones deconstruct biological disbelief and political despondency, and problematize exploitable buoyancy. Houellebecq's works straighten out the consequences of the epistemological entangling of neoliberal capitalism and evolutionary essentialism, and highlight how it is undergone, frequently as representative popular culture remembrances and representations. (Sreenan, 2019)
The clone is an autonomous, biosocial territory, withdrawn from the myriad cruelties of Neo-Darwinian neoliberalism--constituting, de facto, a new species of emancipated human. [...] Metaphysical liberation of humanity from materialism--or the transition from the metaphysical to the final positive stage--is catalysed not by evolutionary change, but by recurrence, the intensification of the conditions of the materialist stage and, specifically, the possibility of biological repetition through techno-scientific progress in evolutionary genetics. [...] To the extent that Houellebecq does offer a solution to the problems of life under neoliberal materialism, it involves not the liberation of humanity, but the creation of distinct species, and humanity's elimination. [...] Particules offers a savage indictment of contemporary society, as well as a critique of the utopian perspective from which this indictment is articulated--a repudiation of its very possibility. Possibilite tells a similar story, emphasising the emptiness and violence of twenty-first-century life, while at the same time suggesting that evolutionary transcendence is not only impossible, but would nevertheless be undesirable in its synthetic form, just as our own late capitalist atomisation is intolerable today. If these novels attack the essentialism and evolutionary determinism of posthumanist and transhumanist visions of the future, they also seek to repudiate the optimism that defines both these and more critically sophisticated and anti-essentialist images of posthuman emancipation. [...] Houellebecq's failed clones, then, are not solutions to the desperation caused by the twenty-first century's epistemological and material self-imprisonment, but totems of an anti- solution. They are in their irreducible ambivalence an affirmatively aporetic response to a crisis that seeks at all costs, through biological reduction and historical determinism, through an iron grip on the horizons of our political imagination, to eliminate uncertainty in all its forms. (Sreenan, 2019: 2-16)
4. Cultural Nostalgia and Symbolic Posthumanism
The unnoticeable argumentation in Houellebecq's novels disagrees with present-day disparaging society expectation or longing for a cohesive society. The cogent correlate to Houellebecq's thoroughgoing anti-liberalism is remembrance of both conservative Catholicism and 19th-century socialism. (Viard, 2019) Houellebecq's referential conventions are fashioned out of challenges to synecdochic inference highlighted by occasions of literal representation: the deciphering of The Map and the Territory lies in the link between these two approaches. (Crowley, 2019) Houellebecq's extra-textual intolerant instigations are rooted in the techno-scientific and posthuman perspective of his early writings. Houellebecq's inclination to undermine the routes of his literary and extra-textual challenges originates in the broadening of neoliberalism to the intimate and biological realms of life detailed in his work. (Grass, 2019)
Houellebecq's fiction represents a prism via which characteristics of present-day cultural policy are displayed. His public influence is contingent on the explicit sex scenes that pervade substantially his work and offensive remarks on sensitive issues such as Islam and Vichy France. Platform and The Map and the Territory are narratives impregnated in the rhetoric of cultural policy both unambiguously and indirectly. (Ahearne, 2017)
A structural feature of Houellebecq's art is the reimagining of institutional configurations. [...] The protagonists of Houellebecq live in worlds saturated by powerful cultural forces working to shape symbolic environments. [...] An achievement of his novels, as with certain other novels dealing imaginatively with cultural policy themes, seems to me to lie not in edification but in something like its opposite: the opening of a space where, underneath the rhetorical certainties of official discourses, moments of doubt, uncertainty and ambivalence are acknowledged and voiced. [...] Platform and The Map and the Territory are populated by manifold forms of official institutional culture-shaping discourses. Some of these are attached to organizations traditionally associated with the world of culture (the national ministry of culture to start with, but also other appendages of the art world, particularly in The Map and the Territory). The novels stage, however, the rise to imperium of other culture-shaping discourses, associated for the most part with non-State and increasingly transnational agencies (tourism operators, television companies, global brands, etc.). The resulting configurational play with imaginary institutions provides a frame for the two novels, with an important element of continuous development across the two. The novels also stage, however, the encounter between the meanings promised by such recognizable institutional discourses and the subjective experience of protagonists. This is an encounter which the novel as a genre is particularly apt to explore. It takes up but repositions in our minds those discourses that constitute the 'power and reality of the world'. Not only does Houellebecq modulate our reading of these through the insidious play of the style indirect libre, the transcription that seems only to cite such discourses but actually insinuates ironic fissures into their compact institutionally endorsed solidity. He also underscores them with a kind of undervoice, a voice that expresses all those things for which ambitious expansionist enterprises have little enthusiasm: ambivalence, doubt and self-doubt, exasperation. This may seem something of a nebulous entity for the reader to walk away with. (Ahearne, 2017: 4-14)
Houellebecq's novels exhibit a contentious and far-seeing feature, expressing issues concerning religion, immigration, sexual emancipation, feminism, etc. (Betty, 2019b). In Houellebecq's fiction, a caustic disapproval of functionalist framework operates: this configuration is the vehicle by which the market society organizes the present-day realm (Ariso, 2017; Chapman, 2018; Fox, 2018; Michailidou, 2017; Nica and Taylor, 2017; Petcu, 2017; Roberts and Marchais, 2018) in conformity with its own exigencies. (Novak-Lechevalier, 2019) In Submission, social alteration signifies a readjustment of the accounts that are instrumental in constituting the social fabric. (Qadiri, 2019) Thus, the only manner to reanimate Europe and to redirect the civilizational downturn is by restoring the values and principles that have been suppressed by post-'68 moral and sexual loosening. Only the cultures unaffected by reforming politics can reconstruct Europe. (Sweeney, 2019)
This paper was supported by Grant GE-1283945 from the Social Analytics Laboratory, Los Angeles, CA.
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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University of Craiova, Romania
Received 16 March 2019
Accepted 13 July 2019
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|Publication:||Review of Contemporary Philosophy|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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