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Algérie Vintraitable: Lyotard’s National Front Georges Van Den Abbeele 4 4 T ES FIÈRES LUTTES POUR L’INDÉPENDANCE donnent I issue à de jeunes Etats réactionnaires.” So writes JeanFran çois Lyotard near the end of Le Différend, 1in apparent­ ly cynical reaction to the notion that third-world struggles for national liberation offer the best line of resistance to the spread of what he refers to as the “ hegemony of capitalism.” Such a dismissal may seem all the more reactionary in a philosophical work that declares that “ l’enjeu d’une littérature, d’une philosophie, peut-être d’une politique [est] de témoigner du différend en leur trouvant des idiomes” (30). If it is true that “ dans le différend, quelque chose ‘demande’ à être mis en phrases, et souffre du tort de ne pouvoir l’être à l’instant” (Ibid.), then how are we to understand what some no doubt would see as a prime example of “ political incorrectness” on Lyotard’s part? How indeed can a writer schooled in Marxism and post-structuralism not unambiguously support the preeminently progressive cause of those who have manifestly suf­ fered the wrong of being denied the means to prove their victimization, namely the victims of European colonialism? Such an unfriendly reading is only valid to the extent that one refuses to consider the character of the argument within which Lyotard’s state­ ment take place. For Lyotard, the right of colonized peoples to over­ throw their oppressors is never in question. Indeed, one of Lyotard’s prime examples of a différend is to be found in the case of the contem­ porary Martinican who cannot find a tribunal where he could legally seek redress for the wrong done him on account of his designation as a citizen of France: “ Le tort qu’il estime subir du fait d’être citoyen français n’est pas matière à litige dans le droit français. Il pourrait l’être dans le droit international privé ou public, mais pour cela il faudrait que le Mar­ tiniquais ne fût plus citoyen français. Or il l’est. En conséquence, l’asser­ tion selon laquelle il subit un tort du fait de sa citoyenneté n’est pas vérifiable par des procédures explicites et effectives” (49). Among the various Western responses to the threat of decolonization, outright assimilation (with or without duly enfranchized citizenship—witness Puerto Rico) is far from being the least effective in maintaining the metropolis’s hegemony, and far from being the most democratic. 144 Sp r i n g 1991 A bbeele Independence struggles and the establishment of new nation-states may resolve the differend between colonizer and colonized that denies the latter’s self-definition in any idiom other than the one imposed by the former. The question remains, though, of whether there are not other differends at stake in these conflicts. The source of Lyotard’s suspicion towards national liberation movements arises from the differend occa­ sioned by the hegemony of capitalism, or as he sometimes calls it, the “ genre économique” of phrases which reduces the contingency of link­ ages between phrases to the sole rule of exchange. As such, and as he is careful to point out, “ le capitalisme ne fait pas une histoire universelle, il essaie de faire un marché mondial (tout en le différent, car il a aussi besoin des écarts entre communautés nationales)” (257). The rise of multinational capitalism has, of course, been in evidence since the end of the Second World War, and its role in the neo-colonialist exploitation of the politically independent third world is hardly news. Not only does the persistence of national boundaries allow for the geographic delimitation of zones (markets) between which goods can be exchanged and surplusvalue extracted, but the ability of capital to “ play” the world market by taking advantage of legal, monetary and cultural differences between nations also converts those nations into competitors: whole populations are obligated to offer their labor power according to the dictates of multinationals, or else risk a disastrous flight of capital from their country. The question, then, is not whether...


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