Max Weber famously argued that the rise of capitalism in earlymodern Europe was premised on the emergence of a distinctive set ofattitudes – including the pursuit of profit for its own sake –which he called the spirit of capitalism . Today, whencapitalism has spread across the globe, the spirit of capitalismwould appear to reign supreme.
In this important book Bernard Stiegler takes a very differentview: what we are witnessing today is not the triumph of the spiritof capitalism but rather its demise, as our contemporary hyper–industrial societies become increasinglyuncontrollable, profoundly irrational and incapable of inspiringhope. Disenchantment and despair have become the everyday livedexperiences of countless individuals. Far from being a moment ofliberation, May ′68 was just the first symptom of our increasingdisenchantment and ′spiritual misery′. The libidinal energy thatoriginally underpinned capitalism has become an unbound force,unleashing drives that can no longer be contained.
Is there an alternative? Stiegler argues that the development ofalternatives must begin with a new industrial policy, designed torecognize that technologies are what Plato called pharmaka, meaningboth poison and cure. Industrial society has a future only if wecan create technologies that foster relations of care (otium) forpeople whose spirit has been exhausted by contemporary consumerism.We must develop an ecology not only to protect the planet but alsoto renew the exploited energies of human desire.
This volume – the third in a trilogy that includes The Decadenceof Industrial Democracies and Uncontrollable Societies ofDisaffected Individuals – will consolidate Stiegler′sreputation as one of the most original philosophers and culturaltheorists of our time.