Paul Virilio on the Financial Crisis


Image: Josephine Meckseper, Bankrupt, 2008.

Last week Le Monde published an interview with philosopher Paul Virilio, conducted by Gérard Courtois and Michel Guerrin, where he discusses his viewpoints on the recent global financial crisis within the greater framework of his theories concerning speed, technological progress, and accidents. A translation of this interview is now available in English. See below for a few excerpts.

For thirty years now, the phenomenon of History accelerating has been negated, together with the fact that this acceleration has been the prime cause 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 contingent occurrences. 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 testify 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 'the progress' is: a consensual sacrifice.

The crash is not the Black Death, there haven't been millions of victims, and it's not the 11th of September either. We are not talking death here, save maybe a few suicides. The victims are somewhere else to be found.

Where did the current crisis stem from? the answer is: subprime mortgages; housing credit that proved unsustainable; land. The victims are the hundred of thousands of people who are going to lose their homes. The whole concept of sedentarism had already been challenged by immigrants, exiles, deportations, refugees - and the delocalisation of economic activities. This phenomenon is bound to increase. Till 2040, one billion people will have to move out from their their residence. Those are the victims. We are in the realm of "stop/eject". People are arrested, get expelled.