Four measures against the use-and-throw culture

CONSUMPTION: Keucheyan does not want authoritarian Marxism where the bureaucracy decides what its citizens need.

Eivind Tjoenneland
Eivind Tjønneland is a Norwegian literary critic. Oslo/Berlin.
Published date: March 12, 2020
Les Besoins Artificiels
Author: Razmig Keucheyan
ZONES, France

In the era of eco and climate crisis, consumption in our part of the world must go down. The question of what we really need is therefore urgent.

Swiss Marxist Razmig Keucheyan (b. 1975), professor of sociology at the University of Bordeaux, has in the book Les Besoins Artificiels undertook the difficult task of distinguishing between authentic and unnecessary needs. He states that capitalist production and consumption are the main causes of the environmental crisis. By distinguishing between false and true needs, he imposes capitalism with a sustainable need structure. Through dialogue and democracy, we jointly decide what are real needs – the needs are not «ontological». Keucheyan does not want an authoritarian Marxism where the bureaucracy decides what citizens need and recalls the Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller’s (1929-2019) criticism of the Soviet Union as a «dictatorship over needs».

Keucheyan’s own nostalgic utopia is attached to the Paris Commune. When he dreams of what the world will look like in a post-capitalist society, he is blue-eyed: The distinction between manual and intellectual work must be abolished; people will be able to spend more time reflecting on their qualitative needs, and people should be able to transform into creative and autonomous artists.

Items with increased service life

But Keucheyan is first and foremost analytical who cuts through the problems of finding practical solutions. His crucial proposal for action is to stabilize the goods: To reduce consumption, the goods must be given a longer life. In practice, this can be done by increasing the warranty period, an extension from two to ten years: «The guarantee is the class struggle applied to the duration of the objects.» The subject’s autonomy towards the product must be strengthened so that control over the needs is regained.

Away with artificial needs!

The eco-movement and its attention to consumption must be linked to the unions and the production in the factories – in order to eliminate the alienation the false needs of capitalism have created.

The world’s elites have an ecological imprint that is insane. …

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