Published February 2, 2011
Luis de Miranda, philosopher, novelist and publisher, is the mind behind a new philosophy he calls ‘Crealism’. He was in Iceland last November as part of a series of lectures, organised in collaboration with the University of Iceland, which aimed to “take stock” of the role of neoliberalism in Iceland’s socio-political order. Crealism (French: “Le Créalisme”) is a concept in large part born out of Miranda’s readings of Jacques Lacan, Karl Marx, Gilles Deleuze and Martin Heidegger between 2003-2007 Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Broadly speaking, Crealism involves a particular set of ontological premises about reality and human nature on one hand, and a critique of capitalism on the other. Although Miranda has published several books and articles, very little of his work has been translated from French. In order to get better acquainted with Crealism, the Grapevine attended two lectures Miranda gave while he was in town and then spoke to him on the subject.
Reality is produced
Miranda begins by stating that Crealism stems from the basic idea that “there is no equivalence between reality and truth” and that “reality is produced.” This statement makes sense in so far as Crealism seeks to affect change in the socio-political order. Once we understand that dominant ideological realities, such as the need to buy a new phone or car every few years, as well as social realities, such as inequalities based on class, gender or race, are not necessary truths, but rather reflect the interests of certain powerful people, it becomes possible to envision creating alternative realities.
We are ordinators
Miranda is interested in word-play, and one concept that he toys with is ordinator, which is the French word (ordinateur) for computer. Although Crealism avoids making claims about the essence of human nature (“There is no such thing as human nature”), Miranda does speak of an “essential human activity,” which is to ordinate: “We are ordinators. In France, the word ordinateur was introduced by IBM when they came out with personal computers in the 1960s. The marketing director went searching for a new word, more sexy than computer, which is a legitimate word that comes from Latin. Ordinateur, on the other hand, comes from ancient French and was the name given to the bishop, who was the grand ordinateur, and he would administrate a whole region and name people and organise. He was ordinating and that is what human beings do.”
Miranda asserts that our predisposition to categorise and give form to things has rendered us “automatons” limiting ourselves to certain established forms: “Built habits are repeated, which become real and we tend to identify that as natural.” Instead of focusing on our capacity to create new forms to replace the limited ones, Miranda now veers in another direction: “Crealism is not a way of saying, we create in the sense that we take nature that is dead and we create new things. Crealism says we don’t create anything, actually the ever creative flow is life and we are part of this.” Crealism is not about respect for different forms of life because “where there is form, there has been ordination.” Crealism is rather a surrendering to “pure life” even while we cannot escape the need to ordinate.
The ever creative flow of everything
Miranda refers to Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze and Friedrich Nietzsche as precursors to his idea of “the ever creative flow,” which he at other times terms “the Creal.” He admits that it is at this point that Crealism may involve a certain kind of “metaphysical belief.” What is this ever creative flow? On one level, the ever creative flow is the source of all life. But it is an absolute that can never be fully grasped or incorporated into our simplified systematisations: “it is an invisible flow, an ever creating river of everything, where all differences appear and are flowing. As human beings we need order, so we apply utility, strategy, power and actualise only a little part of this flow.”
Thus Miranda’s critique of capitalism seems not so much to stem from the fact that capitalism promotes the interests of a minority at the expense of a global majority, but from the idea that capitalism “puts profit at the centre instead of life.” In other words, his opposition to capitalism is based on a vindication of pure life or the Creal, an abstract absolute.
It is here that I seriously begin to doubt the strength of Miranda’s critique of capitalism.
In addition to certain ontological suppositions, Miranda talks about Crealism in terms of an activity or exercise: “Crealism is a way of dancing on our tendency to ordinate.” I ask Miranda to name a few concrete examples of successful Crealist activities, and he identifies CouchSurfing: “It bypasses tourist consumption. Everything that bypasses consumption is Crealist because today our habits make us turn towards consumption whenever we have a growing desire to do something.”
Miranda goes on to describe a related project: “Together with some Parisian Crealists, I am currently working on what we call a CreAtlas, an atlas of all the alternative orders that we consider Crealist. Up to now, we have a list of 200, [examples include] cities where they are experimenting with a new way of exchanging goods without money or schools where curriculums are designed in collaboration with the students.” These activities are Crealist, Miranda explains, because they “bypass consumption, authority, and favour co-creation.” Miranda further underlines that “Crealism is not about individual, mystical experiences or self-development. I emphasize co-creation and collective experiences.”
Finally, Miranda hopes that the collective experience of Crealism will culminate in the establishment of what he calls an E-Utopia: “In Greek, Utopia means the place that is nowhere, but if you add an E, which stands for euphoria, than you have the place of happiness. I call it Crealia, the land or republic of Crealia. The vision I have is to try and find a place in the world to create a community and inspire ourselves with all the things we are talking about in the CreAtlas and use them all in an autonomous republic…and actually I’m thinking of Iceland.”
One reporter’s opinion
The lecture series, which Miranda spoke at, was organised around the recent publication of the compilation ‘Eilífðarvélin: Uppgjör við nýfrjálshyggjuna’ (“The perpetual motion machine: Taking stock of Neoliberalism”), and reflects an increased awareness among Icelanders for the need to re-evaluate the ideological underpinnings of their socio-political order in the wake of the financial crisis. In a similar way, a plethora of grassroots organizations with attendant blogs and manifestos, have appeared in Iceland during the past two years to try and stimulate social change through critical discussion and activism.
But like the rotating naming system of so many Reykjavík bars, many of these organisations do not seem to last. Is this a positive sign of the constant re-shaping and re-evaluating of critical discourse or a disheartening sign that even in a relatively homogeneous society, a common basis for social change is being diverted by superficial differences and that these organisations merely mirror the capitalist mode of production?
Although sympathetic to Miranda’s critique of capitalism and impressed by the sheer bravery of his plans, I think his ideas are grounded in an idealism that does not jive with the prevailing doctrine of materialism in this country. On the other hand, his ideas may serve as a reminder that a clear, coherent and collective action plan of how to affect the changes necessary to get to the place where we have maximised the freedom of creativity and imagination may be needed before we begin dreaming of new utopias and constitutions.