Le Nouveau Riche, 2008-2018
Le Nouveau Riche is a series of works by Marc Dentand including a performance, installation, photographs and collages around the subject of the shifting powers in post capitalism.
The neoliberal society, developed by the flower power generation, and the emergence of the internet have created a new elite. It is leaving the established bourgeois far behind. Since the beginning of the century, the speed and concentration of wealth creation have been unprecedented. Half the 50 richest people were not in business 20 years ago. They don’t come from powerful families. Some didn’t even have to finish university. A seductive idea and execution skills directed to a market with billions of users were enough to climb within a few years to the highest.
In the new globalised world, established political and economic powers are not calling the shots anymore. “Big global companies will soon take power and the world will become more and more nomadic. Individuals themselves will have less and less loyalty to nations.” (1)
With this new power, the Nouveau Riche partly imitate the behaviour of the old ones. But the imitation is only on the surface, like playing the role in a Hollywood movie. The Nouveau Riche doesn’t wear a bespoke suits; They are not driven in a Rolls Royce nor spend weekends fox hunting. They do not refer to literature classics and traditional humanistic culture, but rather to pop culture, design and a bohemian lifestyle.
In a society where capitalism has become a religion (3), the measure of power is money and the show of money. Power was traditionally conceived as imposed upon the people by force or laws. In the pre-humanistic world, the lord would control the lives of his suzerains. In the humanistic society, the 18th century put in place a system of production, of creation. Bio politics is the power system based on discipline and control of the bodies that takes care of the people so that they can produce (4), and Fordism was the basis of western societies (workers are paid higher "living" wages so that they can afford to purchase the products they make). It is how the bourgeoisie/capitalism reigned– and its idealised antithesis, communism. That system is becoming obsolete.
“Instead of falling into communism, industrial capitalism is transforming itself into neo-liberalism and financial capitalism, with post-industrial, immaterial production modes” (5). “Nowadays we think that we are not an enslaved subject but a free project that constantly rethinks and reinvents itself”. But “the liberty of can-do generates even more constraints than must-do”. People increasingly become their own slaves. We observe it with the emergence of the financial and the tech companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon (GAFA), Uber, AirBnB, hedge funds, Insurance companies, etc.); a large part of the humanity freely choses to use them “for free” and without noticing that it hands them enormous power. Machiavelli would have given them his blessing, “put your subjects out of harm’s way, out of even thinking about harming you”.
Neo liberalism goes beyond the boundaries of states and cultures. Companies don’t pay taxes, they move around the world. They are mostly unregulated because no state-like institution is global enough to impose rules, some of them even feel strong enough (after just a few years of existence) to deliberately ignore or cheat existing laws. They represent a huge source of power to the point that they can impact on electoral results in the most powerful state of the world, influence people’s consumption (goods, culture or sex), mood and opinions. Their disrupting effect allows them to shift very quickly huge amounts of money from established industries to themselves. One day they will transport us in driverless cars and know where we are, where and how we go on what purpose.
Today’s most massive sources of power are private companies to which the population freely accepts to submit to and that bypass the states. “[…]the cause of liberality, freedom, is too important to be left to the liberals”. (6) “It will appear that nations are unable to maintain their standing in the marketplace; because nations will not be able to organise a strong world power by sharing it; because big global companies will soon take power and the world will become more and more nomadic. Individuals themselves will have less and less loyalty to nations.” (7)