Video Games and Politics

paperplease

Screen from the dystopian game : Papers, please.

 

This article is a translation of the following French version : Jeux vidéos et politique.  Feel free to improve it.

Most of cognitive scientists agree that videos games are one of the best tool to improve knowledge. But, can we politized people through video games?

This question seems stupid for individuals who have the following cliché: video games are a hobby for geeks. Maybe, those people should considered these facts before repeat some cultural biases:

  1. The video games experience is a daylife phenomenon because the aircraft pilot, the bus driver, and even some managers are trained with video games. Plus, the sudoku downloaded on each of your electronic devices is a video game. Period.
  2. Video games industry is a $108,9 billion (US) evaluated industrial sector in 2017.
  3. Video games is a very serious academic field since decades!

To write this article, I am referring to : The Civic Potential of Video Games by Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh and Chris Even ; Half-Real. Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional World by Jesper Juul ; Games of Empire. Global Capitalism and Video Games by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greg de Peuter.

What these specialists said about politization by video games?

According to Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greg de Peuter, video games follow the very same tends that every kind of art or entertainment : 1) an industry reproduces the model, the system and the values of capitalism (ludocapitalism), 2) dissidences contest this hegeomony, as the far-right military activists (militainment) or anti-capitalist dissents (digital dissent).

Jesper Juul has this theory: if video games influences the gamers in their own political views – i.e. videos games politize them – they will be not determined by video games. In other words, video games are a « basic » propaganda medium like any media. This the reason why academic research makes a distinction between tacite political influence of videos games and the political statement by playing to certain video games.

About the tacite political influence, that is sure a social and political hegemony with a dominent position will shape somebody mind easily because the game is a reproduction and an experiment of the social mainsteam representations and practices. By example, a game like Sims – where relationships are related to money gained by daily work – consolidates hegemonic position of a capitalism.

Concerning the political statement by playing to certain video games, it is probably more obvious for specific video games that claim a political content. Indeed, a gamer has more chance to play to Orwell – a game that denounces state computer monitoring – if he/her shares same concerns. Nonetheless, a Sims’ gamer could have the same feeling about his/her gaming? According to Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh et Chris Even, the political statement does not depend of the game kind because more the political involvment of the gamer is strong, more his/her gaming experience will be politized. In spite of the political claiming of Orwell, a gamer cannot notice it.

Jesper Juul emphasises on a very crucial aspect: video games create a socialization area that is not always a continuum with the real life. If video games have a strenght political potential because the involvement of the gamer is higher than a spector of a movie or people just listen music, it is the exact same thing for a reader. Thus, video games do not extend the real/fictional porosity. That is a biais to believe that, the exact same biais of a futur with fluo colors, with people wear silver suits and listen techno music.

However, video games have two effects that reading does not involved. First, video games force the gamer to assimilate very fastly rules and practices.  That phenomenon creates borders between the game insiders and game outsiders, and increase social hierarchies. Second, this strong inhibition constrains the gamer to a distanciation with the content because he/she struggles against the scenario of which the main ending is the gamer over. And this kind of distancing entails an egocentric refocusing of the gamer.

These side effects have harmful effects because a gamer will be more cynical with the political message of a game that is too difficult to have fun or too easy to play. This appreciation depends of a variable « gaming capital » (like a « cultural capital »). But that is my theory according to my own gaming experience and my approach of sociology knowledge.

Macronism: The ideology of Emmanuel Macron

emmanuel-macron

This article is a translation of the following French version : Qu’est-ce que le macronisme ?If you have comment to improve it, please contact me.

With the Emmanuel Macron’s victory to the French presidential election, I’ve wrote something like this:

With the rooster, France has a new emblem now: the weather vane.

Then, I have immediately deleted this little bit hostile tweet. Since, I has been tried to analyze objectivily the ideology under the « macronism » label, and I must confess that my tweet was not justified. This acknowledgement is not an endorsment of Emmanuel Macron politics, but the result of an analysis of the macronism as political ideology.

Inspired by Michel Freeden work, I define ideology like a set of concepts configure itselves arround one or more core concepts which is (are) decontest – i.e. substract of interpretative conflict on public sphere – by a social movement that claims those core concept(s) to and for its political orientation.

With this definition, macronism looks like a « particular ideology » as well as Emmanuel Macron is a singular leader. But to be honest… nothing of that is original. I think that every theorist who have perceived Emmanuel Macron as an emanation of a certain rawlsian liberalism or, on the contrary, like the incarnation of a bureaucratic populism make are partialy right, partialy wrong. The macronism is a synthesis of these both ideologies, but mainly the political denomination of the French managerialism (or managerial ideology).

By managerialism, I do not described an approach of management but an ideation by which management is a substitutable phenomenon for all decision-making practices and certain human interactions. Among them, managerialism pursues the idea that social determinisms or political passions distort the « good » public decision. Thus, the managerial ideology is characterized by several concepts, including the effectiveness of the decision.

Managerialism can be observed in macronism by its conceptual weakness. I don’t doubt that people can be sincerly « macronists », in a very similar way that people are thatcherists or reaganist. Nevertheless, these « macronists » people express their alligiance with words that have a low conceptual level. The issue is not a question to make history or having charism. Every ideology – even ideologies where a name is a core concept – adds automatically others concepts to precize the core(s) concept(s). For macronism, these adjacents concepts are cosmopolitism, europeanism, liberalism, alternativism, and … that’s all!

It is not very exhaustive, but it is not the main problem. These adjacent concepts are defined in a piecemeal way : Macron’s cosmopolitanism is not really tied to post-nationalism; his europeanism rarely invokes the federalist project; his progressivism is societal, but with limits like the no-recognition of cultural or regional minorities or the surragocy forbiden; his liberalism is narrowed to the economic sphere; and the pseudo-political alternation has promoted the same social elites.

There is a gap between representations and the political existence of macronism. This discrepancy is explained by a phenomenon which is quite common to particular ideologies the « legitimation ointment ». The legitimation ointment consists to cover the conceptual weakness of an ideology X by the concepts X’ – i.e. periphical concepts, often symbolical, ever simple – in order to increase the supporters. For example, Nicolas Sarkozy before the presidential election in 2007 was a right-wing liberal « à la française » who conceived that an economic and societal liberalism must be counterbalanced by a republicanism. To increase his supporters he tooked a peripheral concept of the right-wing republicanism: Caesarism, that carries itself several peripherical concepts as a centralized, strong and monistic state. The objective was to design an ideology competitive toward le Front national, the far-right party. Did this legitimation ointment made Nicolas Sarkozy a far-right tyrant ? Not more François Mitterrand became a communist…

Without this ointment, managerial ideology appears in every single statement of Emmanuel Macron. By example, Macron argues his right to govern with ordinances to because they allow to « accelerate the debate ». Facing accusation of autocracy, he said  that he wanted to use the ordinances only for fundamental reforms, such as labor law because only this tool is enable to reduce the expression of political passions and accelerate the debate to maximize the decision-making process. This quest of effectiveness and usuefulness  is the core of management ideology. Of course, Macron tries to apply an ideological ointment like « revolution », « progress » or other.

If it is so obvious, why a large part of French media, artists and intellectuals, and people with a political culture believe in the ointment rather than the ideology’s bases? In fact, nobody have been abused. They believe that Macron generates a renewal of political representation with a certain continuity. They hope that Macron will accelerate the end of the « old » politics and its eternal divisions. They define themselves as liberal in the board sense. In brief, they  endorsed the macronist managerial ideology without any doubt. The mistake about Macron has comitted by the same people who regret about their prodigy who  – once he had the suprem power – betrayed his intellectual references. But an ideology is not an intellectual pedigree, it is a set of representations and practices. And these representations and practices reflect more the management theory taught at the École nationale d’administration (ENA), in business schools and the concern of the management practiced everywhere rather than some expectations of high-normative theorists.

Macron is therefore not a weather vane, nor a a mere marketing phenomenon. The macronism is the doctrine of a fringe of the French elite which is despairing of politics but it still persuades that some « positive » values ​​transcend it, such as European integration, social progress, national union, etc. But these beliefs remain ancillary in comparison with the prospect of a « good » public management seen necessary among every policies, which one advocates utility and efficiency in the decision-making.