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French weekly magazines review 23 September 2018

media __ DR

"Uberisation," "liberalism" and "collapsology" are this week's key words. None of them is particularly good news.

Uber, as the world probably knows by now, started life as a web-based cheap alternative to taxis, and has since spread into bike rentals and the home delivery of food from restaurants.

In Nairobi, for example, you can use your mobile phone to order an UberChapchap. That will get you a lift in a low-cost Susuki Alto. "Chapchap" is Swahili for "faster". UberBoat will get you across the Bosphorus in Istanbul without swimming. UberChopper will provide the ultimate answer to traffic jams, but is available only locally and occasionally. It's also expensive. One way from New York City to the up-state, up-market Hamptons will set you back 3,000 dollars.

The changes which the company's methods, not always transparent, have provoked have given rise to the term "uberisation," not always positive. Basically, anything which short-circuits the traditional means of production or the provision of services is denigrated as being the result of "uberisation".

This week, the main opinion piece in Le Nouvel Observateur is headlined "Beware the uberisation of culture!"

That horrible prospect is provoked by two recent events that have absolutely no connection with taxis, food delivery or Uber.

One is the nomination of the novel "The French Gang" by Marco Moskas for the highly prestigious Renaudot prize. Moskas and the book are both real. The problem is that Marco published his work on Amazon, by-passing the traditional publishers who reused his manuscript in the first place and are now livid that they're missing out on a percentage of all those sales. It's a classic uber confrontation: web technology threathening the power of a bastion of the classic economy.

The case of "Roma" is even worse, since Alfonso Cuaron's film of that name has just won the Golden Lion at the Venice festival, and will probably never be seen in cinemas since it belongs to Netflix, the web film rental operation which is now increasingly ignoring the major studios and producing its own raw materials.

L'Obs warns that this uberisation of culture represents a grave danger, since Amazon and Netflix are both American, both profit-orientated, neither particularly committed to the advancement of Enlightenment values.

But perhaps the real problem is that the old economic model needs a serious shake up. Uber could be just the job.

Let's hear it for liberalism!

Le Point follows the English magazine the Economist in looking at the future of the economic model we know and, generally, detest as liberalism.

The Economist this week celebrates its 175th anniversary by publishing what it calls "A Manifesto for Liberal Renewal". Le Point is radiant with admiration, and devotes an editorial to the cross-channel initiative.

So why would anyone plead for the renewal of a system which, by encouraging big financial institutions to look after their own interests, helped to provoke the 2008 global crisis? Liberalism has widened the gap between rich and poor, has driven immigration, increased the rise of right-wing ideologies, led the Americans to elect Donald Trump.

In fact, that was all the fault of a sort of debased liberalism, which has lost contact with the fundamental principles of individual freedom and respect for the common good. If liberalism could be brought back to its honourable roots, it could become a major force in the fight against populism, nationalism and allow modern societies to deal reasonably with their cultural and religious diversity.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Which brings me to "collapsology," the latest term for outpourings of the pseudo-scientific prophets of doom who reckon that the human race, what with climatic disorders, food shortages and increasing population, is on its last legs. The least optimistic suggest that we'll have gone the way of the dinosaurs by the year 2030.

And we'll go out with several bangs. And a lot of whimper.

The chief reason for this inevitable global collapse is people, specifically the lower orders, brain-washed by bad television and stupefied by consumerism. People sufficiently daft to elect leaders who represent the worst of the capitalist system, source of all our woes.

You have to wonder if we'll last until 2030.

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