A singular individualism, a greater autonomy in the company leads to a growing existential anguish. Pierre Rosanvallon shows that the transition from a universalist individualism to an individualism of singularity will make political action difficult within the institutions of representative democracy. Why is this?

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The Passage from an individualism of universality to an individualism of singularity

Column by Jean-Yves Chapuis, sociologist, urban planner, elected in Rennes city (France) from 1983 to 2014, former vice-president at the Rennes Metropolis and director of the school of architecture in Rennes. He is now an advisor in urban strategy.

A singular individualism, a greater autonomy in the company leads to a growing existential anguish. Pierre Rosanvallon shows that the transition from a universalist individualism to an individualism of singularity will make political action difficult within the institutions of representative democracy. Why is this?

This individualism of singularity means that each and everyone is determined by their history and not by their condition. And yet each story is particular. How to respond to it? Moreover, citizens want immediate answers. Elected officials oscillate between administrative and technical documents that we are fond of (SCOT, PLU, PLH, Commercial Urbanism Charter...) and/or we will ask citizens what they want. The citizen becoming in this framework an expert of the city.  There is a confusion of roles. The citizen is a user of the city, which is not the same thing.  The elected official hides behind the technique or/and entrusts the keys to the citizens.

Allowing everyone to be master of their time, responsible in their work, not to be alienated but free is commendable. But there are collective responsibilities that must be defined, otherwise we remain in a distrust of others that can become dangerous. Then one cannot solve everything by oneself, hence new, more subtle forms of alienation, because they return failures to individuals without questioning collective responsibilities.

The danger of this situation is that if the problem is not solved and continually referred back to each and everyone, it leads to a collective distrust that calls into question the democratic institutions that need to be trusted. This is why the invention of a democracy of knowledge and recognition so that each one is in a situation of sharing and understanding that one increases oneself when one is in a more collective approach.

How to reconcile concern for oneself and concern for others.

These reflections should lead to reflection on the organization of the delegations of elected officials and a better organization of services to be more in tune with this work of pedagogy to recreate links. Neighborhood elected officials should be the interlocutors of these debates and not simply check the realization of projects in the neighborhood or the inclusion of local projects in the neighborhood approach. Organizing these debates is the creation of the democracy of knowledge. It can only work if we feed the elected officials for the organization of these debates.

Starting from the notion of living, building skills that are capable of mixing different approaches in ephemeral communities with experts and researchers.

It means both nourishing elected officials with the debates of society today and with a tangible evolution in the organization of services to allow in the debate with citizens to recreate confidence and improve the political debate and the new stakes of democracy in an informed society.

In this way, we will be able to answer the question posed by Pierre-Henri Tavoillot:

"We are living in a critical moment of democracy; the people are too enlightened to be enslaved, but not enough to accept to be governed."

Illustration :  "Golf Painting" par Steve Dinnino

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