A priori, nothing makes more sense than the point retirement system proposed by the French government, and taken up, among other sources, from the proposals of the commission I chaired twelve years ago: it aims to take note of the growing nomadism of work, which is less and less confined to careers in silos, lived in a single company. This reform could also be perfectly fair, if we could devote to it the means to take account of all the particular situations.
This is where the problems begin: a reform of a pension system is not, as are many other public reforms, a simple decision, which may or may not be taken, to authorise or prohibit this or that activity. Such a system refers to something much deeper, organic, because it has been built up over time, with infinite specificities, mirroring the complexity of the social body.
As for a human body: it is extremely difficult to accept the replacement of a limb or organ by a prosthesis; and even more difficult to accept the replacement of a limb, which functions, by a prosthesis, which you are sworn to be more efficient and fairer than the real limb itself; all the more difficult as it is practically impossible, to prove that the real limb will soon be sick and that it is urgent to amputate it before it gangrenes the whole body. In fact, almost no one, except when cornered by the evidence of pain, would accept it.
That’s where we are with the pension system: it is a living part, an organ of the social body. It has evolved with it; it is intimately part of it; it has become more complex with it. And no one can explain that it is no longer capable of rendering the services that justify its existence. It is therefore very difficult to convince the social body of the need to replace it with a universal artefact, a prosthesis that would replace this supposedly tired organ.
Of course, the government has all the democratic means to impose this reform; it can have it voted on without listening to anyone. And the strikes, it may think, will not last ten years. But that does not mean that it also has the means, once the prosthesis is fitted, to guarantee that it will fulfil its role, that it will not harm the functioning of the rest of the body. And that there won’t be any indelible scars left from the operation.
This is an infinitely more vertiginous question, which arises here: the history of humanity is that of the translation of life into artefact, of the living into the artificial; in all fields; in general for the best of man and society. But not always; and even less and less, since the project could become to transform man and the social body themselves, into an artefact, a robot. An object that has died from wanting to live better and longer.
In this attempt to replace an organ (which has taken a long time to complexify itself in order to fulfil the thousands of specific roles that the social body has entrusted to it) with an artefact, we are taking a lot of risks. And one should not therefore be afraid to imitate as much as possible, in the prosthesis, the characteristics of the failing organ; that is to say, to adapt the new retirement system to the specificities of each life. It would be, moreover, the strength of the new system, well explained and well applied, taking its time, taking care not to perform unnecessary surgery, to be able to take into account all the particularities. But then, if it is to make as many exceptions as in the other system, is it worth replacing it?
This is where we understand that, in matters of government as well as human life, amputation and replacement of a failing organ, with a prosthesis, should only be a last resort.