Urgency: the logic of the moment

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For a long time, the emergency mode of action was confined to exceptional circumstances. The recourse to emergency was an exceptional device intended to circumvent the gravity of the usual structures in the medical, judicial, economic, political or social fields. The exception of the emergency is no longer the rule today, since in the space of a few years the phenomenon has become the preferred method of social regulation and a predominant expression of the organization of collective life.

The practice of urgent action and the increasingly rapid provision of appropriate responses often goes beyond what is necessary and ends up becoming an ideology. Urgency is one of the major symptoms of the confused state of our times. It reflects the disarray of a society that no longer knows what to do to understand and apprehend a world that has escaped from reality, that cracks under the weight of problems that must be solved "in time" before they degenerate further, that lives on the tyrannical rhythm of real time, that is subject to the intense pressure of the laws of the market and of competition at the level of nations, companies and individuals. (1).

● Urgency is a fuzzy notion with multiple contours. It refers simultaneously to a situation, a judgement and an action: "a situation is urgent because, considered urgent, it calls for an urgent response". (2). "The first meaning of the word is objective and then slips into an often subjective reality, with reference to the value system of the society or the person who decides on the emergency. This semantic shift explains the dangerousness of the concept: it shifts from a necessity justifying a quick response to a more or less systematic way of doing things.

● Within the company, the logic of instantaneity has shifted the competition from the field of space to that of time. New markets are now being won by going faster, saving time and reacting instantaneously. This polarization on time is transforming the way a company projects itself into the future. Its horizon is resolved in the short term, like an echo to the general tempo of our societies. "The ideology of 'short-termism' downgrades to unreal time the ideology of the long term, of calm, patience and constancy over the long term. It would be neither technological nor managerial. » (3)

Behind this ideology lies a philosophy of fatalistic action: the market would be like an "invisible hand" that would send opportunities to be seized. The ideal company must therefore be constantly flexible, focused on welcoming opportunities rather than on their actual selection made in a long-term perspective.

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● However, this ideology of urgency demonstrated its immense dangerousness during the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. It suddenly revealed the gulf between the so-called "real" economy and the practices of financial market professionals. The time horizon of a trader in a trading room is not the same as that of ordinary mortals: his short term is one minute, his medium term is half an hour and the closing of the daily session represents the long term for him. For a long time, this mode of operation was perceived as that of gifted and overpaid champions. The disaster of 2008 finally demonstrated a lesson in simple common sense: driving in a state of emergency is blind driving that inevitably leads to Paul Virilio calls "the total accident."

(1) This reflection on urgency is inspired by the work of Nicole AUBERT: Le culte de l'urgence, la société malade du temps, PUF, 2000, - Le sens de l'urgence, in Sciences de la Société, n° 44, 1998, and - with Francis JAUREGUIBERRY, L'urgence comme symptôme et analyseur de la société hypermoderne, in Programme " Travail et Temps ", Ministère de la Recherche, June 2000.
(2) Christine CHODKIEWICZ, L'urgence en matière de conflits de juridictions, Thesis, Doctorate in Law under the supervision of Paul Lagarde, University of Paris I
(3) Jean-Claude USUNIER, Une critique de la fonctionnalité de l'urgence, in Temporalistes, n° 29, 1995.

 

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