Feuilleton – Prébende #6

Antoine Dufeu
01.12.21 → 31.12.21

Antoine Dufeu has been an associated author with cneai = since November 2020. In the FEUILLETON section of cneai =’s newsletter, he invites you to read texts that are currently being written and unpublished texts. “Prébende” is the title of a book in progress, featured here opportunistically.

I) The Major
An excerpt from “Blanchiment” (in progress)

Guy Debord, in his “Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle,” wrote perfectly: “Everything that is never sanctioned is truly permitted.” It’s horrific to witness how often business leaders do whatever they please regarding their employees. There have indeed been some high-profile lawsuits, the most emblematic being that of France Telecom, but how many leaders of hundreds of companies of all sizes, certainly not phantasmagorical, from small to multinational, deliberately and systematically flout labor laws and disregard legislation? A refined rhetoric, granted by the succession of powers in place, has regularly expanded around the theme of layoffs or improving business performance: safeguard procedure, collective performance agreement, conciliation procedure, job safeguard plan alias JSP, collective mutual termination agreement. Strangely, it’s always the management who voluntarily and, one might say, incidentally courageously initiate these plans, succinctly described as social strategies. One often wonders if people will speak up, act, or say something and not come to the realization of seeking medical advice early or sometimes under duress and coercion. But to no avail. A one-sided social dialogue replaces labor laws, motivated by financial objectives. Every employment contract is subjected to the influence of consultancy firms, through which lawyers are compensated by companies seeking to increase their profitability, accompanying their services with legal advice masterfully orchestrated by laws passed under the pressure of the most influential or powerful, to the detriment of the common man, currently named Arthur Gonzalès-Ojjeh, Ellen Bretton-Woods and Co., and arbitrarily renamed in various situations as Roberto Escuelos or Daisy Belle. Due to a lack of a clear idea of citizenship, the seats in political assemblies have become immovable positions occupied by what can be called, without pretense or self-importance, lobbyists. Simultaneously, are police officers being taught to aim at feet or legs rather than the chest or head and to form concentric circles and other geometrical defensive formations? Apparently not.

II) The Minor
An excerpt from “Book V” (in progress)

Deliberately obscured from everyone’s view, the Treaty of Contracts, written by Pierre de Jean Olivi—PDJO for the intimates— in Narbonne (France of today in the year 2021), does not imply that volumes are natural and prices exceedingly artificial. It raises singular questions, for instance, the third in the first part titled “On Purchases and Sales,” questioning whether, due to scarcity or general or individual shortages, the price of goods can be increased. It delves into prebends, simony, or usury. At times, he interprets the verb “to sell” as providing something to receive an equivalent. Regarding usurious contracts, he argues that selling what does not exist or selling the same thing twice is a blatant injustice. He observes that few are willing to lend without the hope of temporal profit, regardless of glory, one might comment. Before that, he ponders in the eighth question whether, for a loan made, receiving more than what was lent is contrary to natural and divine law. He later observes that the impious oppression of the poor is against natural law (but isn’t oppression uniformly and decisively antithetical to law?). As for the query, he initially answers in the negative because it is fair and lawful to render a service for a service and a favor for a favor, all accompanied by an agreement because it involves an equivalent benefit (but what would be an equivalent misdeed or wrongdoing? And aren’t there inklings of a good- or bad-will here and there?). He doesn’t hesitate to invoke gratitude when a modest gift or a small meal thanks for a loan made. Lending at interest is presented as a divine permission by recourse to Deuteronomy 28 and also Deuteronomy 23, where it is established that it is permissible to lend at usury not to one’s brother but to the foreigner. Ambrose himself, in his Cause 14, question 4, advocates demanding usury from one whom you wish to harm rightfully. Finally, as for the query, he answers in the affirmative, as understood from the authority of Scripture.

Practical Information:
{On December 1, 2021, to celebrate the end of this digital residency, cneai = has invited Antoine Dufeu for a public reading of these various excerpts published in the newsletter since November 2020.}