'Submission': Ambiguity, hypocrisy and misanthropy in Michel Houellebecq's imaginary politics

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On 7 January 2015, the day of the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Parisian satirical magazine, French author Michel Houellebecq published Soumission (Submission), his already contested novel. Charlie Hebdo had a satirical feature on the cover that day ridiculing Houellebecq’s novel, which was accused of Islamophobia. In the novel, Houellebecq writes about how France in 2022 elects a Muslim president, Mohammed Ben Abbes, who wins the election against Marine Le Pen from the National Front and how the new president ‘Islamisizes’ the French state and society. Except for Islamism and nationalism, other political ideologies have failed to articulate political visions capable of generating support and stability in the citizenry. The article approaches Michel Houellebecq’s Submission as a diagnosis of a current ideological crisis in European democratic culture, and the passionate reactions to Houellebecq’s book as contesting the political thought-practices mapping the ideological landscape in contemporary Europe from below. It pays special attention to the ambiguity in Houellebecq’s criticism of Islamism and nationalism, his portrayal of the hypocrisy of liberal democrats and his misanthropy as regards the role of democratic citizens in future politics. The article also questions whether the satirical point of view that Houellebecq adopts constitutes an adequate point of departure for invigorating democratic imaginations. The argument is that the kind of negative ideological diagnosis that Houellebecq depicts could include potentials for how one could otherwise imagine political life. The question is simply whether this is the case in Houellebecq’s Submission. How does a literary representation of democratic imaginations produce meaning, reflection and points of orientation, and how does it work in Houellebecq’s imaginary politics?
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)131-146
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2017

ID: 167813201