Ever since its emergence, humanity has cultivated the art of telling stories, an art that is everywhere at the heart of the social bond. But since the 1990s, first in the US and then in Europe, this art has been colonized by the domain of public relations and triumphant capitalism, and relabelled with the anodyne name of storytelling. This has become a weapon in the hands of marketing, management and political gurus, so as to better format the minds of consumers and citizens. Behind the advertising campaigns, but also in the shadows of victorious electoral campaigns from Bush to Sarkozy and Obama hide sophisticated storytelling management or digital storytelling technicians. It is this incredible hold-up of human imagination that Christian Salmon reveals here, after an enquiry into the ever greater number of applications for which storytelling has been mobilized. Marketing now depends more on the history of brands than on their images, managers have to tell stories to motivate their employees, soldiers in Iraq train themselves on computer games conceived in Hollywood, and spin doctors construct a political life as if it were a narrative.
Salmon unveils here the mechanics of a storytelling machine, far more effective than Orwellian visions of totalitarian society. The subject that it wants to create is a bewitched individual, immersed in a fictive universe that filters perceptions, stimulates feelings and frames behavior and ideas.
CHRISTIAN SALMON is a writer and researcher in the Centre for Research in the Arts and Language at the CNRS in Paris. He is the founder of the International Parliament of Writers, of which he was president from 1993 to 2003, and is the author of several works, including Tombeau de la fiction, Devenir minoritaire and Verbicide. He writes a regular column for Le Monde.