The industrial revolution in the 18th and its development in the 19th century created a wave of optimism that was one of the foundations of the spiritual climate which enabled the emergence of Olympism. The myth of the “limitless possibilities of the development of science and technique” tacitly supports the Olympic progress expressed in the famous maxim citius, altius, fortius – which is the bearer of Comte’s “social dynamics”. The rapid industrial development and scientific discoveries erase the borders in time and space and become a power that in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as the “bearer of progress”, becomes the means for dominating the world. The expansion of capitalism imposes a need for establishing a global ideology which will enable its free development. The destruction of the traditional pillars of spiritual integration (above all, religion) and its inefficiency in the (spiritual) submission of the working “masses” create a need to build a new integrative thought that will “bring order” in people’s heads (in contrast to the chaos that prevails in society) and will be efficient in dealing with the libertarian mind. Coubertin was one of those who sought to turn that climate into a philosophical program and create from it a universal project of human life.
Coubertin unreservedly accepts Comte’s law of progress according to which society inevitably develops in a positive direction. Progress is a necessary law of evolution administered by way of abstract humanity. Starting from a scientific evolutionism, Coubertin identified the transformation of the animal species with progress and based upon it his theory of progress. According to Windelband, “the evolutionism of natural sciences, including the theory of selection, can indeed interpret transformation, but not progress: it cannot establish that the result of progress is a ‘higher’, i.e. more valuable form.” (13) Coubertin deprived the idea of progress of its purpose and meaning, which means that he transferred it from a cultural time, which is the true “space of history” (Marx), into a physical, “purely mechanical time” (Bloch), which is beyond history. (14) Coubertin’s idea of progress rests upon the thought, which arose in the Modern Age, which regards nature as the object of a limitless exploitation and science and technique as a means for controlling the natural forces, and thus makes man the “master and owner of nature” (maître et possesseur de la nature – Descartes). It deals with the conception that regards nature as man’s living, aesthetical and historical space. In that context, for Coubertin, the world is not a living and spiritual whole, but provides resources and energy and thus is the living space of European capitalism. The principle of utility is the indisputable basis of the relation to the world. In Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine there are no normative limitations to the established “progress”, and thus the door is wide open not only to the capitalist exploitation of nature, but also to its destruction: the absolutized principle of utility becomes the principle of destruction. It appears in sport in the form of the principle of “greater effort”, expressed in the progressistic principle citius, altius, fortius, which is a peculiar butcher’s knife for man’s self-mutilation: Coubertin has the same relation to the human body as to nature. Simultaneously with the destruction of nature, man’s cultural self-conscious is being destroyed. With the destruction of nature and the creation of a surrogate life all the symbols of life that characterized the traditional folk culture become alienated from man.
The tacit starting-point of Coubertin’s conception of progress is the development of man’s productivistic powers that in the form of science and technique alienate themselves from him and become the instrument of the ruling “elite” for dominating the world. The alienation of industry and science from man opened space for establishing a naturalistic conception of progress based on the laws of evolution – which are regarded as a fateful power. Capitalism is not the result of a historical development of society, which means the work of man, but the highest form in which the laws of evolution appear independently of man and dictate progress. What is “new” in capitalism is the fact that man is completely immerged in the process of evolution, which means that all the things (reason, norms, democratic institutions, human qualities) that mediate between natural laws and man have been eliminated – and thus society entered a new “positive” phase in its development that represents the highest possible level in the development of the living world and the end of the development of humanity. Through the spirit of capitalism, which acquires its purest expression in sport, there is established, in the form of the bourgeoisie, a complete domination of the natural flow of events over man: positive society represents a realized naturalism.
The Olympic progress manifests the fatal course of the law of “natural selection” that constantly makes choices, removing the “weak” and leaving the “strong”: the fight for survival and domination is the main driving force of progress. War is the highest and the most drastic form of natural selection and thus an indispensable lever in ensuring progress. It brings about the “perfectioning” of man, nations and races, and thus the “perfectioning” of mankind. By virtue of war the white race acquired the genetic properties that make it “superior” to other (“lower”) races. As Coubertin reduces man to animal, his anthropological conception only confirms his theory of progress. Coubertin bases progress on the dialectic of nature only to deal with the dialectic of history and enable the establishment of a global domination of the white rich “elite”. What questions the naturalistic character of Coubertin’s doctrine is the absolutization of progress based on the development of a dehumanized science and technique. Unlike the animal, which is moved and restrained by its instincts, Coubertin’s man is moved and restrained by the bellicose and progressistic spirit of capitalism. In man, natural evolution acquired a new quality (expressed in the principle of “greater effort”) which at the same time represents its “overcoming”. Coubertin denaturalized even evolution itself and created from it an abstract force that appears as a “natural” foundation of capitalist progress.
According to the “optimistic” character of his progressistic conception, Coubertin opposes those theorists who reduce the nation to a biological organism. In the final part of his speech which, in the beginning of his Olympic path, was held in London, Coubertin sends to his compatriots the following message: “I would like to give you the true picture of our beloved country although I am far from it. Among its children there are too many of those who love with a hopeless love, who have lost faith in its future. They predict its decline because it has behind it a very long past. They compare nations with individuals and believe that they are doomed to decline and destruction just as inevitably as man is doomed to grow old and die. This theory finds its justification in their instability; but, it is merely a theory and Le Play, a great admirer of facts and a great enemy of theories, triumphantly refuted it. He showed that the history of all peoples, old and young, consists in successive changes that are not fatal at all. That is why we, who are the bearers of this encouraging thought, can with a strong faith and not with a hopeless courage, utter the words which, to be sure, lie deep in yours as well as in my heart: Long live France!” (15)
For Coubertin, the bearers of progress are not man’s productivistic (creative) powers, but the greediness of the bourgeois. Just as “meekness” is a form in which the divine spirit appears in the oppressed, so is greediness a form in which the spirit of the fight for survival appears in the ruling “elite”. It is a new quality in the development of the living world that is the result of a fight between races and the exclusive quality of the “master race”: greediness becomes the anthropological basis of progress. Coubertin follows the dominant spirit of the Modern Age: the possessing and accumulation of material wealth is the purpose of life and the basis on the “perfectioning” of mankind. “Get rich!” – are the words that Coubertin addressed to the French bourgeoisie to encourage it to head towards the (golden) Olympic heights. He appears here as a consistent dialectician: the acquired wealth increases the lust for wealth and it continues to do so for ever – progress never stops. A rich man who does not strive to get richer is not only a traitor of its own class, but is irresponsible as regards progress since he breaks the chain of acquiring wealth that represents the connective tissue of progress. At the same time, from Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine it clearly follows that the insatiable hunger of the parasitic classes for material wealth is but a form in which their need for a limitless power is expressed. There are not many ideologues of capitalism who, like Coubertin, in such a clear and consistent way unmasked the looting logic that guides the bourgeoisie and pointed to a direct link between greediness of the ruling class and the workers’ deprivation of rights. It is one more reason for keeping Coubertin’s “problematical” writings far away from the public eye.
For Marx, the fight of the oppressed for freedom represents the driving force of social progress. From it follows his “categorical imperative”: “To destroy all relations in which man appears as a humiliated, oppressed, abandoned, despised being…” While fighting fanatically for the survival of the order based on the exploitation of workers, “colored peoples” and women, Coubertin sees in the fight for freedom the worst form of social pathology. Freedom and progress are not only inconsistent, but are also opposed. Everything from mankind’s heritage that can make the oppressed working “masses” conscious of the fact that they are the bearers of social progress and can contribute to the development of their libertarian dignity, has been eliminated. For Coubertin, the driving force of progress is not the divine will or the fight between classes, but the “will to power” of the rich “elite”. The spirit of capitalism is a form in which natural laws are manifested, while the bourgeoisie represents the extended hand of their fateful power on which social existence and progress rest, and at the same time the fist with which progress eliminates the obstacles on its road. The tyranny of the strong over the weak is the chief form in which progress is manifested: to oppose tyranny means to get in the way of the fatal course of progress. Hence to be on the side of progress means to be always on the side of those who ride with their unsheathed swords, and always against those who fight for freedom.
Coubertin’s conception of progress deals with the modern idea of progress, which involves not only quantitative shifts, but also qualitative leaps in the development of society. Coubertin does not differ much from the old Roman progressus that consists in a progression without a novum. Only (endless) quantitative shifts are possible, a progression in the given spatial and time dimensions – a progression without progress – which is the basis of the “Olympic counting” of time. In Coubertin, what is ”new” is that progression is reduced to the elimination of every possibility of stepping out of the existing world. The basic purpose of Coubertin’s “control in heads” is to break the link between man’s productivistic practice and the development of his conscious of himself as a free man and the creator of his own history. That is the essence of his progressistic conception, expressed in the famous Olympic maxim citius, altius, fortius, which can be called the theory of positive progress. Olympism represents the means for creating the cult of capitalist progress: quantitative comparison becomes a superhuman force to which man is fatally submitted. Horkheimer and Adorno write about that the following: “Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities. To the Enlightenment, that which does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion; modern positivism writes it off as literature. Unity is the slogan from Parmenides to Russell. The destruction of gods and qualities alike is insisted upon.” (16) In sport, there does not exist a dialectical confrontation between good and bad, freedom and slavery, old and new… Quantitative shifts without qualitative leaps become an expression and a measure of progress creating the illusion that capitalism is capable of “moving forward” for ever – at the cost of destroying mankind and nature. Instead of being the result of man’s liberation and a condition of a true freedom, progress becomes a capitalistic way of Sisyphus’ curse, which in the Olympic Games acquires a spectacular form.
Coubertin rarely misses an opportunity to point out in his writings and speeches the superiority of the ancient over the present world: “the immortal spirit of antiquity” becomes the symbol of a world that appears as an unrealizable ideal of modern society. Unlike Coubertin, Comte realizes that in antiquity there did not exist any idea of progress and that it is the product of the New Age (Turgot, Condorcet). (17) Speaking about the ancient thinkers, Comte comes to the conclusion that clearly indicates the true nature of Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine: “None of them, not even among those most eminent and clever, were able to resist the inclination, which was at that time widespread as well as spontaneous, to regard the contemporary social state as radically inferior to the state of the past times”. (18) A mythologized past is the warrant of eternity of the ruling order: “the immortal spirit of antiquity” becomes a means for dealing with the idea of future.
According to Comte, “social progress does not change man’s nature but, realizing that which is most noble in man (and it is the predominance of altruism over egoism and of intelligence over emotionality), history realizes and perfects a system that most fully develops and realizes man’s nature.” (19) In that sense, the evolution of human society is, according to Comte, measured by the development of those human qualities that essentially distinguish human society from the animal world: intelligence and sociability. (20) Coubertin does not insists on the development of human qualities, but on a racial perfectioning that should enable the white race, embodied in the bourgeoisie, to become the “master race”: sport is not a means for developing “intelligence and sociability”, but for overcoming man’s “lazy animal nature” and creating a super-animal in the form of the bourgeois. Progress has a relative character and consists in the development of such personal and physical features of the ruling “elite” that enable it to consolidate its dominant position. Coubertin gives the most important role in the realization of progress to “great people”, who are connected with progress with a mystical bond and who appear as the incarnation of its active power. “A handful of good men” (Coubertin), in the form of the ruling rich “elite”, become the indisputable bearers of progress, and the working “masses”, colonized peoples and women, the means of its realization. Coubertin supports the theory of “great people”, but according to him they are not the bearers of progress; they do away with the ideas and forces that stop and slow down the (inevitable) progress and are released from every responsibility, apart from that to progress. Man can either accelerate or slow down the established progress, but he cannot stop it, let alone create a new world. The highest form of a “free” activity is the “perfectioning” of the present world and oneself as its inseparable part, while the basic purpose of the Olympic pedagogy is to defend progress against any threats and convince the oppressed to accept the unjust ruling order as something inevitable. Coubertin, like Comte, did not resolve the conflict between determinism and freedom: if progress is necessary and proceeds according to the fixed laws of evolution, then man’s free action is impossible. People are not the bearers of progress and thus the creators of history, but are its tools: determinism and fatalism are the basis and framework of human practice. The basic aim of the absolutization of natural laws, as the leading force of progress, is to deal with man’s libertarian and creative self-conscious and to completely and hopelessly integrate him into the present world. Natural laws have the same role as the gods in the past: to immortalize the established order of oppression by depriving the oppressed of the right to freedom, equality and brotherhood. That is why Coubertin deals with man as a reasonable and creative being: instead of striving to create the world in his human image, man can only adapt to the present world; instead of a totalization of society on the part of the creators of social welfare, a totalization of society on the part of the parasitic classes has been established.
As we have seen, for Coubertin man is a “lazy animal”, while sport, which is “not in the nature of man”, should develop in him a combatant spirit and the “will to power”. It is through sport that man overcomes his animal nature (by suppressing his natural and libertarian-creative being) and becomes a peculiar super-animal. It is a new and highest level in the evolution of the living beings, embodied in the form of “new people” who form the “master race”. It is obvious that the moment of will (hence such significance attached to the character) plays the vital role in the realization of this evolutionary shift, while Coubertin, being the incarnation of the active powers of “great people”, has the central role. Coubertin appeals to the “might is right” and natural selection as the principal natural laws, but they appear in the form of a struggle for domination. As for the will to domination (power), it is not a product of the natural course of evolution, but is the result of the struggle between races for survival which acquires its highest expression in the Hellenic racist, slave-owning and patriarchal order and, in the Modern Age, in the form of Thomas Arnold’s pedagogy and the modern Olympic Games – which represent the “revival of the immortal spirit of antiquity”. In spite of the importance he attaches to sport, Coubertin does not heroize sportsmen, nor does he glorify their victories and results (records). They appear primarily as the representatives of their race (nation) and thus as a symbolic incarnation of the developing force of capitalism. Sportsmen are not the real actors of the Olympic Games, but serve to realize the Olympic spectacle. The real winner at the Olympic Games is the “progressive” spirit of capitalism, which, like the ancient gods, by way of the muscular bodies of sportsmen, their fight and records, confirms its supremacy and human worthlessness – and the true result is the revival of the life force of capitalism and people’s faith in its indestructibility.
Coubertin abolishes history and reduces it to life, which he further reduces to a natural course of events. Man does not create his history, and life is a sequence of natural laws that apply in the animal world, which is but one of the forms in which the laws of evolution of the living world are realized. Through the family, race and gender, man acquires the characteristics of biological entities, which become the foundation of social structuring: instead of being the human community, mankind is reduced to the animal world; instead of a dialectical development of history, an evolutionary development of the living world is established. Hence it is not the cultural heritage of civilization, which man created in his struggle for survival and freedom, which is the basis of human “self-determination” and social integration, but it is the biological heritage of the race acquired in the struggle for domination. Keeping to the evolutionary positivism, Coubertin accepts both determinism and succession; however, he does not regard positive society as a necessary consequence of the previous state, but as a peculiar reincarnation of ancient society. Unlike Comte, who has in mind the “theological” and “metaphysical” stages in the development of mankind, Coubertin sees the entire past at the same time level, so he can “take” from it everything he needs at a given political moment. There is nothing of importance that can be an obstacle to the bourgeois voluntarism, and everything created in history can be used in the fight for survival of the existing order. Reducing history to the same time level serves to prove that in history there have not been, and there cannot be, any qualitative changes, which means that the strivings to step out of the existing world are pointless. Past and future are contained in presence, just as thought and work, theory and practice are united. The main driving force and the bearer of the inevitable and eternal progress is the “spirit of capitalism” embodied in the “sacred rhythm” of the Olympic Games – which by no means must be interrupted. Coubertin does not have the divine (Olympic) firmament which could give “eternity” to the established capitalist order: the “sacred rhythm” of the Olympic Games is the means for ensuring the continuation of the existing world without any relevant changes. Coubertin does not advocate the doctrine of a cyclic development of history, but of an endless openness of “future”. The “sacred rhythm” of the Olympic Games is a form of deification of the “progressive” spirit of capitalism, the proof of its “greatness” and “permanency”. At the same time, the “sacred” four-year rhythm of the Olympic Games gives the dynamics to the revival of faith in the basic values of capitalism according to the ancient model, which was supposed to meet the challenges of the dominant religious spirit. Hence the four-year rhythm of the modern Olympiads represents an abstract course of time that does not follow the dynamics of capitalist progress conditioned by the dynamics of the capital reproduction – to which the dynamics of life is subordinated, and which is evident in the establishment and development of new global sports (and other entertaining) manifestations that fill the space between the Olympic Games and acquire a status which, according to Coubertin, was exclusively reserved for the Olympic Games. The dynamics of capitalist progress has dethroned the Olympic Games, as the chief and only way of renovating the young freshness of capitalism, in the attempt to create an ever more luminous spiritual firmament that will blind man and on which the Olympic Games will be but one star in the increasingly numerous cluster. At the same time, particularly with the development of the “consumer society”, the dynamics of capitalist progress brought about a trivialization of the “Olympic mystery”, which is, according to Coubertin, the most important element of the Olympic cult that enables the establishment of a mystical bond between man and the spirit that governs the world.
Coubertin’s conception of progress has an instrumental character and is based on the development of science and technique – whose bearers are the working “masses” deprived of their rights – which become the exclusive means of the ruling parasitic class for the realization of their interests: man becomes the slave of his own productivistic (creative) practice. The Olympic progress is founded on positivistic scientific reason, which departs from maxim savoir pour prevoir, prevoir pour agir, and that means that the planning of future, as the indisputable privilege of the ruling “elite”, is the alpha and omega of Coubertin’s theory of progress. The instrumental character of Coubertin’s conception derives from the strivings for a rational planning of future, which involves the prediction of obstacles that can jeopardize the established “progress” and the means of their efficient elimination. The International Olympic Committee is a peculiar service of the bourgeoisie for “planning the future”. In this context, we can understand the symbolic significance of Coubertin’s entrusting his entire written legacy to the Nazis and his wish that the Nazi Germany be the guardian of his Olympic idea: the keys to “future” are handed over into the hands of the Nazis.
The “negative” starting-point of Coubertin’s doctrine represents the truth that man is capable of creating a world in his human image. This gives both theoretical and practical significance to Coubertin’s conception and constitutes its dramatics: the greater the objective possibility of stepping out of the capitalist world, the more aggressive Coubertin’s conception is. The essential part of the planning and carrying out of progress is the creation of the illusion that it is a spontaneous (“natural”) process to which man is fatally submitted. Coubertin abolished the subjective (libertarian) practice of the workers in order to absolutize and deify the subjective (oppressive) practice of the ruling class. Coubertin’s “subjective practice” comes down to the elimination of every possibility of developing in man a “negative” conscious that would enable him to confront the ruling order. At the same time, he “forgets” that his doctrine is also a product of a long struggle of the coming bourgeois class against feudalism and that it is an integral part of its Social Darwinist and progressistic evolutionism. Coubertin himself stresses the importance of people like Thomas Arnold for “transforming the British Empire” and, emphasizing the importance of the “elite” for the development of society, insists on the authoritarian establishment of IOC. However, if progress is inevitable, it means that he completely excludes the possibility of man’s independent judgment and relation to the existing world. Consistently following Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine, man cannot jeopardize, let alone stop, the fatal course of progress, and thus the strivings to “save him from jeopardizing it”, by way of the Olympic doctrine and practice, are useless. Here Coubertin faces the same problem as the Church, especially in the Modern Age: if God’s will is “omnipotent” and “omnipresent”, then the struggle of the Church to preserve faith in God is meaningless. Coubertin’s conception is tacitly based on the dualism of the spirit of capitalism, which is the incarnation of progress dictated by the laws of evolution, and man’s “lazy animal nature”. His “utilitarian pedagogy” is the means for inseminating man’s animal nature with the spirit of capitalism and creating a “new man” who will ensure continuous progress. That is why Coubertin attaches such significance both to the “immortal spirit of antiquity”, which is, in fact, the spirit of capitalism under an ancient veil that should give it the aureole of “eternity”, and to the pedagogical reform that should be carried out through sport and Olympism. It should enable the bourgeois to develop and become aware of his “true” (animal) nature and thus become a “conscious” bearer of progress. It is a fanatization of the bourgeoisie through the development of a ”Messianic” conscious that releases the bourgeois of any moral responsibility for his action, only to make him take full responsibility for progress (the ruling order). Hence, to be the “bearer of progress” means to be free from “scrupulous rules” (Coubertin) that apply to “ordinary people”. Nothing must stop the course of progress, namely, the self-willingness of the ruling “elite”. The authoritarian structure of IOC is, among other things, based on the following: the members of IOC are not responsible to anyone – they are, according to Coubertin, the “trustees” of the Olympic idea, (21) and thus the highest guardians of the “progressive” spirit that governs the world and on which the survival and “perfectioning” of mankind is based.
Coubertin, similarly to Comte, distinguishes between the ideas of “development” and “perfectioning”. However, in Coubertin, “development” is reduced to a fatal course of evolution, while “perfectioning” is a form of the subjective practice of the “elite” (white race), a peculiar polishing of the world and the elimination of any obstacles to the fatal course of progress. The positive state becomes an unrealizable ideal: we are constantly approaching it, but we shall never reach a perfect positive state. For Coubertin, this does not involve the strivings to attain a certain ideal of value, but a complete integration of man into the established order, while a combatant and progressistic activism becomes an indisputable integrative and ruling force which constitutes life and on which the world is based. Instead of advocating a change in social relations, and a development of productive forces and man’s creative powers, Coubertin advocates the creation of a new “master race”, in the form of the parasitic classes, which will efficiently deal with the emancipatory heritage of mankind and libertarian movements. Coubertin here approaches Spencer: “perfectioning” is based on the dying out of the improper and on the survival of the proper functions of the social organism. (22) Since man is the tool of progress and not its creator, “perfectioning”, as his “subjective practice”, is possible only as the acceleration of progress, and this becomes the main “feature” that distinguishes man from animal. In his original Olympic doctrine, Coubertin regards sport as an area in which “the best representatives” of the white race, representing their nations, fight for primacy – which leads to the development of their conquering (oppressive) character and thus to the “perfectioning” of the white race. At the same time, the “perfectioning of the world” involves the destruction of a critical conscious and the workers’ pacifying. Sport becomes the chief political instrument of the ruling class for depolitizing the “masses” and creating from the workers the objects of the dominant (self)willingness and “sheer” working force: the public (political) sphere is the privilege of the ruling “elite”. The struggle for the “perfectioning” of society is, according to Coubertin, reduced to a pedagogical reform that should enable the creation of a uniform character of people and a uniform world view: instead of changing the world, “perfectioning” comes down to the creation of “positive man” (mankind). The ultimate end of “perfectioning” is a complete destruction of a critical-changing conscious and of the idea of future, that is to say, the realization of the ideas of “order” and “progress” through the establishment of a complete and final domination of capitalism over man (mankind). The stadium, as the space where a complete domination of the (belligerent) positivistic one-mindedness is established, is the most authentic symbol of the world to which Coubertin strives: it represents a capitalistic temple where reason and libertarian dignity are destroyed and man is inseminated with the Social Darwinist and progressistic spirit of capitalism.
The ideal of “perfection” that man should strive for was already created in ancient Greece. Instead of the idea of future and the struggle for a more humane world, Coubertin wants to lull man in a romanticized idyll of the ancient world. The “perfect world” is not the matter of man’s free choice and the result of his creative practice; it is rather a datum appearing in the form of an idealized picture of the Hellenic world in which everything that modern man should and can strive for was attained. The Hellenic world becomes the embodiment of the ideal of a harmonic world in which people “died happily”. Tacitly, since it is contrary to the logic of his evolutionism, according to which progress is inevitable, Coubertin suggests that Christianity moved man backward and that the basic goal of Olympism is to return him to his original roots and make the world similar to the one in ancient times – when mankind “was able to smile”. It is the time when demos did not yet appear on the political arena of polis, and before the self-willedness of the ruling aristocracy was forced to face the universal principle of humanism, which applies to every free man (Hellene) and which will reach its highest expression in the moral philosophy of Socrates, while in the Modern Age was expressed in Kant’s “categorical imperative”. Coubertin sees in the ruling bourgeois “elite” the “master race” capable of returning humanity to the road taken in the antiquity, and that will be achieved through a final combat with the emancipatory heritage of mankind and the idea of future. The restoration of the “sacred” counting of time should serve the purpose of restoring humanity to the “right road”. Future does not appear as a detour from the present world and the creation of a novum, but as a continuous development of the present world and its “perfectioning”. Bearing in mind that, according to Coubertin, the whole past of mankind stands at the same time (unhistorical) level, only what is “good” (“positive”) should be taken and all that is “bad” (“negative”) should be rejected – and thus a “positive world” will be established.
Unlike the precursors of the Modern Age who sought to be visionaries (More, Campanella, Hobbes, Bacon, Owen, Fourier…), Coubertin seeks to destroy the vision of future and the visionary mind. He deals with a “fantasy” associated with the idea of future that involves the overcoming of the capitalist world, trying at the same time to turn the Olympic Games into a fantastic manifestation of the principles on which the existing world is based. More precisely, the Olympic Games, as the highest cult of the positive world, represent the climax and the end of fanaticizing. Coubertin also “overcomes” Leibniz’s theodicy: the established world is not “the best of all possible worlds”, it is the only possible world. In the preface to the second volume of Comte’s “Cours de philosophie positive” Jean-Paul Enthoven says that Comte’s work foresees “the end of utopia” (la fin de l’ utopie). (23) Coubertin has before himself a far more difficult task: Olympism does not only confront the idea of utopia, but also the possibility of its realization. Sport is a means for preventing the objective possibilities of freedom from becoming the real possibilities of man’s liberation. The “reconciliation” of people deprived of their rights to the established order represents conditio sine qua non of a “new beginning” in the development of society advocated by Coubertin, except for the fact that Coubertin does not strive to create a new civilization, but a “new” barbarism. Coubertin’s conception “unites”, in the form of the bourgeoisie, absolutized voluntarism and absolutized progressism. He abolishes the dialectic of history and the dialectic of nature in order to impose such “laws of evolution” that give the ruling order the legitimacy of being the only possible and eternal order. The world in which an indisputable and eternal domination of the white (West-European) bourgeois “elite” over the workers, “colored peoples” and women is established – that is the highest goal of the Olympic progress and the climax of a positive social state. It represents the end of evolution based on the Social Darwinist principles: instead of a conflict – “reconciliation” and “perfectioning” become the basis of social life. The principle of competition is abolished by the principle of domination.
By abolishing a critical distance to the positivity of the “factual”, Coubertin created from Olympism Anpassungsideologie of capitalism and thus made them inseparably connected: the destiny of capitalism becomes the destiny of Olympism. By perching a distorted ancient tradition and Social Darwinist laws on the progressistic principle citius, altius, fortius, Coubertin paved the way for the absolutization of the capitalist principle of performance whose development brought about not only a dehumanization, but also a denaturalization (robotization) of man. In that context appear the principle of “greater effort” (as the basis of “overcoming” the animal in man) and the principle mens fervida in corpore lacertoso, which are founded on the criteria of estimation based on quantitative comparison. The record is not only the “measure” of man’s alienation from his human being, but is also the “measure” of man’s destruction as a living being. Unlike the Olympism in the end of the 19th century, which had an antilibertarian character, today’s Olympic progressism has an ecocidal character that comes from the destructive nature of capitalism – which culminated in the so called “consumer society”. In Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine there do not exist any reasonably established obstacles to the ruthless Social Darwinism and destructive progressism. Not only does it open the possibilities of mankind’s destruction, but it seeks to be in the forefront of the struggle against the emancipatory heritage of mankind and against reason which is capable of establishing a critical detachment to the processes of destruction and of designing a new way of social development. A “reconciliation” of man to the established world, the chief demand of Coubertin’s “utilitarian pedagogy”, does not only involve a renouncement of the hope of a better world and a fatalistic abandonment to a dehumanized and denaturalized progress, but also a cooperation in the destruction of the world. “The end of utopia”, in the form of capitalism, does not appear only as the end of history, but also as the end of life.