Individual vs multitudes
The emerging virtuality promises to be a basement of a new techno-economic paradigm. Any digital network is not a society at its very essence. A network is not about power and domination, this is about communication only. Participation in such networked communication is optional being up to each particular networker.
An individual is acquiring a pure non-collective subjectivity when there is no obligation to follow for being an equal integral element of a network. A horizontal anti-hierarchical structure of a network in which all participants interact in a peer-to-peer mode cannot be corrupted by any group of power-seekers. This is just technically impossible.
That’s why any collective identity is losing significance within a network. In the limit, any individual networker is an absolutely solitary operational unit who needs no one else to move over existence. A post-social individual is an existential gamer who alone travels through multiple virtual playgrounds being fully satisfied with his/her ever-changing plural identity.
History will keep moving within and under societies. Each change in the form of social power will specify another historical landmark. The landmarks will constitute civilizational periods that, in their turn, will merge into eons. But post-social individuals will be spared the effects of the infinitely revolving wheel of samsara since time disappears without society. They will be able to enter and exit the historical process on their own at any given moment: their “floating” subjectivity provides them with the vehicle that multitudes (masses) lack.
Despite various romantic ideas about the new globalized proletariat who supposedly resists the planetary Empire, in contrast to hypotheses about the “love of multitudes”, “project of masses” and the like neo-Marxist speculations, masses can never create anything. Multitudes are able to consume only. They are totally reactive since time rules over them.
The unforgiving Fatum erases societies in which masses are like mosquitoes trapped in amber. The broad abstract multitudes have never constituted a subject of history. And they will never do so. Only particular collectivities headed by a certain ruling stratum can change history when they strive for power.
All historic events happening among societies are always about only one general question: who is to dominate. In other words, the struggle for interpretation and re-interpretation of relationships between masters and slaves constitute the very fabric of social history. Is there an individual in those games?
An individual can participate in historical games only when s/he is a part of society, i.e. when one or more collective identities are clearly inherent. Many covert KGB operatives along with KGB informers constituted an invisible crystal structure of the crowds in the streets when protests against the pro-Soviet Putschists’ coup d’etat happened in 1991 in Moscow. Active individuals with solid collective identities were leading amorphous mindless crowds.
This is an indicative model of the social behavior of individuals in the offline historic process. Were those activists the true individuals from the existential perspective at that moment? Highly unlikely, since they could not leave the crowd under their own free will. Were they a subject of history at the same moment? Undoubtedly, they were, but only as constituent elements of the crowd.
Once power-seeking social groups make history under the question of who is the master, there should be a definition of mastery. Moreover, the definition should have an existential background once any social definition can be easily re-interpreted over time.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel gave an absolutely genius definition of a true existential Master two centuries ago. A master (hegemon, lord) is the one who is ready to face death personally at any moment, who is never angled away from death, whose entire life is existence towards death.
Another great German philosopher Martin Heidegger applied almost the same definition to his doctrine of authentic existence — Dasein: an individual exists in an authentic manner only if his existence is existence towards death. And, consequently, the true slave can be defined as the one who always runs from death, who never faces death personally, who exists inauthentically, and who is always captured by death from behind.
We can easily recognize the true slave in the person of an average modern consumer: there is the same fear of death expressed in fear of pain in the same pursuit of comfort. Once an average citizen having one or more collective identities is never a true individual, we can apply proof by contradiction to recognize the true master in the person of a deliberate post-social solitary gamer. The latter needs no collective identity to move through virtual worlds since his/her “floating” plural identities are not exposed to any repression from any society.
A great amount of personal vital energy remains in the disposal of the post-social individuals. They distribute the energy between their internal selves and the external Being on their own voluntarily. The available energy surplus allows them to approach existential meanings to a greater extent than any deeply socialized person can do. Not to mention broad masses whose energy is always withdrawn by the Being in bulk.
Is there a chance to build some sort of society in the post-social virtual space? Theoretically speaking, it is possible. But such a “post-social” society needs to input an idea of dominance inherent in vertical hierarchies into the flat horizontal networks of virtuality. Once this is technically impossible, only a conceptual doctrine of vertical power can be proposed. Does it make any sense in the light of the available alternative of dis-social communities of absolutely equal individuals?
It doesn’t, as the entire history of human societies suggests. Why should free gamers refuse equality, spread poverty, and endure violence? Why should unparalleled individuals create faceless and voiceless multitudes? Why the heck should the true masters of their own fate change their meaningful authentic existence for meaningless self-sacrifice to the Supreme Being?
Post-social communities will not belong to deeply socialized slaves. A different species of free humans is going to emerge at the historical stage. History is still far from its end (Fukuyama was wrong). Another thing is that there is a fork in the road of human history. One wide and well-known branch leads to just another version of society. The other narrow branch offers an unbeaten way to post-social digital virtuality. We have never had such a choice before. True individuals are welcome to choose from.