Post-evolution or post-revolution?

We have to disappoint those people who still believe in the ability of a ruling class to provide a smooth transition from the capitalist present to the post-capitalist future. The elites stuck in the paradigm of liberal “bubblenomics” like an old non-upgradeable computer. Even those elitarians who realize that postmodernity is a logical follow-up of modernity are not in a hurry to correspond to the zeitgeist.

Everyone who monitors how the present-day political circles act in the face of various contemporary challenges can see that they have no plans for the future at all. The total perplexity about even medium-term prospects is observed among the establishment of the Western World nowadays. Despite strong statements they keep proclaiming at summits, the contemporary powers-that-be demonstrate their inability to come to a consensus about even basic social problems. Operational powerlessness occurs in far-off offices. It seems top-level bureaucracy is waiting for guidance from a superior level even though such a level is formally unavailable.

Personal responsibility and political will to act are not the features of the social leaders any longer. What is the reason for such fatal incapacity?
The overwhelming majority of those who hold leadership positions in today’s governmental bodies are brought up in the industrial matrix of liberal capitalism. The very terminology of the modern age is firmly fixed in their heads. Their political discourse is circulating within outdated models of the political economy of the 20th century. That’s why their planning horizon is shrinking to momentary tactical goals while long-term strategic objectives are hidden from them with paradigmatic ignorance. Some of them (supposedly the most progressive ones) have learned how to use Twitter to show masses that they are relevant to the present moment. But this only proves they fail in adopting a healthy ironic regarding their status.

Nothing but retrograde arrogance makes powers-that-be lose the last portion of the political intuition that in good time helped them correlate their vision with how all the other social strata saw the future. The elites became stagnant at the level of status quo accepted within the present socio-political model. Some of them are trying to deliver culturological assessments of the paradigmatic changes happening around. But as the experience of the so-called “corona-crisis” showed, the majority of elitists were unable to correctly interpret even apparent events.

They could not realize that global quarantine was not about the protection of people’s health. It all came down to economics with quite primitive mathematics when redistribution of assets was conducted against a background of the “global catastrophe” artificially created by media. Of course, it is possible to share the moral assessments of mathematical operations from a purely aesthetic perspective. But what operational value is in it for social management?
That was a large-scale but particular case that revealed the civilizational horizon of the present public administrators. But those who are assigned to control the System should understand what is really happening here and now.

The socio-political system is changing under the influence of various technological achievements of the 21st century. The total digitalization makes many governing patterns of the past (if not all of them) inefficient anymore. Such disrupting economic phenomena as, for example, the “uberization” of businesses and cryptocurrencies require adequate conceptualization in terms of possible social effects. And namely conceptual powerlessness of the elites is determining what should happen at the end of the day — the final dissolution of the existing upper stratum in the course of the covert postmodern revolution the majority of leaders voluntarily ignore.

In fact, a revolution of a specific sort is happening right now before our eyes. It differs very much from the archetypal image of all revolutions of the past that we keep in our heads. All revolutions back then implied a battle of one social class against the other one. The class struggle was the main revolutionary driver even in the times when the very “class” term had no clear definitions. Class consciousness was inherent in the very modus operandi of all revolutionary activists at the level of hunches. Not long ago (from a historical perspective), social stratification was so apparent that classes could be easily distinguished one from another. The population was divided into different classes in terms of wealth, rights, and origin. Everyone was aware of the exact place s/he had to occupy at a social ladder. Each class had its own mission realizable under a specific class-centric agenda.
When social tension between different classes was threatening to break the balance in a society, governments had to either make certain compromises or leave the stage due to another revolution. Even palace coups were in many cases the reflection of social contradictions in one or another form.

The covert revolution of these days has an utterly different scenario. No typical antagonism of classes is available in it. This is not because the actual class stratification disappears. Social division is here to stay once it is our historical destiny. However, it is under continuous transformation into something hitherto unprecedented, something having no traditional distinctive features grounded in the old-school factors of a certain social status — wealth, origin, and rights. The inter-class statuses start overlapping within a wide social range quite whimsically: today you are a state official, tomorrow — an oligarch, the day after tomorrow — a prisoner, after that you are a state bureaucrat again and so on. We may now talk about a “liquid” super-class.

Contradictions between different classes started migrating from the socio-political realm to techno-social ones. A significant part of the population in the Western World no longer hopes on the national governments. People are intuitively looking for some other governing forms and methods that can more comprehensively meet their interests than the obsolete state machinery can. Besides, the present ideological vacuum along with philosophical bankruptcy revealed by both national governments and supranational bureaucracy pushes common people into the embrace of techno giants with their flexible virtual space of social networks.

A paradoxical situation takes place with regard to the people’s concerns about their daily bread. It is unlikely imaginable a couple of decades before the present digital era. On the one hand, an average Western individual is totally convinced that his/her survival is just his/her private business. This belief was passed on from generation to generation over the entire paradigm of liberal capitalism. On the other hand, the very same individual can share his/her concerns with thousands if not millions of other individuals all over the world via social networks. And this is a specific feature of the emerging postmodern era.

Needless to say that in such a situation, any traditional approach to both social challenges and private problems won’t work. The so-called “color revolutions” of the recent days in Egypt, Ukraine, and some other countries clearly confirm how inadequate the old-style street protests are for the present moment. They simply did not match the zeitgeist. The color revolutions haven’t solved vital issues of the local people who forcibly changed their governments. Actually, those revolutions have made the situation even worse in most cases.

All those people on the streets could not realize, most probably, that any new president along with his cohort had no long-term plans on how to reform the System. It was merely impossible at any local level since the global elite had no plans for the future as well. At best, some tactical simulacra aimed at just cosmetic changes in the old model of the national state were available. No matter who exactly appears at the top of the social pyramid if the very principles of governing remain the same. As a result, a mountain gave birth to a mouse since the much-touted “technocrats in power” could deliver no consistent innovations in social management. But good old street protests became ineffective for another reason. The very precursors of revolutionary situations have changed. Here, a few clarifications are needed.

Masses were always the determining factor for the success of any revolution. Until quite recently, it was widely assumed that 500 thousand protesters in the street can easily push any government to resign. The handover of political leadership in any country was thought to be guaranteed if 1 million people came out for street protests. However, the experience of the “yellow vest” protesters in France in 2019 proves that such a formula doesn’t work any longer.

Not the number of protesters in the street, but the quality of their political ideology matters most, today. If the agenda of a revolution is based on outdated imperatives, it will be disintegrated by the turbulence of the present paradigm shift. The French protests ended up almost with nothing because “yellow vests” were insufficiently nihilistic when they demanded just economic handouts from the government. Their claims were rigidly tunneled by the outgoing paradigm of consumer society. The “spirits of postmodernity” remained indifferent to their begging since the Macron’s government found nothing dangerous in the demands of a crowd of typical consumers. But that was just an apparent reason. A hidden one is also available.

Even though the “yellow vests” protest was quite systemic, it could not turn into a true revolution because any elite was engaged in it. All successful revolutions in history were inspired and prepared by a certain part of the social establishment. The French Revolution was developed not by its public speakers — Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau. Some hidden cleric activists headed by Abbe de Sieyes implemented the doctrine of the third estate with which the Revolution proceeded. Namely, the Church should be the major end beneficiary after the monarchy failed in accordance with the Sieyes’s idea. The fact that everything went wrong back then didn’t really matter: the mastermind of the Revolution was the elite, not masses. It means that all successful revolutions are conducted by the top stratum by using the grass-roots forces of plebs.

In the case of the “yellow vests”, an initiative came from below obviously. It is clearly reflected in the misery of protestants’ demands. Nobody from the French elites supplied the “vests” with a more or less consistent political agenda. In such a case, the silent majority of any size is powerless to shake the social top. Especially it concerns the present consumer society in the days of a paradigm shift.

Let’s go ahead. Revolutionary activists usually represent the aspirations of masses since passionate individuals are always needed to lead any crowd. Besides, the main function of leaders is to combine the expectations and requirements of masses into a consistent theory to articulate it clearly before the people.

Nothing has changed in this critically. However, the very place where primary materials for revolutionary discourse can be collected today is worth considering. By default, it should be the same place where people gather. And where do the contemporary masses gather today? Nowhere but in the virtual space, of course. The multi-billion audience of Facebook users is the largest organized mass of people ever. The crowd is unprecedented in terms of both the number of people involved and the qualities and features inherent in it.

Any distinctive feature from the old friend-or-foe system doesn’t work there. No nationality, no wealth status, no political leanings, no job attachment, no age difference — in other words, nothing from the pre-digital set of social qualities plays a critical role when you add somebody to your friends’ list on Facebook. But what plays then? Only a relevant discourse determines who is to be your mate on any social network. Such a discourse corresponds to rather our own expectations than various spatial, biological, and political markers. Ordinary geography does not make sense in virtual space. The same relates to conventional politics.

We allow people to follow us on a network if they share our interests here and now. We make friends online if we take our follower’s discourse sufficiently relevant. What our followers talk about is more important than both who they are and where they physically reside.
Of course, various interest groups are formed within a huge mass of the network’s users. And this is not too different from the classical revolutionary crowds in which workers, soldiers, peasants, and intelligentsia gather to protect their specific group interests. What differs crucially is the very opportunity to join the mass.

In the past, there should be a special precedent, a certain event that made people create a temporary community in the form of either a well-arranged demonstration or a spontaneous strike action. Today, the contemporary means of communication in the form of social networks make it possible to create a virtual community of various individuals and groups without any special trigger. Just the technological possibility per se is enough to encourage people to join a virtual community now. Today everything depends just on internet coverage. If we understand the process of how it happens, the next issue we should comprehend is who moderates the relationships within virtual masses.

One of the most popular opinions about this issue is that the ones who control both mass media and social networks make an audience either join or leave one or another virtual community. Sounds logical, but that only seems so.
How many people from the entire audience of Facebook users have been attracted by Mark Zuckerberg personally to join the network? How many facebookers follow Zuckerberg’s private page? How many from them follow what he suggests on his page? How influential is Zuckerberg at all for facebookers? Whatever answers can be given to the above questions, it is clear for every facebooker that the reason for why s/he is present on the network is neither Zuckerberg’s social status nor his job position. Exclusions might be available, but they just confirm the rule.

Both the structure and working logic of any social network explicitly confirm that users keen to gather around only those individuals whose ideas perfectly resonate with the actual expectations of masses. The more appealing content you deliver to your followers, the easier the way in which you create a community within a network. People always gravitate towards the ones who reflect their personal interests no matter whether the latter are conscious or unconscious. We follow a page of a certain actor because we like the movies in which the actor plays. We read tweets of a certain politician because they reflect our own political biases. We monitor a certain news channel because the scandals it highlights titillate us badly. And finally, we share our own content with our network mates because it goes in line with what they usually appreciate.

As we can see, any attempt to forcibly attract someone’s attention will inevitably stumble upon the core feature of a network: we choose a content we personally like without having to correlate our preferences with any legitimizing authority. Such a state of affairs became possible after the global content distribution passed through a special threshold beyond which the elites had no control over the diversity of data that people were sharing via the internet. Namely, the unstoppable growth of the volume of data people can freely access with smartphones and computers is continuously eroding the image of any elite. The nihilistic principle of postmodernity works here well: today, it is not enough to originate from the upper stratum to be influential — it is necessary to be interesting for masses.

The pace of development of the virtual space implies the ability to transform your image following what the current moment dictates. This dictatorship of an ever-changing discourse on the internet requires both flexibility and intuition from the powers-that-be to let them remain a social elite as we use to accept this phenomenon. And this is exactly where the present elites demonstrate their pitiful retrograde rigidity. Please note, nonetheless, that in the present context the elite should not be confused with bohemia. The latter has no problems with the flexibility of the image.

Due to the inherent arrogance, the majority of those who believe themselves as an upper class do not want to “play clowns” on the internet for the crowd’s amusement. They feel like a closed club of the white-bone creatures staying above herds of plebs. In doing so, they isolate themselves from the masses who keep banding together via networks. The weaker the will of an elitist to partake in the internet discourse, the lower the social status of such an elitist in mass consciousness. And vice versa: the more a person from an upper stratum behaves like an ordinary network user (Donald Trump on Twitter), the stronger his position as a true elite becomes.

Some of the elite personalities have been able to realize the situation well enough to start using various online simulacra (allegedly Vladimir Putin). They hire the so-called internet trolls who allow them not to be personally involved in the network activities making their participation in the online discourse seemingly actual at the same time. But any simulacrum is a double-edged sword: phony images and fake accounts can be easily debunked in the hacking-sensitive digital environment. Even artificial intelligence can hardly help since unnatural behavior can unlikely add pluses to social karma.

What the present ruling class undervalues in its arrogance is the unlimited capabilities of the network effect. In the present highly “networked” world, only the network effect can provide the elite with necessary means to hold real power in hands. Not money (98% of which is a thin air of bubblenomics) but the mass appreciation in social networks can guarantee enough power to control (to some extent) the global population. The network effect has nothing similar to a cudgel of bank credits that holds people in fear making them hate the System in their hearts. This is a more delicate instrument to resonate with which some special skills need to be learned. Should the elites who are always busy with “important stuff” learn the skills?

They should first comprehend that masses are continuously re-evaluating the role of common people in the creation and distribution of the online content. Common people do not want to meekly listen to the official broadcasters any longer. The present-day digital networks allow citizens to create discourses on an equal footing with official media channels. The days when a silent majority had no voice at all have gone forever. Such “one-way” channels as radio and television in which only a “one-to-many” (elite-to-masses) mode of content distribution is possible are facing a strong competitor that provides both “one-to-one” (peer-to-peer) and “many-to-many” (forums) modes of communication — the internet.

Formerly voiceless “little people” got access to a chamber where any humble servant can shout louder than any king — the networks. Social media redistribute the true social influence from a small group of elitists with their pocket media to broad masses with their network effect. The following essential definition of a network effect lies in such redistribution: the more participants are included in a network, the bigger value the network acquires. Pay your attention: not “listeners” or “viewers” but full participants are implied.

This is how postmodernity comes knocking at our door. Thanks to a network effect the lower classes have an opportunity to question the very image of elites quite safely. And the nicest aspect in it is that the new postmodern ethics allows plebs to show all possible impiety towards powers-that-be. The police with its rubber bullets and tear gas is powerless against a virtual community of like-minded people even though they gather spontaneously and for a while. Even with a humble network effect, they can launch a self-evolving process of damaging any elitarian image however influential the owner of that image is. Such an elitist will never be nice and fluffy for a wide audience anymore. And if the campaign appeals clearly to people’s sense of justice, its network effect starts growing rapidly. After that any “whitening” via official TV can not be of any help — the “days of glory” of the elitist are numbered. Unless, of course, such a person can arrange an equal network counter-effect. Thus, a battle for a status today is a battle between network effects.

The mass support on the networks is the only true segregator of a truly recognized elite from those celebrities who used to thinking about themselves in this way. To put it simply, the one who holds the attention of loyal masses with a relevant discourse on the networks is the actual elite. Perhaps such a formula does not work in each and every case now. But in the nearest postmodern future, just the popularity on social media will stratify individuals in horizontal network relationships. Namely, the number of “likes” will determine who deserves to be called the elite and who does not. This is one of the key features of the present covert revolution that takes traditional hierarchies of power beyond conventional legitimacy.

Since such a principle is still beyond understanding of powers-that-be, the global ruling class is rapidly losing touch with reality. The reality is not what they see through portholes of their yachts, not what they do at their closed parties, and not what they talk about at summits. In contrast to the past times, they do not need to walk the streets to feel what the reality is, today. It is just enough to create an account on Facebook (or on any other global social network) and to randomly follow as many people as they can to discover what the actual social discourse is about. And after that, taking the aspirations of people into consideration they should start creating their own discourse to strengthen a corresponding network effect.
It is obvious that contemporary elites do not act in such a manner. Otherwise, they would deliver something more relevant and down-to-earth when they talk about existing social challenges.

The ruling class does not realize that virtual reality is gaining supreme importance nowadays. The world leaders with all their White Houses and Kremlins exist only on the screens for the entire global audience. Nobody cares how many physical doppelgangers Vladimir Putin has if the majority of Russians believe in what his virtual image talks about from TV screens. Nobody cares how much physical property Donald Trump owns if his tweets sound persuasive for half of the American population. Nobody cares what Xi Jinping eats for breakfast if a billion Chinese people know that the economic policy of Chairman Xi is unshakable.

Think about all former presidents who left the political Olympus and disappeared from media. Are they real? Who cares about their elite status if nobody cares whether they still exist or not? Many people suppose that the characters from the Game of Thrones possess a much stronger authenticity that the majority of the actually existing elitists do. At the same time, a vivid discourse within an online community can keep even an actually dead celebrity virtually alive. It is easy to communicate with, for example, Fedor Dostoevskiy on Facebook today. The one who is far from Russian literature might not suspect anything wrong with that “bearded dude”.

The rational motto of the modern times was announced by Rene Descartes who once claimed: “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito ergo sum). The supra-rational motto of postmodernity would sound like “I upload, therefore I am”. It means not less than “no online presence — no offline existence”. While such a simple formula is not so crucial for ordinary people, the public persons can hardly afford to overlook it. If powers-that-be are going to hold power in their hands, they must settle a strong foothold in social media.

Nobody could argue that the decentralization of information streams has already happened. Once the upcoming postmodernity is the age of the total virtualization, both socio-political disintegration and decentralization of governing systems won’t be far behind. In the future world of horizontal relationships between various network communities, the obsolete vertical hierarchies of the present-day upper strata can appear voiceless unless they reintegrate their structures under what the present covert revolution requires.

The revolution is covert because it is spread over time. It happens in the virtual space having no central entity that can be detected, banned, or destroyed. The present revolution is triggered by the very order of things. Paradoxically, but the revolution can be recognized as a highly accelerated form of evolution of human civilization. Nevertheless, it is namely a revolution since it corresponds to the core feature of any revolution — an ability to change political systems. In contrast to all previous revolutions, the present one is changing the political order on a global scale. Moreover, it is changing the civilizational paradigms: the modern vertically integrated hierarchies give way to the postmodern horizontal networks. It is clear that the elites will never be the same in the new paradigm.

As one of the revolutionary activists of the 20th century noticed, revolutions win not because activists are too passionate, not due to mass protests in the streets, not because revolutionary propaganda sounds irresistible for people. Any revolution wins when the ruling class appears too weak to retain power any longer. This is exactly what we can see today in the online behavior of the present elites. Oftentimes their online images look like the mockery for ordinary users because the elites are too dismissive about their presence on social platforms. They still don’t consider this moment critical.
But if that continues, they will find themselves in the position of movie vampires: they seemingly exist, but nobody sees them reflected in mirrors. To have no reflection in a mirror of public attention which is represented by social media is equal to be unavailable at all.

One fine morning they can wake up and find that they are nobody. They will see fresh faces of almost unfamiliar counter-elite who grabs the entire attention of people on the internet. The new world of horizontal relationships will reveal to them the truth that magical power is not available in their rusty crowns anymore. And probably at that very moment, the former powers-that-be will realize that nobody can be blamed for anything happening with them, that they themselves prefer virtual negligence that turns into the actual loss of power. And the question is not about whether it will happen or not, the question is when.
The pathos of the present covert revolution encourages the masses united by social media to reject the ruling class of arrogant ignoramuses like a foreign object irrelevant to the actual internet discourse.




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