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<eyebeam><blast> Cyberpower/individualism

Despite everything, I find I agree with Jon Ippolito's Foresighted
conclusion: "Only by encouraging a cyberspace that allows reciprocal
exchange on as many levels as possible can we escape the network
equivalent of the Panopticon."

At least, if one emphasises "on as many levels as possible." Capitalist
society tends to channel consciousness into a single, generally
professional field of activity, forcing people into a competitive
struggle within tight parameters. In this way individualism becomes
possessive, and the self begins to engage in a lot of jealous
self-surveillance. I've not read MacPherson's book on possessive
individualism, but I quite like the anthropologist Louis Dumont. For
him, the emergence of economics as a specific domain is tied up with an
emphasis on self-possession, clear in the philosophy of John Locke.
Dumont shows how the struggle to extend the realm of the self and its
possessions is, paradoxically, the very instance of the social tie. The
imperative to be individual is the most powerful social imperative in
modern society. Dumont is not suggesting, however, that one should go
back to a communal existence, which he sees as fundamentally
hierarchical, therefore inacceptable. Rather, he seems to indicate that
the important thing is to find ways of acknowledging the social
dimensions of individualistic existence. I think this is what the
current neoliberalism represses (in ways that are becoming very
aggressive). One of the key vectors of this repression of the social is
the exclusive focus on individual mastery over a limited field - or

To create autonomous agency in a medium/field like "cyberspace," it now
seems necessary not just to acheive subjective mobility within that
field, but also to seek a life-practice which emphasises very different
levels or registers of experience. Marxists in the past often tried to
achieve that by "going to the people," that is, stepping out of their
own class paradigms and habits - and this seems a good avenue of
practice. With the triumph of economic deregulation and the vicious
exploitation it permits, an individual duty or obligation or passion to
work for equality has become a very interesting channel for me (though
dangerous - like every experiment with the self-in-society). And yet
this is not to flee from an imprisoning structure (a "net," for
instance). It is simply the attempt to acknowledge, as much as possible,
the real social structure from which one's self comes. (Simon Biggs'
insistence on computers as extensions of language is right on in this
sense.) Ideally, one could de-dramatize the damning fact, so emphasised
in the tradition from Weber to Foucault, that what frees us also binds
us. And then one could simply work on widening one's experience,
without forgetting to use the power of highly articulated democratic
social relations in the most responsible-responsive way possible.
Despite all the "bogeys" and built-in prejudices that indisputably go
with that power.

Brian Holmes
PS: Dumont is arduous but great. Try "Homo Aequalis". For "going to the
people," one can read John Beverley's book, Against Literature. But
better just to go. The people may be everywhere - and everyone.

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