Man started to develop what might be called telerelation in the town. The immediate relationship between things and men has been interrupted by the intervention of a third party– of a medium – for the exchange of things, that is, money, and by a mediator for men and their access to goods, that is, the trader. The first act in this history took place in ancient Greece in 700 BC. The character of Solon, legendary founder of Athenian democracy, brings together the man of the state, the market, the poet and the philosopher. But as the first ‘lawmaker’, he seems to be considered firstly as a mediator (intermediary).
Mediation seems able to cut so-called historical or biographical processes at any level. Since the time of Solon a more direct and immediate access to goods came about than that of the feudal era. To acquire a section of land or even an ancient and ‘aristocratic’ estate (including its ‘history’), you just had to be in possession of a totally abstract (immaterial) means of exchange. All act of exchange which takes place through the neutral (and neutralizing) medium of money, can put an end to a history – or even take up, or restart another.
We see that an arbitrary element comes into play, breaking the feudal reign that it replaces with the reign of law. The monetary reign and the reign of law in effect go hand in hand, they are inseparable. Thus a whole other regime is developed, the democratic and legislative regime, which will eventually cast its shadow, the shadow of the arbitrary, of an unbridled gathering of wealth and a total immediacy as to the access to goods ( and to the pleasures) of the world. Solon’s legislation, again founded on the three classes of Western societies (aristocrats, artisans, peasants) was on this point – the risk of a derailment of the judiciary system – far more far-sighted and strict than current law.
Such a ‘derailment’ only seems to come about at the moment of a real turning point of a society ceaselessly submitted to unwritten rules of conduct, and which engages in what will later be call liberalism – and today neoliberalism –firstly including liberalization of all activity targeting private interest of individuals. And it is this rampant deprivation of individuals-deprivation of their class, their state, their clan, their family – with the consequent unleashing of economic activity, which will finally lead to strictly desocialising effects. Society thus risks dissolving into a ‘mass society’, without a real structure and without internal regulation. The moment will come when the world – or what we hold in place of ‘world’ – finally ceases to be a world in order to transform itself into a giant shapeless apparatus solely at the service of the thirsts, desires and fantasies of man.
The sophisticated technology of our times is in some way a paroxysm, the final result. It only seems to aim at one goal: the neverending mediatisation of the world to the point where everything will have found its double, its image, its simulacra, access only allowed to things through this double, this image. And thus through the mediation of a ‘thing’ which would no longer be itself – with of course the possibility of an endless and in some way eternal reproducibility of these ‘things’: leaving the mediator with the last laugh.
Let us think, in this context, about the extraordinary capacity of current (postindustrial) capitalism to submit all human activity to its basal and fundamental medium: the monetary code (1). In this way, capitalism has no goal, not even that of a power which would be equivalent to that of a first or a second state in societies divided into orders. Historically issued from the Third Estate, it remains, in the end, devoted to its original task: the handling and the management of goods, business, without any obvious endpoint. Its only declared aim remains that to the self-conservation of man, but an aim which, if it does not in the end go anywhere, can only increase the risk that the ‘self-conservation engine’ overheats.
The growing need to totally trust the omnipresent media, that of using the possibilities of telerelations that they offer and which allow you to be in contact at anytime with anyone, with anything, and this at almost light speed, this need is nothing more than a theatrical expression –the plot –of this state of affairs. This is not too distant from rampant autism; for, all things considered, you no longer communicate with the world: you communicate with yourself, in truth only following your own impulses, fantasies or obsessions. Telerelation secretes in the end an autistic relationship with yourself.
I would like to mention a film (the title and director of which I unfortunately forget) which tries to evoke a totally mediatised situation. All relationships have started to be conducted through appliances, telephones, answering-machines. Nobody meets anybody. They talk in a narcissistic and monomaniacal way: interminable monologues, promises of meetings, never kept; a suffocating, unbearable atmosphere, which prevents you from watching this film right to the end…
It is evident that another use for the existing media could be imagined, an autonomous and distanced use which would promote aims, inverse intentions, projects and attempts, which would aim for a certain ‘resocialisation’ of man : his resocialisation ‘on an electronic basis’. This would of course demand a social change no less radical than that which led us to liberal or the current neoliberal society.
(1) Cf. the article Monetary code of the Dictionary.