The individual is an obsolete being. Capitalism sometimes exalted it, as in 1987, when Margaret Thatcher said: ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.’
In its natural development, capitalism has in the individual a brake, an obstacle, and an enemy. First of all, as a unit of calculation, as a commodity and as a market in itself, the individual is too large an entity for the needs of capital. It is as if a 10,000-dollar bill was used as a daily currency. Capital is aware of this and since a long time ago reserved a continuous battle to the individual.
This battle is mainly fought by three armies, namely, artificial intelligence, surveillance capitalism, and biotechnology.
These three forces have questioned the individual from the point of view of his experience, his being a producer and consumer, as well as his being a citizen.
The individual as experience
As Harari writes in Homo Deus, Artificial Intelligence demonstrated that there is nothing special about the human mind and the algorithms that underlie an individual’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors, not only do not need human pulp, but they might be more comfortable in silicon, metal and plastic supports. The speed of the system of data and information cannot afford to dwell on the personal experience of the individual. It is the individual, whom Tayloristically must go at the speed of the data flow. The individual is like a road funnel that slows down the flow of data and information.
The uniqueness allowed to the individual by the capital is not that of his experience, but that which makes him/her a niche in a market to be satisfied through a differentiated supply.
The experience that makes unique an individual, for the cycle of creation and satisfaction of needs, on which the creation of demand and supply, is based, is a draining force. What makes an individual a producer or a consumer, his skills and his abilities have nothing to do with his experience.
The individual as a consumer
The individual as a consumer is subject to a work of meticulous fragmentation from the capital.
Demand and supply need an individual more flexible, more uniform, more connected, and more predictable, which means it needs the individual to transform in their opposite all the characteristics that make him an individual.
The supply is now able to find its demand with great precision. It no longer aims at the individual but at his desires, at his slightest inclination, at his least usual behavior, and it can target them with extreme precision. As a supervisor of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, the individual struggles to keep pace with the needs of capital. Capital feels towards the individual the same annoyance that some multinationals have towards the government of a country that hinders access to its rich market.
Capital generates its investment, production, and profit cycles at a speed that in the long run cannot be left to the needs of the individual. The individual was able to resist the all-encompassing needs of capital through the institution of private property, with which he was able to insert his will into the life cycle of capital. Capital has opposed planned obsolescence and the artificial creation of needs to this draining power of the individual, but the succession of crises forced capital to deliberately declare war against the individual. The probable future ending of private property in favor of subscription capitalism must be understood as an attempt to take off this form of passive power from the individual.
The individual as a citizen
As a citizen, with rights, duties, needs, and political will, the individual is an obstacle to states, governments, democracies, and totalitarian powers. Theodor Adorno had already seen the individual at the center of the movements generated by the crisis of liberalism and the bourgeois family, the totalitarian experiments of National Socialism, the advent of mass society, and the cultural industry. These movements had an acceleration.
A society governed by the needs of capital promotes changes that are not compatible with the democratic expression of the individual, nor with civil and political needs. The citizen is disjointed into single decisions maneuvered and manipulated by the technostructure and he can only approve with limited information and non-existent bargaining power.