The era of the tyrant individual: The end of our common world

Some ideas around a French essay by Eric Sadin

In this brilliant, fast-paced essay, Eric Sadin offers a new and tragically accurate analysis of the collapse of our common world. It puts historical, political, social, economic and technical dimensions into perspective to better rethink the terms of a social contract capable of bringing us together again.

In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of anger, expressed through protests, demonstrations, riots and strikes. This anger is fueled by a growing sense of tension, mistrust and denunciation of authority. People seem less and less governable, creating a tension never seen before. This situation leaves many commentators flabbergasted, wondering how we got here.

The reasons for this revolt are multiple and are linked to the excesses of the liberal political model which has been erected as the only dominant model. These drifts include worsening inequalities, deteriorating working conditions, a decline in public services and a succession of political scandals. However, what makes this wave of discontent so unique is the violence with which it is expressed today, carried by a new actor: the tyrant individual.

This new player has emerged with recent technological advances, such as the advent of the Internet, smartphones and the upheavals caused by the digital revolution. The tyrant individual is a hyperconnected being, withdrawn into his subjectivity, convinced that he is the center of the world, capable of knowing everything and doing everything. He perceives modern technological tools as weapons that allow him to influence the course of events. He embodies the “I” of iPhone, the “You” of YouTube. Never before has such a combination been so explosive: economic crises reinforce the feeling of dispossession while technology reinforces the feeling of omnipotence. The gap between these two realities continues to widen and becomes more and more intolerable.

The consequences of this situation are deleterious: the social fabric is crumbling, trust is crumbling, politics is losing its legitimacy. We are witnessing a rise in communitarianism, conspiracy and violence. Now looms the threat of a “totalitarianism of the multitude”.