On 3 April 2007, the Fondation pour l’innovation politique held a roundtable on “Public Opinion As a Market: Telecracy v. Democracy” within the framework of monthly political lectures led by Prof. Dominique Lecourt. On this occasion, philosopher Bernard Stiegler, Director of the Cultural Development Department of the Centre Pompidou (where he recently created the Institute for Research and Innovation), presented the theory which he defended in his recent work, La Télécratie contre la Démocratie (Flammarion, October 2006). By replacing public opinion by audiences, “telecracy” is ruining democracy, short-circuiting political machinery and destroying citizenship.Quoting Aristotle, Bernard Stiegler reminded listeners that social and political life is conditional upon desire. Yet desire is under attack from populism, which seeks to replace desire by impulses, generating an instinctual mass regression.
In France that we find the most advanced case of public opinion turned into an audience. France’s 2007 presidential election exploited the tolerance of this lack of desire to make the difference between desire and impulse indistinguishable. Reaching this point merely required a few decades of well-aimed and desire-based marketing to make culture the key focus of this libidinal industrial economy, thanks to television which has invadeed the French familial and social spheres.
While it is eroding democracy, telecracy is also destroying the economy, because innovation is a product of motivation which, in turn, is one of desire. According to Bernard Stiegler, France must wake up. Real-time communications have done away with the deferred time of debate and deliberation, blocked participation and the organizations which constitute the social fabric, thereby producing genuine political inertia. Digital technologies offer an outlet throught which to get back in touch with a democratic society. In this environment, “associated,” and therefore socialized, technical and symbolic communities can be reconstituted and “long transindividuation networks” reconnected, all requiring extended periods of formulation, exchange and participation.