What if the most sophisticated technology and analytics were used to determine what a community really wanted from their government rather than what their words and actions seemed to indicate?
In GENERAL WILL 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google, prominent Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma suggests that the mechanisms for this actually happening are in place, and millions of people all over the world are already participating in the process, without knowing it.
Azuma takes as his starting point, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract, which says that government must be in service to the general will of the people. Rousseau uses the term to mean a collectively held will that aims at the common good, which is different and separate from individual or group interests.
How does Freud enter into the discussion? Azuma looks at Rousseau’s premise of the general will through the lens of Freud’s concept of the unconscious, which is the notion that people are not aware of their true desires. Azuma writes, “Rousseau’s own description of the general will can be interpreted. . . as the grouping of unconscious desires rather than of conscious agreements.” He then goes on to show how the unconscious character of general will 2.0 is related to the defining features of the internet today. Without even realizing it, we’re revealing and depositing massive amounts of personal information every time we do something on the ‘net. Whether we post a blog, connect with a friend on Facebook, search on Google, send a Tweet, or watch a video on YouTube, we’re enriching a database that is, in effect, the general will. Azuma says, “The individual statements and movements documented therein are perhaps made consciously by the users. But once the accumulated data reaches a massive scale, we can derive through analysis surprising trends and patterns that the users themselves would never be conscious of.”
So. . . if the government serves the general will, and the general will is an aggregate of the unconscious wishes of a community – unfiltered by peer pressure or fear of public censure, and aggregated by the internet — then this coalescence of unconscious desires becomes the foundation of democratic government in the 21st century.