A central aspect of Vilém Flusser’s thought is his concept of society. The term “society” is discussed, for example, in The History of the Devil (2014), where he says that humans are essentially constituted by society: “Man is real only as part of a society.” (The History of the Devil, 2014, p. 131) This means that Flusser abandons all metaphysical expectations of being able to view humans in terms of a mental construction, for this suggests that humans can only be understood within in an interdependent context: “Society realizes man. It is true, that man, in his turn, realizes society […].” (ibid.) In fact, in this act of structuring, the dichotomous pairing individual–society is replaced by the dynamics between subject and structure.
Flusser creates two metaphors to explain society: envy and greed. For the Czech-Brazilian philosopher, who was firmly anchored in German philosophy, the devil employs greed as the method by which society preserves itself: greed is the main stabilizer of society. According to Flusser, the transforming principle of society is connected to envy: “Envy is society’s evolutionary principle.Thanks to it society forms and reforms.” (ibid., p. 132) For Flusser, history is the result of the struggle between these two deadly sins. It is a feedback mechanism whereby greed strengthens envy and envy strengthens greed (ibid.).
As society is a first-order reality, Flusser assumes that two secondary realities emerge from this reality: civilization and culture. In terms of understanding society, Flusser believes that the “primeval slime,” that is, the oldest and deepest layer of the social fabric, is “humanity’s myths”: structures through which society projects our existence so that it can create society, and within the process we also create ourselves (ibid., pp. 133–134). In this sense, Flusser’s overall vision can contribute to an understanding of the social.
Original article by Jorge Miklos