• NOS4A2
    4.5k
    The term “individualism” has provoked disapproval in multiple arenas and from myriad directions. It is odd to me, though, that this disapproval continues to the present, long after its opposite has been proven disastrous.

    Critics first coined individualisme as a pejorative to represent the prevailing bourgeois ideology in revolutionary France. One such critic was Louis Blanc. Searching for the germs of revolution in the letters of men, Blanc traced the triumphs of individualisme “in philosophy, through the school of Voltaire; in politics, through that of Montesquieu; in industry, through that of Turgot”, finally placing the entire project at the feet of Luther and Montaigne.

    Much has changed since Blanc’s time. The descriptive and pejorative form took on normative qualities, and people began defending individualism on principle. But Blanc’s definition of individualisme is worth noting because it resembles modern criticisms.

    “The principle of individualism is that, which taking man out of society, makes him the sole judge of what surrounds him and of himself, gives him an exalted view of his rights without indicating his duties, abandons him to his own resources, and, with regard to all matters of government, proclaims the system of laissez-faire.”

    History of the French Revolution of 1789

    Three recurring themes are present in many criticisms of individualism, as they are in Blanc’s: isolation, selfishness, and anarchy. But, as intimated, in the shadow of the previous century these criticisms remain entirely unconvincing to me. No individualist suggested “taking man out of society”; selfishness is present among collectivists, too; anarchy has never arrived save for in the vacuum of a collapsed, collectivist project. As far as I can tell the worst moments in an individualist society is precisely when it fails to live up to individualist principle.

    So what, then, is the problem with individualism?
  • Tzeentch
    1k
    Individualism is problematic especially to those who would like to lay claim to the individual and use him for their own purposes.

    Surely, the only reason one can object to an individual choosing the path of freedom is because one fears one may lose their hold on him.
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    Surely, the only reason one can object to an individual choosing the path of freedom is because one fears one may lose their hold on him.Tzeentch

    Assuredly, the one and only reason, no other option you dictate and expect or will look down on or dismiss others if not agreed upon. How curious and double-edged this concept is.

    Far too often men confuse freedom with abandonment of responsibility, which transmutes to power that will simply be assumed and dominated by those who forgot not these truths.
  • praxis
    3.5k
    So what, then, is the problem with individualism?NOS4A2

    In a word: responsibility. People like freedom but responsibility is a big bummer.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    In a word: responsibility. People like freedom but responsibility is a big bummer.

    That’s very true. Increasing the space of individual freedom gives opportunity to the irresponsible individual as much as to the responsible one. Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • praxis
    3.5k
    Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.NOS4A2

    Naturally, because it's worked out okay for you so far.

    There's a lot of irresponsibility in 'free society' and it has an ever escalating cost. I can only imagine that either you deny the cost or simply don't give a fuck. Whatever the case may be, it's a free society so you're cool.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    Naturally, because it's worked out okay for you so far.

    There's a lot of irresponsibility in 'free society' and it has an ever escalating cost. I can only imagine that either you deny the cost or simply don't give a fuck. Whatever the case may be, it's a free society so you're cool.

    I don’t deny the cost. I just think the cost is a small price to pay knowing the opposite.
  • praxis
    3.5k


    I can partly agree with you because I'm not sure that we know what the costs really are yet and 'the opposite' could be worse. I'm also not sure that we know the opposite or know what's possible. This is where the road branches to progressive or conservative, I guess.
  • Manuel
    638


    In mainstream debate the alternative given is "communism" as in the USSR.

    But it's a good question, what such an alternative could be like. Voluntary cooperation? Total control by corporations? Or would it be a Mad Max-like scenario?

    It's an awful thought to think that the alternative could be much worse than what we have now, what with all the Earth heating up, threats of nuclear war, severe inequality, etc.

    So what, then, is the problem with individualism?NOS4A2

    I suppose it's not wrong per se. It only becomes a problem if your individualism is such that it can harm other people. How we define harm is obviously very much debatable.

    I can only say that we aren't born out of holes in the ground, alone. We are born belonging to a family, a city a country, etc. The closer the relationship between people, the closer the bond. So individualists at least have to contend with dealing with the social unit of family. Beyond that, things get very murky very quickly.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    No individualist suggested “taking man out of society”NOS4A2

    This is not meant literally as is clear from what he goes on to say. Man is taken out of society in the sense that he recognizes no authority but his own and no responsibility to anyone but himself. He rejects the idea of the common good. The only good is what he deems good for himself.

    Increasing the space of individual freedom gives opportunity to the irresponsible individual as much as to the responsible one.NOS4A2

    The modern philosophy of Liberalism attempts to frame political and social issues on the model of the emerging science. "Space" is a neutral term. The failure to recognize responsibility to anyone but yourself is not a matter of "increasing space" but of disregard for others.
  • James Riley
    765
    The only problem with individualism is individualists who like to externalize their costs. That, and folks who think everything has to be either/or.

    There's a good meme floating around about a Native American who noticed a distinction in the way he was raised vs many in the dominant culture. I wish I could find it. But the upshot was this: Many folks are raised with a sense of "rights" where as he was raised with a sense of "obligations." It might be difficult for one person to relate to the other. But there is also an infinite number of combinations between the two.
  • Manuel
    638
    But the upshot was this: Many folks are raised with a sense of "rights" where as he was raised with a sense of "obligations."James Riley

    This is a big problem. If some people don't share these intuitions, because they don't feel them, then what do we do?

    Physics is very hard. Society is impossible.
  • Tzeentch
    1k
    Assuredly, the one and only reason, no other option you dictate and expect or will look down on or dismiss others if not agreed upon.Outlander

    I think any claims to another's essential freedom is to be looked down upon and dismissed. One of the few claims for which I think that to be the case. Would you object to this?

    Far too often men confuse freedom with abandonment of responsibility,Outlander

    In a word: responsibility. People like freedom but responsibility is a big bummer.praxis

    That’s very true. Increasing the space of individual freedom gives opportunity to the irresponsible individual as much as to the responsible one. Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.NOS4A2

    Man is born free and without responsibility. Responsibility can only be a result of his own voluntary actions. Responsibility is assumed, and not imposed.
  • MondoR
    224
    Individualism is the path toward a fulfilled life.

    The public educational system teaches conformity, obedience, and propaganda for obvious reasons. This is the struggle of the human condition.
  • praxis
    3.5k
    Man is born free and without responsibility.Tzeentch

    Man is born utterly dependent, actually, and compared to other mammals remains that way for a very long time. Man is also a social species and is therefore irrevocably tied to others of his kind. Man is also completely dependent on his enviornment and is not independent or free in that way.

    Responsibility can only be a result of his own voluntary actions. Responsibility is assumed, and not imposed.Tzeentch

    Right, that's the problem, not enough assuming.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    This is not meant literally as is clear from what he goes on to say. Man is taken out of society in the sense that he recognizes no authority but his own and no responsibility to anyone but himself. He rejects the idea of the common good. The only good is what he deems good for himself.

    It has been used literally (and as a straw man) in Marx, for example.

    The modern philosophy of Liberalism attempts to frame political and social issues on the model of the emerging science. "Space" is a neutral term. The failure to recognize responsibility to anyone but yourself is not a matter of "increasing space" but of disregard for others.

    I’m not a fan of modern liberalism myself. But point taken.



    I suppose it's not wrong per se. It only becomes a problem if your individualism is such that it can harm other people. How we define harm is obviously very much debatable.

    I can only say that we aren't born out of holes in the ground, alone. We are born belonging to a family, a city a country, etc. The closer the relationship between people, the closer the bond. So individualists at least have to contend with dealing with the social unit of family. Beyond that, things get very murky very quickly.

    I’m not sure how individualism can harm other people because much of individualism is concerned with the protection of individual rights.

    No individualist (as far as I know) denied the social aspects of life, family or community. I would argue that this is a common strawman against the position.
  • Manuel
    638
    I’m not sure how individualism can harm other people because much of individualism is concerned with the protection of individual rights.NOS4A2

    The problem arises when one individual gains too much power over another. It can happen in politics, business or societal affairs. When there is too much asymmetry in relationships, individualism becomes a problem for those individualists who are at mercy of others in terms of paychecks, laws, etc.

    No individualist (as far as I know) denied the social aspects of life, family or community.NOS4A2

    Sure. I just wanted to point out that this obvious fact should be kept in mind. How much of a free individual is a person in relation to family? This wildly varies from case to case.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    Man is born free and without responsibility.Tzeentch

    Man is born into a society not a "state of nature".

    Responsibility is assumed, and not imposed.Tzeentch

    Depending on where you life, you may have no choice but to pay taxes, no choice but to keep your property safe or have it condemned, no choice but to have your children or yourself educated to state mandated standards.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    It has been used literally (and as a straw man) in Marx, for example.NOS4A2

    We were discussing the passage by Blanc that you cited, not Marx.

    I’m not a fan of modern liberalism myself.NOS4A2

    Modern liberalism and individualism are the same thing - the freedom and rights of the individual.
  • James Riley
    765
    We do what we always do: we fight. That is when the individualist comes on bended knee to his fellow man, looking for help in fighting off his fellow men who are working together, either against him, or to keep his greedy ass at bay.

    By way of one example only, "We" didn't overcome the "Indian problem" with a bunch of individualists. The self-identified individualists got the government to come out and clear the way for them. Then they created a myth of "pioneer spirit", "manifest destiny" rugged individualism" "enlightened self-interest" "boot-strapping" etc.

    The lies we tell ourselves are all bullshit. We only overcome each other by working together.

    The foregoing is just an example. It applies across the board because man is a social creature whether he likes it or not. He's not born into any state except a total reliance on his mother's tit. And the only thing that keeps a strange man from dashing him against a rock is other men. Ostracization is a good thing, but it's a social engineering tool and it got us where we are, for good or ill.

    Again, we need not go to a system of ants on an ant pile, all working is some communist utopia. But neither should we lie to ourselves about how the individual rights we honor some how make us self-sufficient loners against the world; wild stallions to be let free to run through and eat the crops of others hard labor.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    We were discussing the passage by Blanc that you cited, not Marx.

    I was discussing the recurring themes in anti-individualist argument, of which isolation is one. Blanc was just one example. We can find more if need be. Except no individualist argues conceiving of individuals as separate from society. Even those whom Marx accuses, Smith, Ricardo, Bastiat, conceived of the individual in relation to his tribe or nation.

    Modern liberalism and individualism are the same thing - the freedom and rights of the individual.

    I don’t think so. Modern Liberalism, in my reading, is a more social, statist version of classical liberalism.
  • James Riley
    765
    Except no individualist argues conceiving of individuals as separate from society.NOS4A2

    If they did, we wouldn't know about it.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    Again, we need not go to a system of ants on an ant pile, all working is some communist utopia. But neither should we lie to ourselves about how the individual rights we honor some how make us self-sufficient loners against the world; wild stallions to be let free to run through and eat the crops of others hard labor.

    Exactly true. Except no individualist (as far as I’m aware) conceives of individuals as hermits or wild stallions, as if every single human was Robinson Crusoe. So who is spreading this lie, exactly?
  • James Riley
    765
    Except no individualist (as far as I’m aware) conceives of individuals as hermits or wild stallions, as if every single human was Robinson Crusoe. So who is spreading this lie, exactly?NOS4A2

    I'm not sure anyone is spreading the lie. It might be like the War on Christmas. If anyone is spreading it, it might be those who feel put-upon by someone else.

    On the other hand, it could easily be the "someone else" engaged in that universal human trait of setting up straw men in the opposition. In this case, a more socially oriented person might put the myth of isolation out there to more easily knock it down. Just as the individualist might point at commie ant piles, Stalin and Pol Pot as the alternative.

    So, if no one is really making a claim to isolation as part-and-parcel of individualism, I say let it go.
  • James Riley
    765
    As to anarchy, notwithstanding several attempts to understand it, I never got what that was anyway, so I won't address it.

    But being selfish, yeah, that can be a trait.
  • NOS4A2
    4.5k


    Then why would you yourself make such a remark, as if someone actually believed it?

    But neither should we lie to ourselves about how the individual rights we honor some how make us self-sufficient loners against the world; wild stallions to be let free to run through and eat the crops of others hard labor.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just curious where this notion comes from.
  • James Riley
    765
    I’m just curious where this notion comes from.NOS4A2

    That would be the first people I referred to: people who are chomping at the bit. People who make up myths and lies about themselves and their forefathers. There might actually be a few "real deals" hiding out in the bush somewhere, but like I opined above, we will never hear from them. I live out west (U.S.) and there are lots of folks who fancy themselves isolationists, even though they are clearly not. They pretend to champion the real deal isolationist in theory, but if one is found, he is looked upon with fear and suspicion. And he is not left alone.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    Modern Liberalism, in my reading, is a more social, statist version of classical liberalism.NOS4A2

    You are talking about contemporary liberalism. Modern Liberalism refers to the classic philosophers of natural rights.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    So what, then, is the problem with individualism?NOS4A2

    I think the philosophical issue is that of the atomised individual ego becoming the locus of meaning in a universe that is now understood to be devoid of it. Whereas in earlier times, individuals were situated in a matrix of social relationships, underwritten by divine law, with the advent of modern liberalism, the individual conscience assumes more of the role or arbiter of values at the same time that the advent of modern science declared that these have no real foundation in objective reality.

    This was anticipated by Emile Durkheim and his famous analysis of anomie:

    Durkheim foresaw that with the shift from premodern to modern society came, on the one hand, incredible emancipation of individual autonomy and productivity; while on the other, a radical erosion of social ties and rootedness.

    An heir of the Enlightenment, Durkheim championed the liberation of individuals from religious dogmas, but he also feared that with their release from tradition individuals would fall into a state of anomie — a condition that is best thought of as “normlessness” — which he believed to be a core pathology of modern life 1 .

    Also by Max Weber in this Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Work Ethic

    Weber supposed that all previous ethics – that is, socially accepted codes of behaviour rather than the more abstract propositions made by theologians and philosophers – were religious. Religions supplied clear messages about how to behave in society in straightforward human terms, messages that were taken to be moral absolutes binding on all people. In the West this meant Christianity, and its most important social and ethical prescription came out of the Bible: ‘Love thy neighbour.’ Weber was not against love, but his idea of love was a private one – a realm of intimacy and sexuality. As a guide to social behaviour in public places ‘love thy neighbour’ was obviously nonsense, and this was a principal reason why the claims of churches to speak to modern society in authentically religious terms were marginal. He would not have been surprised at the long innings enjoyed by the slogan ‘God is love’ in the 20th-century West – its career was already launched in his own day – nor that its social consequences should have been so limited.

    The ethic or code that dominated public life in the modern world was very different. Above all it was impersonal rather than personal: by Weber’s day, agreement on what was right and wrong for the individual was breaking down. The truths of religion – the basis of ethics – were now contested, and other time-honoured norms – such as those pertaining to sexuality, marriage and beauty – were also breaking down. (Here is a blast from the past: who today would think to uphold a binding idea of beauty?) Values were increasingly the property of the individual, not society. So instead of humanly warm contact, based on a shared, intuitively obvious understanding of right and wrong, public behaviour was cool, reserved, hard and sober, governed by strict personal self-control. Correct behaviour lay in the observance of correct procedures. Most obviously, it obeyed the letter of the law (for who could say what its spirit was?) and it was rational. It was logical, consistent, and coherent; or else it obeyed unquestioned modern realities such as the power of numbers, market forces and technology.2

    The sense of freedom that accompanies modern individualism is at once liberating and terrifying, as described in Erich Fromm's classic The Fear of Freedom. And the theme of the atomic individual as the sole arbiter of truth in a godless society is writ large in a great deal of existential literature.

    Neither of these analyses makes individualism wrong, but they help to frame the issue in terms of society and culture and indicate where I think the stresses lie.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    So what, then, is the problem with individualism?NOS4A2
    "Divide and conquor." This strategy always conquors the divided, the separated, the privatized, the atomized, the depoliticized, the disconnected, the isolated, the walled-in...

    "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives."

    And, besides, eusocialism has worked far longer and more profoundly in the development of the human species (e.g. language, cooking, solidarity, markets, dialectics, science) than "individualism". In fact, despite their most vigorously incorrigible denials, every damn individualist ever born is human and therefore an eusocialist; "individualism" is mostly just a contrarian affectation, even maladaptive when extreme.

    The only problem with individualism is individualists who like to externalize their costs. That, and folks who think everything has to be either/or.James Riley
    E.g. banksters, gangsters, grifters, dirty tricksters...

    Man is born utterly dependent, actually, and compared to other mammals remains that way for a very long time. Man is also a social species and is therefore irrevocably tied to others of his kind. Man is also completely dependent on his env[iro]nment and is not independent or free in that way.praxis
    In other words, "individualists" bullshit themselves with delusions like "libertinism", "social darwinism", "metaphysical libertarianism" & "Objectivism".
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