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The Masculine Preconditions of Individualism, Part 4

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Part 4 of 4

The Radicalizing Logic of Modern Individualism

With the formation of nation states in the modern era, as liberal institutions were emerging in the form of constitutional rule, freedom of religious expression, and representative bodies in which members of the bourgeoisie were included, rather than aristocrats only, this ethnic cohesion was reaffirmed along national lines. The idea that Western liberal nations were intended from the beginning to be based on civic values alone is a deliberate act of scholarly deception enacted by cultural Marxist academics. Liberal theorists in the nineteenth century did start to argue that citizenship should be extended to loyal ethnic minorities long inhabiting within the nation state. This theory of minority rights, however, was not conceived as an invitation card for millions of foreigners to acquire citizenship.

It is hard to deny that Western individualism has been characterized by a radicalizing logic that is currently destroying the very cultural fabric that has sustained this individualism, as Europeans seek to “liberate” themselves from any form of ethnic collective identity. Many on the New Right, including Traditionalists, think that this current situation is an inevitable consequence of individualism. The most influential recent critic of Western individualism, Alexander Dugin, insists that our current liberalism is not a recent aberration but an essential characteristic of the West against which all traditional cultures must take a stand. He writes that Western liberalism created the normative conditions for a humanity predisposed toward a world government in its “glorification of total freedom and the independence of the individual from any kind of limits, including reason, identity (social, ethnic, or even gender), discipline, and so on.” For him, liberalism = America’s current military and foreign policy = Western civilization = European history since ancient times = Evil. The idea that America is a propositional nation, says Dugin, is “in essence…an updated version and continuation of a Western universalism that has been passed from the Roman Empire, Medieval Christianity, modernity in terms of the Enlightenment, and colonization, up to the present-day” [9].

Problem with this interpretation is that it does not understand that, without free subjectivity the modern world would have never been produced, and the West would have never become the one civilization responsible for almost everything that is great in art, philosophy, science, exploration, and architecture. Without this subject, the Greeks would have never discovered the mind, invented prose writing, developed a sense of men as makers of history, a formal logic for the purpose of proper disputation between rational combatants, a geometry using concepts, points, lines, planes, angles, that are abstracted from physical objects and are thus freed from particular objects and thus freed to be used universally.

Catholics would have never created universities with a rational curriculum and a scholastic method with its emphasis on argument and counter argument directed at resolving contradictions unbecoming to men demanding consistency. The Cartesian method in which only the veracity of the thinking self is demonstrated, and only exact mathematical truths are accepted, while every prior claim to the truth and everything outside the thinking mind, even God, is doubted, would have been impossible. The Kantian categorical imperative, drawing out of one’s rational will alone a moral law that is binding to all humans, indispensable to the modern constitutional state and the idea that Europeans can think for themselves the moral content of their laws without blindly following the dictates of unquestioned traditions, would have been impossible.

Holding the radical European subject responsible for the evaporation of any form of European collective identity is intrinsically a flawed argument, for it fails to understand that this radicalizing subject did produce as well a “counter-Enlightenment” which argued that there is no such thing as an isolated and disembodied self existing independently of any external presupposition, independently of naturally given forces and societal norms. This counter-Enlightenment “failed” because it sought to defeat outright Europe’s radical subject by resurrecting traditions, religious beliefs, and customs which had already been rejected by the European mind and could not be revived. The counter-Enlightenment correctly pointed out that individuals can never be absolutely abstracted from their communities of birth and that humans have a natural need to belong to communities that offer them meaning and direction even as they engage in rational pursuits. But they were wrong in insisting that Europeans should remain within the spirit of their “positive” institutions and age-old traditions.

Meanwhile a liberal-socialist line of criticism gradually came to dominate European politics because in the same vein that it condemned the purely formal nature of “bourgeois individualism” and called for nurturing communities, it employed the logic of the radicalizing subject against the eradication of all “bourgeois” forms of authority, capitalist and patriarchal structures. This line pointed to the ways in which individuals were still “situated” within oppressive social structures, at the same time that it effectively argued that humans do have a need for membership in communities.

Whereas conservatives were unable to articulate a philosophy that would accommodate both the uniquely European subject and the need for community, socialists persuasively argued that individual freedom is important but that this freedom can only be actualized within a community that nurtures everyone’s individuality rather than the individuality of a privileged class, race, and sex. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, liberal socialists found multiple ways in which to defend progressive institutions and practices as expressions of the democratic will of individuals self-consciously legislating ideas and norms based on universal criteria. More recently, in the post-WW II era, there was Jurgen Habermas’s highly influential argument that the Enlightenment project should be radicalized as long as it was shown that Western societies depended, not on norms validated by isolated individuals, but on norms validated through “intersubjective” democratic communication without coercion. In conceiving progressive politics in relation to intersubjective cooperation and validation, Habermas was thus seen to be offering a freely established rational defense of progressive communities. While Leftists were seen as reasonably capable of offering good arguments to justify their new communities as “morally truthful” in the face of criticism, conservatives were seen as backward reactionaries incapable of handling the progressive dynamic of Western history and the independent mindedness of young Europeans.

In the last few decades, liberal socialists even got away advocating a liberal form of multicultural communitarianism sympathetic to the traditional values of non-European immigrants while being explicitly against European traditions. Whites were told that their culture had to be decoupled from their nation state and that culture would be a matter of individual choice within a nation state that was newly identified as a multicultural community within which minorities would enjoy group rights to overcome the oppressive leftovers of a still prevailing White supremacist form of communitarianism. Immigration restrictions against non-Whites would have to be eliminated and Western nations would have to open their borders to full diversification. Whites would enjoy individual rights combined with government-financed progressive communities, at the same time that their nations would legally enact multicultural rights for minorities.

The academic liberal establishment, along with the “new” conservatives, the progressive conservatives, would successfully endorse this vision of multiculturalism and racial diversity as a solution to the two seemingly incompatible images of “man” harboured in post-Enlightenment Europe, one of human beings “naturally” seeking to be free from all coercive external authorities, and another of human beings “naturally” in need of communitarian bonds. They promised the biggest community of all, for humanity, a progressive community without outsideness in which the US versus Them division would be abolished.

White Identitarians should not counter Leftist success by calling for a reversal of the unique way in which Europeans are self-constituting individuals in awareness of their situatedness. Modernity, the rational understanding  of nature, would have been impossible without a clear awareness of the distinction between subject and object, the rational and the affective, the scientific and the religious. To this day non-Europeans have a hard time making a distinction between the inner world of the individual and the world surrounding them. Richard Nisbett’s The Geography of  Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why (2004) is a study of how East Asians are more embedded to their surroundings, the natural world around them, the norms, rules, and habits of their society, which they follow without critical reflection, and so their reasoning has less autonomy. Leftists admire this Asian communitarian way of thinking without realizing that their politics has been possible only in a Western setting. The same leftists who are tolerant of non-Europeans forms of collectivism despise any White communitarianism that is not dedicated to progressivism.

The counter-Enlightenment drew on the “organic” medieval tradition and the ancient Greek ideal that the highest form of individuality could only be attained within the city-state in a public life. The ancient Greeks lacked the modern conception of individualism; while they did discover the mind as an entity separate from the appetites and the spirited side associated with indignation and pride, they experienced their selfhood only as members of city-states and never as private individuals with a conscience of their own in distinction to the accepted norms of the public realm. (Mind you, Hegel saw in Socrates the first act of an individual with a moral conscience distancing himself from the pre-given norms of the city-state.) The ancient Greeks also saw themselves as one with a meaningful teleological cosmos, in distinction to the sharp Cartesian separation between mind and matter. The ancient Greeks did no value the privacy of the individual, and did not have a modern theory of natural rights pertaining to each individual. They did not value as much the bourgeois desire for security and prosperity; but postulated perfect natural laws and Forms, existing outside humans, according to which humans should model their lives, in the actualization of their potentialities. The counter-Enlightenment of the 1800s erred in believing that European man could return to this ancient (and medieval) unity, since European man in the 1800s had already transcended the prereflective values and institutions of those times. It is my view that Hegel offered a very strong argument reconciling Europe’s radicalizing subject with communitarian values within a nationalist state that recognizes both the negative liberties of individuals and the need for collective values.

Hegelian Reconciliation of “Libertarian” and “Collectivist” Freedom

“The Germanic Spirit is the Spirit of Freedom”

Paleo-conservatives, Traditionalists, Alain de Benoist and the European New Right, are wrong in condemning Western individualism and in calling for some return to ancient Greek ideals of “social” freedom, or feudal “organic” values, or for a “traditionalism” that is inherently illiberal in the manner of non-Europeans. There is much to be learned from these schools in their emphasis on the natural inequalities of nature, their valuing of the wisdom attained by past ages, the Aristotelian virtues, their respect for order and traditions. But there is no returning back from a European subject “confident that for it there can be no insuperable barrier…[from a subject that] opposes the world to itself, makes itself free of it, but in turn annuls this opposition, takes its Other, the manifold, back into itself, into its unitary nature” [10]. Nature is not generated out of the willing of the subject, but whatever exists is mere appearance or dogma unless there is a subject who has freed itself from the external world through the use of concepts, explanations, and technology. There is no way out of European modern consciousness. There are no laws of nature, Darwinian drives, that can be seen to determine, on their own, blindly, what a European is or should do. These laws have been uncovered by Europeans, and so the outside is no longer an alien other, but part of the European subject’s identity, as a conscious being that is capable of employing the laws of nature for his own purposes and genetically altering his own nature. The same is true of human laws. We can’t obey natural laws, natural rights, or any law that is said to be “divinely ordained” or in “accord with nature” independently of the judgments of European men.

While I credit the prehistoric Indo-European aristocracies with originating individualism, and welcome the limitations imposed by feudal aristocracies against despotic powers throughout ancient and medieval times, White Identitarians should be wary of calling for a return of aristocratic rule in our modern age. We should welcome the political freedom and the equal rights of the citoyens sanctioned by the French Revolution. By modern times, the aristocracies of Europe had become parasitic courtiers, and were understandably replaced by bourgeois elites calling for representative institutions. Contemporary European nations should not accord superior rights and privileges to any European social class.

In my judgement, Hegel is the one modern thinker who offers the most adequate theoretical framework for the reconciliation of our individualism and our communitarian needs. The multicultural “reconciliation” of the left was imposed from above by hostile elites against the prejudices of European peoples, against their own ways of life, their own communities, and their own (rationally-approved) in-group preferences. The communitarianism of Hegel, however, recognizes i) the substantial unity of the traditional family, ii) the private sphere of markets and the world of civil society, in which individuals enjoy “negative liberties” (private freedoms) to pursue their own lifestyle, as well as iii) a state, which expresses the general will and constitutes the sphere in charge of ensuring the “social freedom” of citizens, legislation and execution in accord with the “shared” values of the community, and constitutional liberal principles. Hegel specifically set out to solve the problem of how the growth of individuals who had subjected all traditional collectivities to the judgements of critical reason could create public institutions and a nation state that would make possible the central value of private freedom while ensuring that the nation would express the collective identity of the people, would embody their general will, and the national interest of the citizens as a group.

There is no space here to get into a long textual disquisition about Hegel’s political philosophy. Suffice it to say that Hegel’s basic argument is that freedom has both a “private,” subjective or “libertarian” component, and a public, objective or collective component. Liberalism today tends to be defined by conservatives with free markets, formal equality before the law, and private enjoyment of life’s goods. These private freedoms are known as “negative liberties” in that they don’t require anything from the public other than laws guaranteeing the security of private contracts and associations. The collective social freedoms are identified by leftists today with “social rights,” equality of opportunity, welfare provisions, the removal of all “socially constructed” differences between men and women and races. Getting to the true aims of Hegel is very difficult because politically correct academics have forced onto him ideas that portray his collectivism in socialistic terms, at the same time that they have suppressed his rationally reflected traditionalism and nationalism. They have put forth a Hegel that views “social rights” as rights for greater equality, a Hegel that synthesizes the atomism of free markets and private rights, with a state that ensures social rights for everyone and promotes the “collective economic good” of society.

It is true that Hegel argued (correctly) that being recognized as a citizen while living in abject poverty was a violation of individual self-expression, insomuch as this was a result of the actions of powerful citizens having complete freedom of contract without any social rights protecting workers in the form of state regulation of working conditions. But there is a lot more to Hegel’s concept of social freedom. When Hegel writes about a shared conception of the good, when he says that individuals enjoying their negative freedoms in the private sphere can be capable of embracing the social freedom of the state, that is, experience the ends of the state as integral to their own selfhood as modern rational citizens, he does not mean economic goods only; he means as well the cultural collective goods and sense of peoplehood (Volk) that can be guaranteed only by a national state. Hegel indeed appeals to the idea of national identity as the clue that can tie otherwise rational private citizens by virtue of their belonging, through birth and ethnicity, to a single culture.

Current interpreters of Hegel, notwithstanding the merits of their works in organizing and clarifying Hegel’s extremely difficult ideas, rarely mention or willfully misread Hegel’s emphasis on national identity [11]. Frederick Neuhouser, for example, argues that Hegel could not have appealed to a sense of national belonging “akin to bonds of brotherhood” since such bonds would be rooted in a “prereflective attachment,” which is supposedly inconsistent with a post-Enlightenment culture in which individuals accept only communitarian identities that are “consciously endorsed through a process of public reflection on the common good” [12]. Since it is a pervasive inclination of our times to argue that Western nations must be based on values alone, and since the dominant interpretation of Hegel today is that he was a liberal socialist, academics have happily deluded themselves into believing that the act of consciously subjecting our laws, customs and beliefs, to rational debate, approval by reason, automatically negates the actual biological realities of human bonding, “the bonds of nature.” But this is wishful thinking inconsistent with a free thinking subject.

For starters, Neuhouser well knows that the “bonds of love” that unite Western families are not purely “free” and “rational” even as the union of husband and wife was freely decided rather than coerced by unreflective customs. There is a strong natural bond between parents and children and between men and women as sexual beings who can reproduce children, not to mention the multiple customs that regulate the marriage ceremony and child-rearing. There is also a strong natural (but no longer prereflective) bond uniting people with the same historical ancestry, territorial roots, and language within one nation. This bond is consistent with a rationally free subject on two levels. Firstly, history teaches that those states possessing a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, where ancestors had lived for generations — England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark — were the ones with the strongest liberal traits, constitutions and institutions. Before immigration restrictions were eliminated starting in the 1960s, the very rationally oriented nation states of the West were reserved for people of similar ethnic and religious identities.

Secondly, and contrary to our current misreading of Hegel, the subjection of “pre-reflective bonds” to rational examination does not necessarily entail the cultural Marxist idea that everything is “socially constructed” or that only “propositional values” can be said to be acceptable as the uniting bonds of a nation. Thinking critically about “prereflective bonds” means that these bonds can no longer be seen as unknowable, mysterious forces that control the affairs of men; it means that we now know their nature, that we can explain why we individuals tend to be attached to people of their own ethnicity and historical lineage. It means that we have rationally explained studies about in-group attachments, biological dispositions, and genetic determinants [13]. It means that we can see that leftist communitarians are deceivers, that the cosmopolitan universal values our current elites advocate are not rationally based, but have been concocted by rootless cosmopolitan academics and politicians engage in the deliberate misreading of the great thinkers of the past to promote the insane idea that European ethnic identity is inherently violent and exclusionary, even though only Europeans are responsible for modernity and even though there is now substantial evidence showing that humans are genetically inclined to prefer their own ethnic in-group and that diversity is coming with an incredible cost in the form of systematic rapes, social disunity, suppression of rational debate, illiberal controls, and economic/environmental costs.

Notes

[9] Alexander Dugin (2012). The Fourth Political Theory (2012), pp. 18, 74.

[10] Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind. Being Part Three of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences [1830]. Trans. William Wallace (1972) p. 45.

[11] See Dominico Losurdo, Hegel and the Freedom of the Moderns (Duke University Press, 2004); Frederick Neuhouser, Foundation of Hegel’s Social Theory (Harvard University Press, 2000); Fred Dallmayr, G.W.F Hegel: Modernity and Politics (SAGE Publications, 1993); and Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (Cambridge University Press, 1972).

[12] Frederick Neuhouser, p. 138.

[13] I am taking Hegelian reason as far as possible while aware that we ultimately don’t know why the universe exists in the first place; why there is being instead of nothing. There are limits to reason, but Europeans today can speak rationally about these limits and what’s beyond reason.

Source: https://www.eurocanadian.ca/2018/05/masculine-preconditions-of-individualism-indo-europeans-hegelian-concept-collective-freedom.html

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One Comment

  1. John
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Modernity, the rational understanding of nature, would have been impossible without a clear awareness of the distinction between subject and object, the rational and the affective, the scientific and the religious. To this day non-Europeans have a hard time making a distinction between the inner world of the individual and the world surrounding them. Richard Nisbett’s The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why (2004) is a study of how East Asians are more embedded to their surroundings, the natural world around them, the norms, rules, and habits of their society, which they follow without critical reflection, and so their reasoning has less autonomy.

    It would be interesting to hear Prof. Duchesne’s thoughts on Heidegger. Prof. Duchesne seems to accept Heidegger’s view that Western dualistic metaphysics is responsible for modernity, science, and technics. However, Heidegger is critical of this metaphysical view and seeks to return to an “embedded” ontology that he claims was present in pre-Socratic Greek thought. Heidegger argues that the end result of this metaphysics is technological domination of the world, and contemporary society more or less shares this view with its talk of the Singularity and AI robots taking over. In contrast, Prof. Duchesne has a more positive and celebratory view of this metaphysics and the drive for artistic and technical development it fostered, and argues that there is no turning back for Westerners. Prof. Duchesne envisions a new Hegelian synthesis that will resolve the West’s travails while preserving its dualistic metaphysics.

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