Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brandis 2

I've been looking at a statement on liberal belief by George Brandis (1984). Here is the next part of his essay:
This view of a society of free and autonomous individuals distinguishes in two essential respects Liberal social theory from the approaches of its most important contemporary rivals, conservatism and socialism. Firstly, conservatism and socialism have in common the belief that the basic units, the 'building blocks', of human society are structures much vaster than the individual.

The conservative sees society as a naturally ordered, harmonious hierarchy; while in the eyes of the socialist, the basic structures of society are irreconcilably hostile classes...Both agree that individual persons are but incidents of larger entities. Although liberal social theory does not deny the existence or significance of such larger categories, it insists upon the priority of the individual. It is the distinctive claim of liberalism that the individual person is the central unit of society and is therefore prior to and of greater significance than the social structures through which he pursues his ends.

Brandis doesn't frame things the right way. If you want to defend the individual then you have to defend the social entities which he belongs to, which express his social nature, which make his social commitments possible, which help to define him and which bring significance and meaning to his life.

So it's not helpful to think of the individual as being either prior to the social entities or subordinate to them.

If your starting point is the autonomous individual as the central unit of society, then you are not doing the individual any favours as you are taking him as an abstract entity and stripping him of important aspects of who he is and of how he fulfils himself in life.

It is a false and artificial starting point.

4 comments:

  1. "If your starting point is the autonomous individual as the central unit of society, then you are not doing the individual any favours as you are taking him as an abstract entity and stripping him of important aspects of who he is and of how he fulfils himself in life."

    That's exactly the purpose of the liberal ideology! It is the creation of a weak atomised society which is too fragmented to oppose tyranny.

    ReplyDelete

  2. The conservative sees society as a naturally ordered, harmonious hierarchy; while in the eyes of the socialist, the basic structures of society are irreconcilably hostile classes


    So it is an admittance that their whole ideology is nothing but agitating classes(different groups of people) to attack each other.
    This is an ideology of people who hate life and order. Just want discord and strife because it is in word profitable for them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Our society has only ever thrived when individuals stand up to either lead, innovate, create something new, or motivate others to succeed.....George is 100% correct in his statements.
    Compressing the individual to a socialist sameness is where we end up with weak individuals. Strong teams, strong societies are the result of strong individuals providing strong leadership.......have we not seen this in the last six months?
    Interpreting strength of individual as creating a fractured society is misrepresentation of George's intended message.....only weak would see that.....

    Sixfootmale1.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Six foot male,

    Sorry, but I don't see the evidence that liberalism has created a strength of leadership amongst Western men.

    And how could it? How can the individual lead if he has been reduced to an abstracted, atomised individual self-creating his own subjective good?

    We have to break free from a political culture which tells us that the only alternatives are a radical liberal individualism or a socialist statism.

    True individuality is not achieved by stripping the individual of identity and meaningful social roles.

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.