The writer at Happy Acres put it well in a post of his own, that in Bourne's writings:
It’s already there: boundless resentment, alienation, the loathing of Old America, valorization of The Exotic Other, etc.
I was curious to find out more about this man. I've been able to read a few chapters of a book about Bourne, and here are a few things to note.
First, Bourne was influenced by a variety of thinkers:
Add to his praise of Dewey and Dreiser, his earlier and sustained passion for Tolstoy, Nietzsche, William and Henry James, Shaw and Wells and one sees the making of a modern mind.
Bourne seems to have had the view that an older bourgeois moral sentimentalism should give way to the deliberate restructuring of society along more scientific lines. He was a "presentist" in the sense that he wanted to break with the past to do this; a "pragmatist" in the sense that he wanted to justify this reform according to what could be held to be useful; a vitalist nihilist in seeking out vibrant life experiences; and someone who thought of the pagan in positive terms.
This makes it sound as if he had a plan, but the truth is that he felt cut adrift. He had that intellectual personality which feels estranged from ordinary society. For instance, he could hardly abide by the people of his hometown or his own family:
I am constantly confounded there by the immeasurable gulf between my outlook and theirs and I feel a constant criticism of my futile high-browism and Godless pursuit of strange philosophers. My young sister is almost a passionate vulgarian and takes with really virtuous indignation any deviation from the norm of popular music, the movies, Chamber's novels, Billy Sunday, musical comedy, tennis, anti-suffragism, and the rest of the combination that makes up the healthy, hearty, happy young normal person of the well-brought up family of the day of the middle-middle-class. I find her an index to current America, but we scarcely get along.
That's hardly an uncommon experience for intellectual types. The problem is that Bourne didn't connect with an alternative. Early in WWI he complained that he lacked "a stable and satisfying way of living."
It's possible, I think, that the older liberalism might be partly to blame here. The older liberalism preached a kind of neutrality, according to which we either cannot know the good or that it is impossible to obtain agreement as to the good, and that therefore the guiding principle should be a willingness to allow the good to be individually self-defined and to respect each person's right to do the same.
You can see the predicament that this left Bourne's generation of intellectuals in. If a society doesn't have a sense of a higher truth that it takes to be objectively grounded in reality, then it becomes more likely that social values will be dismissed as private, individual and sentimental ones, rather than objective and profound, and it becomes difficult to uphold a higher tradition in which the intellectual class can obtain its moorings.
What was left to Bourne? He was still open to the idea of the importance of national cultures and identity for other peoples, but not for his own - so that was not there to sustain him. He had rejected his own religious tradition in favour of a vitalist paganism (prefiguring D.H. Lawrence). He did yearn for a woman who combined "high seriousness about personal relations" with "the sensuous" but he found it difficult to meet such a woman. In part, this was because of his own physical disfigurement, but also because the progressive women he mixed with in Greenwich Village had become by 1910 radically feminist and hostile to men. He himself supported feminism as a "vital idea" but he wrote articles criticising the women he knew who saw all men, including feminist men like himself, as the enemy.
The anchor that men like Bourne found was to think of themselves as members of a special caste in society, an avant-garde destined to be unappreciated in their own times, but harbingers of the future, reformed social order.
So how does a society avoid the Bourne mentality from catching on, as it has in the West?
First, a John Stuart Mill, define-your-own-good system isn't adequate. Intellectuals can't find the good in everyday life (as Bourne's young sister was able to do). Nor can they be expected to raise a serious tradition from scratch individually as adolescents and young men. There needs to be a serious tradition within which the higher values of society are transmitted from generation to generation.
Second, it is important that these goods are thought of as great and expansive, rather than narrow, stagnant and limiting. Intellectuals have a sense of the creative spirit in life, in which there is a creative unfolding of personality and a shaping of the social environment. Intellectuals are inclined to worry that if there is a communal identity it will be so closely defined that rather than inspiring the personality to higher loves and commitments, that it will close off avenues for development. Similarly, they worry that a masculine essence might only be expressed in one rudimentary fashion, rather than representing a questing spirit that raises and challenges the character and the ambitions of individual men.
It is up to each generation to so impart these goods that they retain a sense of greatness, and so inspire a sense of connection to an ongoing tradition.
A society should therefore take care with those institutions charged with transmitting such a higher culture: the schools, the universities and the churches, as well as the various branches of the arts.
Finally, it is normal for class or caste identities to arise in society, but these should be subsets of a larger communal identity that joins classes or castes together, rather than being set in opposition to, or as a substitute for, such a larger identity.