Sunday, August 26, 2018

Is the left really collectivist?

It's common for right-liberals to frame politics as a contest between supporters of individualism (themselves) and collectivism (the left).

There are at least two types of individualism. The first relates to individual responsibility, and here left-liberals do seem to be more collectivist. Whereas a right-liberal will stress the ideal of self-reliance and the aim of successful competition in the market, left-liberals are more likely to claim that "it takes a village to raise a child" or to stress the need for social security.

The second kind of individualism relates to identity. Right-liberals often strongly oppose the notion of collective identity (think Jordan Peterson), seeing it as an affront to the sovereignty of the individual. They see themselves as defenders of individualism against the collectivism of leftist identity politics.

But it's not as straightforward as this. Leftist identity politics has a lot of individualistic assumptions built into it. As an example, consider the following criticism of Jordan Peterson's politics by Anne Gallagher in The Spectator. Gallagher is criticising Peterson from the left. She gives this as one of the reasons she became disenchanted with Peterson:
The first relates to Peterson’s conviction (shared by many conservatives and some progressives) that the bulk of our current social and political ills are the fault of ‘identity politics’: of groups organising and advocating on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender orientation, etc. This idea is attractive because it helps us to make sense of the sharp divisions we see everywhere in public life. It also presents the alluring prospect of a quick fix: by eliminating identity politics we can somehow make whole what is so badly broken.

But the truth is likely much messier. As one African-American debate opponent pointed out to him, racial identity was not something that black Americans happily assumed for themselves. It was imposed by force in order to separate them from the dominant identity and, through that separation, to withhold basic rights and freedoms. The same goes for women and other disempowered groups that are now using their externally imposed ‘identity’ to seek more space, more opportunities and greater power. It is those who inflicted the identity in the first place – and who sense a threat to the disproportionate space, opportunities and power they have enjoyed as a result – who are made most uncomfortable by ‘identity politics’. Peterson is right that identity politics, taken to the extreme, represent a threat to valuable liberal ideas about the primacy and sovereignty of the individual. But his unwillingness (or inability) to explore contradictions and inconsistencies, and his simmering displeasure when they are noted, is telling.

This is an admirably clear statement of leftist identity politics. It assumes that group identity is wholly unnatural and that it is forced onto minority groups as an act of oppression and disempowerment. These groups then use this artificially imposed identity to fight back against the oppressor.

Canadian professor, Dr Ricardo Duchesne, draws out this point about the individualist assumptions underlying leftist identity politics in the following:
It is not that one side is into identity politics and another is not. Insomuch as leftists say that males and females are really equal, they are saying that males and females are just individuals. The difference is that for the left the playing field in the West still favours males, and for this reason leftists insist that we must play identity politics. While leftists are always finding new victims, in principle their identity politics is meant to be temporary. They want a future individualistic world in which social conditions allow for the development of the full potentialities of all individuals regardless of race and sex.

...The same logic applies to the way postmodernists use racial categories. They don't believe in races. They believe that in our current society minorities are "racialized" by dominant Whites, and that overcoming this racial hierarchy necessitates race identity politics. Their aim is to transcend altogether any form of racial identity for the sake of a society in which everyone is judged as an individual.

Leftist identity politics is extraordinary when you think about it. It requires us to believe, for instance, that women only have a distinct female identity because men "inflicted" it on them, imposing it "by force." It makes a female identity sound like a terrible thing to have, a punishment; it gives to men an almost god-like power of creating a female identity out of nothing; and it ignores the more obvious natural origins of women identifying as women.

So leftist identity politics does lead to "collective action" but the underlying philosophy is individualistic. The answer to it is not a right-liberal rejection of identity. This only leaves the targets of leftist identity politics weakly disorganised and unable to defend themselves.

And, more than this, humans are relational creatures. So you do not defend the individual by making him autonomous of others or by denying the sense of identity, belonging, connectedness, commitment and security that comes with membership of natural human communities (see here for a defence of identity).

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.


  1. I wrote this (below the ---) after reading your blog about a month ago. I've obviously been influenced by you, but perhaps talk about the 'equality myth' with less subtlety.

    I've not had an enthusiastic response when I've argued in right-wing circles that individualism is not all its cracked up to be. You have these libertarian ideologues that are dogmatic about 'individual rights' who don't want to examine morality at a deeper level to uncover how its foundations are in communal interests and in-group preference/tribalism rather than the magical individual. Libertarianism and anti-identity politics is the opiate of the white person who is seeing their civilization decline and their heritage, privilege and (unrealised) collective interests undermined.


    The Left and Right are both Liberals, the differences between them are their responses to the equality myth.

    The Right's premise is that people are naturally equal and should be treated as individuals. Their response to social injustice is treat people on their merits, being blind to sex/race/class, etc. Discussing real differences amongst groups of people is haram because that may lead to people not being treated as derascinated individuals.

    The Left accepts the Right's premise, but their response is to highlight the different outcomes for groups of people and intervene/social engineer to address disparate outcomes using the state and institutions. Of course, their attempts at engineering nearly always fail, because they don't address the real causes of the supposed problems.

    Many Right-wingers want to pretend that Leftists are not individualists. That's untrue; only their response to the equality myth is different, and that usually only can be seen on a macro scale. Right-wing liberals help perpetuate Left-wing Liberalism by maintaining the false equality premise and not acknowledging the real differences between groups of people which lead to different outcomes. This guy explains the link between the Left and Right much better than I:

    The fundamental premise of both Right and Left is flawed. People are not born equal and are not equal. Different groups of people have higher/lower IQ on average. Different races have higher/lower sexual dimorphism and reproduction strategies, which leads to radically different cultures. Men and women are biologically and psychologically different. Classes are not inherently bad and will never be eradicated. People are born into different family inheritances, material and cultural. And so on.

    In short, if you're talking about Left/Right, you're still only talking about Liberalism.

    Centrism is literally only a point on a spectrum. It means nothing but has high virtue-signalling value.

    1. No one of any intelligence believes that everyone is equal. What they do believe is that all races are equal. When speaking of equality of the individual, even Leftists understand that that means equality before the law.

    2. Nobody intelligent believes all races are equal, except in a legal rights sense. When you have a 100-105 average IQ racial group and an 85 IQ average IQ racial group the notion that they will have social and economic equality, and if they do not it will be imposed by force of government, is a sick farce.

    3. Nobody intelligent believes all races are equal, except in a legal rights sense. When you have a 100-105 average IQ racial group and an 85 IQ average IQ racial group

      But there are lots of people who do genuinely believe that those differences in average IQs are purely cultural. There are also lots of people who do genuinely believe that IQ is a very very flawed measure of intelligence.

      The problem for HBD cultists is that differences in average IQs might be purely cultural. We don't know for sure. When you look at things like the Flynn Effect it seems obvious that IQ tests are not measuring something that is primarily genetic. IQ tests are interesting and can be useful but they aren't science. They're psychology. And psychology ain't science.

      HBD cultists like to argue that human evolution has never stopped and that therefore different human populations will end up being genetically distinct in various areas, including (possibly) intelligence. But there just isn't any actual proof. There's no question that there are huge differences between populations and it's certainly possible these differences have generic causes.

  2. I really shouldn't have used the term "social injustice", even "social disadvantage" and "social inequality" are inaccurate and assume the Leftist frame.

    A more neutral phrase is: "their response to disparate social and economic outcomes among different groups of people". Rightists think more meritocracy is the answer, whereas Leftists assume structural inequality or discrimination is to blame. The reality is that natural differences and social/cultural upbringing of different people is a far more pertinent factor. Why this factor is excluded from the accepted narrative is a very good question.

    1. Universal suffrage almost mandates the principle of egalitarianism be applied into the lawbooks. And that same universal suffrage seems to lead to welfare statism. People have been willing to adapt to accepting that certain individuals have more ability than others, and this can be redistributed through progressive taxation and social programs. But the liberal system cannot accept this with groups, hence the practice of affirmative action being both "temporary" and not subject to mathematical analysis. Liberals are not apt to abandon redistribution, and neither should we in the interest of social harmony, but we do need to remove universal suffrage so that only those without a conflict of interest are voting. Liberals have made an "unprincipled exception" for this by not seeking to turn the UN into a global redistributionist policy based on the more numerous Third World to seize the First World. Mass immigration is an end-run around these limitations. From this I conclude that a major part of regaining our cultural self-determination will be a generous repatriation and development policy, to be conducted at private and public levels.

    2. but we do need to remove universal suffrage so that only those without a conflict of interest are voting.

      If you remove voting rights from everyone with a conflict of interest you'll have an electorate of about twelve people.

      There are only two ways to handle voting. Either everyone votes or no-one votes. I'd prefer the latter. If you limit suffrage to certain groups then you destroy the regime's political legitimacy. You then have a system that is openly stacked in favour of selected groups.

  3. "Universal suffrage almost mandates the principle of egalitarianism be applied into the lawbooks. And that same universal suffrage seems to lead to welfare statism. People have been willing to adapt to accepting that certain individuals have more ability than others, and this can be redistributed through progressive taxation and social programs."

    Universal suffrage exists in many countries of the world and does not mandate egalitarianism or welfare statism. Much of the Third World has universal suffrage yet vast disparities in wealth, inequality no welfare state. Ever heard of state benefits in Pakistan, Ghana, India, Sri Lanka?
    One of the largest welfare states is in Saudi Arabia which is not a democracy at all.

    Egalitarianism and welfare states are western phenomenona. The purpose of egalitarianism is the confiscation of wealth from the middle classes by means of excessive taxation. The welfare state is used to create sloth and inertia within the working class who became dependent on the state during the process of the deindustrialisation of the west. Similarly in Saudi Arabia it is used to subdue the large unemployed section of society. Working class unemployment usually leads to riots and social unrest, threats of communism and hence poses a threat. The welfare state contained this during the cold war along with the encouragement of drug use in working class areas. As the threat of political unrest recedes, the welfare state is being slowly dismantled.

    A policy of aid and repatriation will most likely be resisted by Third World nations which benefit more from remittances and do not want the exiled populations for whom they have no jobs repatriated. The expulsion of Third World immigrants from the West will more likely require removal of citizenship, employment, benefits and rights and eviction. Most of them still have the right to claim nationality of their ancestral countries and can then return without the tax payer being required to finance it.

    1. I would contrast the desire for a welfare state with the ability to build one. Socialist parties have won most of the elections in those four countries since independence, and all of them have experienced unconstitutional disruptions to the electoral system.

      Gulf Arab monarchies are only welfare states for the small native population, a large portion of foreign workers does the real work and has no ability to claim benefits or naturalize.

    2. "I would contrast the desire for a welfare state with the ability to build one."

      There is no desire for a welfare state in most democracies. Socialist parties limit themselves to the cause of education, literacy and basic healthcare without any policies for any form of benefits provision. Welfare undermines the family which is still the dominant social institution outside the west and hence is not supported by either the population or any of the major religions.

      Saudi Arabia has very small expatriate population, largely working in the more highly skilled roles. The process of Saudisation eliminated the majority of expatriate workers from the Kingdom including virtually all of the more low skilled ones, and the native Saudi population is over 80% of the almost 30 million population of the Kingdom. For this large population, there is huge welfare and price subsidies.

    3. "Universal suffrage exists in many countries of the world and does not mandate egalitarianism or welfare statism."

      That is probably largely because said suffrage has a pacifying effect and is not strong enough to upset the systemic traditions of corruption and classism in such places. Those in power would not have yielded to universal voting rights unless they thought they would not have to truly share power as a result. They likely saw voting rights as a release valve for populations that might otherwise seek redress through violence. Countries of the "South" have radically divergent upper and lower classes of people, with foreign ideas of human rights and individual sanctity.

    4. "They likely saw voting rights as a release valve for populations that might otherwise seek redress through violence"

      That is also true of the West which is mired in corruption in all sectors including the moral, financial and business sectors. There are hugely divergent classes in the west too with the elite class holding the majority of the countries' wealth (and this is increasing) and the middle and lower classes who have falling incomes, purchasing power and lifestyles.

      In fact democracy does not exist anywhere and the elites largely control the political outcomes.

  4. I think this is a great follow-up to your last piece.

    It is all simple to understand if you assume two things for which there exists ample evidence if one cares to look for it:

    1. The goal of Post-Modernism is to break down differences between people until the point where they are completely atomized (in order to supposedly usher in some kind of utopia)

    2. Marxism is really just about about power and playing groups against each other in order to attain that power

    In #1 you have the ends and in #2 you have the means, hence the marriage of convenience between the two in late 60's.

    As to who else benefits from this attempt to utterly undermine and compromise the organic group identities that would naturally emerge? I think the answer is to be found in the understanding that the PMCM's are really just useful idiots. Check who funds them, follow the money and when you get to the end ask yourself what is the defining feature of these people and what motivates them.

    Regarding Peterson I've come to the conclusion that 3 options are possible. He is either:
    1. Ignorant
    2. Foolish
    3. Knows exactly what he's doing

    Since I personally can't atm tell which might be more likely I would have to put even odds on all three until new evidence presents itself.

  5. "... also true of the West..."

    Then you see the destitute poverty and disenfranchisement of the Third World's inhabitants as comparable with what Western development has meant for millions of people? Mauritania compared with Hungary, or Indonesia compared with France? Every country has its elites and a subject proletariat. The question is what has anyone been able to do about it through history. The answer is "not much of anything" in the developing countries.

    Democracy exists as an applied construct, not an absolute outcome. Of course elites enjoy asymmetric power. They would not be elites otherwise. Only in the West have men been able to use reason over force (but not excluding force) to temper this natural, merciless hierarchy in order to benefit members of all classes.