October 1, 2005

More on that right wing meme.

I really like this take -- by Fiona de Londras -- on my "great artists are essentially right wing" meme. She seems to get what I'm talking about. Read the whole thing, especially the part about why, in this analysis, Noam Chomsky would be distinctly right wing. That's not an argument against my concept, but a recognition of the usefulness of the concept.

37 comments:

Jeff said...

Ann,

I tried reading all of the comments here and at CT and I think your basic meaning was largely bypassed in the ensuing conversation and insultfest (respectively).

I'm not sure if I'm repeating what others said there, but the use of Noam Chomsky really comes closest to illuminating the question. I think the point with Chomsky as well as with Stalin, mao, et al is that their m.o. is "do as I say, not as I do". Be anonymous cogs in the great machine of state-enforced social justice, while recognising my unique authority and brilliance. Exactly the kind of hypocrisy that (coupled with moral preening) has fueled my disengagement from the traditional left.

Hypocrisy abounds on the right as well, of course, particularly of the old Jimmy Swaggart type. Hence my inability to self identify with either side and admiration for bloggers like you and Roger L. Simon who are asking the questions that will eventually lead to a new middleground that can actually free us from the cant of both extremes.

Plus, pissing off Boomer rock snobs with political delusions is always a good thing!

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: Thanks. I think the intense reaction to what I said is telling. Why was it so important to some people to say no, no, absolutely not, rather than, that's an intriguing perspective, let's talk about what it would mean and see where thinking like this could lead? People deeply invested in their political ideology don't make good conversationalists.

peter hoh said...

boomer rock snobs. In the old footage of Dylan press conferences in the 1960s -- were the boomer rock snobs the ones who were giggling at every remark Dylan made, as if to suggest that they were in on the joke, not realizing that they were as much a target as the "square" reporters?

OddD said...

Ann--

By the same token, wouldn't you agree that being a Christian has an essentially left-winginess to it?

After all, Christianity is all about community and self-abnegation. The Sin of Pride and all that.

(Let's see if we can get Ann in trouble with the WHOLE blogosphere!)

Meade said...

Peter,

As I recall, the 60's were, for the most part, an era of rock tolerance. Rock snobbery began blooming in earnest in the 70's but it's putrid inflorescence reeks most strongly today.

Oddd,

Isn't Christianity about community and self-abnegation in order to reach personal salvation?

Jimmy said...

Ann,
Can the US military, under your definition, be considered be considered a left-wing institution? It is an institution in which individuals downplay their individuality in order to be more effective in protecting the nation.

Jonathan said...

The left/right taxonomy is often so misleading in cases of particular individuals that it might be better to abandon it. Why not evaluate arguments on their merits, rather than labeling the people making the arguments as "left wing" or "right wing" and then trying to figure out if they fit the label? It isn't necessarily inconsistent or evidence of class betrayal if someone who is usually thought of as "left wing" has idiosyncratic, libertarian or otherwise non-left-wing positions on some issues. A lot of leftists seem not to understand this (thus the complaints that Althouse and Reynolds, e.g., are really right wingers, as if making such assertions is an adequate response to reasoned arguments).

Non-leftists seem better at dealing with ideological idiosyncrasies, e.g., "So-and-so agrees with us on the 2nd Amendment/WOT/affirmative action, isn't that great!"

bearing said...

Jonathan:

The left/right taxonomy is often so misleading in cases of particular individuals that it might be better to abandon it. Why not evaluate arguments on their merits, rather than labeling the people making the arguments as "left wing" or "right wing" and then trying to figure out if they fit the label?

Yes, Ann --- I think that your characterization must not have been very good, from a strictly practical standpoint, based on the fact that a great many people "took it the wrong way." Effective writing is impossible to "take the wrong way," with the possible exception of satire --- and that's because the point of it is for it to be taken the wrong way at least by some, the dupes.

So, was your point that artists have something to say, and they say it --- thereby implying that some things are worth saying even at the cost of great effort? Certain points are worth making --- because of their inherent virtue? If so, I'd say more that artists inherently must reject relativism, not that they are inherently right-wing --- although there's a lot of overlap between relativism and the left wing, it's not a point of identity.

Ann Althouse said...

Bearing: Don't assume you know my intent. What if it was to stir controversy and spark a discussion? What if it was to lure my opponents into demonstrating their contra-creativity, heretic-disciplining ways once again?

Re the military: Of course, it must rely on collectivist values to do what it needs to do. It is forced to actively surpress individuality.

As to Christianity: There are a lot of versions of it. You could emphasize the individual or the communal.

Generally, for most people, going too far toward self-absorption is a big problem. It might not be a good idea to go to the extremes needed to be a great artist. I never said it was good.

Jonathan said...

bearing,

I think Ann's argument was clear enough. Some of the critics missed it, however, perhaps because they didn't read carefully what she wrote and instead tried to fit her statements into a default ideological template. You can't attribute all misunderstanding to unclear writing. Some readers are determined to interpret all arguments according to their favorite model, whether that model is appropriate or not. If all you have is a hammer...

lindsey said...

"Isn't Christianity about community and self-abnegation in order to reach personal salvation?"

And if the community works hard to make individual salvation more likely, then isn't the community essentially saving itself by trying to save every individual?

OddD said...

And if Christianity is the community working to save the individual and the individual working to save the community...%-)

Doesn't this all really just show that people like to divide themselves into camps, "us" and "them" and then proceed to take every opportunity to beat the crap out of "them"?

OddD said...

Effective writing is impossible to "take the wrong way,

Reverse that and what you're saying is that if anyone takes any piece of writing wrong, it's no longer effective. I guarnatee there is no writing ever written that has not been taken the wrong way.

In life, your allies will fill in for you when you are flawed, and your enemies will fill in for you when you're not.

Ben Regenspan said...

Ann,

If you were using "right-wing" to describe the right side of an authoritarian<-->libertarian continuum, then your comment makes sense to me. I guess what I don't understand is why you'd use spatial metaphors, which we all know are very limited as useful descriptors, to make your point. The same argument could be made with much greater clarity by simply stating that most artists, whatever their political ideology, are very individualistic in practice. Intentionally controversialist arguments can be "intriguing", but not if their most controversial aspect is confusing terminology.

aidan maconachy said...

There is a distinction to be made between being consciously and deliberately on the left or right - and having left/right positions ascribed to you as a result of intrinsic traits (personality, vocation or values) that you possess.

I think it's a no-win venture to try and define a person as right or left using subjective judgements about the car they drive, the lifestyle they prefer and whether they vacation in Cuba or San Moritz. I mean if you take this type of analysis to its logical conclusion, you could argue I suppose that Che Guevara was right wing. He was an egoist and thought he could take the revolution into the Americas via his exploits in the Bolivian jungles. He stood out from the Castro regime and behaved like a maverick. He was highly individualistic. But if you presumed to cast Che as a right wing type he would have been aghast.

So rather than using right and left markers, I think it's safer to say that some people are more assertively individual than others, and you find such types both on the left and the right.

For example, in conservative circles not everyone is a rugged individualist. A lot of right wingers are very timid, conformist and group oriented. The dinner party/ book club circuit being an example. Style of dress of such people being another. Nothing original there at all. They all sing from the hymn book - but nonetheless view themselves as right wingers.

On the left, you encounter people who don't herd so easily ... and don't march to the party line. The left is full of idiosyncratic types who do their own thing, often in very eccentric ways. But try and tell them they are right wingers and they would go ballistic.

So I think it simply comes down to astrology lol - an Arian communist will react to party expectations in a different fashion than say a Pisces or a Taurus type. Does this make them any less communist? I'm sure they would argue no.

Politics is about consciously assumed positions, so I think it is presumptuous to place a political label on someone based on their personality type and mode of conduct/expression.

I just think Dylan is Dylan. The question of his right or left orientation I would tend to put on hold till I hear it from the man himself.

pietro said...

I am an individualist, and it is largely my individualism which commits me to being in favor of civil rights in general (including gay rights), the separation of Church and State, and in opposition to the social authoritarianism--and what I perceive as the religious zealotry--of the Republican party. I am also an individualist with a strong aesthetic distaste for the communitarian idea that groups matter more than individuals (I'm paraphrasing Prof. Althouse here). But from this individualistic sensibility, one can still hold the belief that the existence of rules and regulations can enhance the individual liberties of all. Traffic laws may restrict my right to choose when to drive past an intersection, but they actually *enhance* my liberty to move swiftly and safely from place to place.

I do believe that there's an argument in favor of leftist health-care policy. But this doesn't stem at all from a belief that individuals must have a commitment to the wealth of others; rather, it stems from a belief that the rules of the social game ought to be fair, and ought to enhance the individual liberties of human beings.

Furthermore, I do not have a shred of nationalist sentimentalism--a left-wing trait, following Prof. Althouse's logic. I suppose I count as a right-winger in an Althouse psychological profile. But I am as far from being a right-winger as you'll ever find. In fact, right-wing is a term that rings of insult to me. How does one account for that? And what is the use of having an essentialist classification of human traits into right-wing and left-wing, if such a classification bears such a tenuous relation to the actual ideologies of human beings?

What is the possible use of saying that individualism is right-wing, if many individualists are left-wing? I suspect its use is similar to the use of essentialist characterizations of human traits as feminine or masculine. Love is feminine? Intelligence is masculine? Perhaps Prof. Althouse's classification system should be classified as equivalent to the old feminine-masculine pop-psychological dichotomy. Is that a fair criticism?

Larry said...

pietro: What is the possible use of saying that individualism is right-wing, if many individualists are left-wing?

The use is to point out an important source of incoherence on the left: on the one hand it seeks, for reasons embedded in its ideology, to de-emphasize the role, value, and significance of the individual in favor of the role, value, and significance of the collective; but on the other hand the left itself, ironically, is often sustained by the achievements of various extraordinary "individualists" that self-identify as leftists. Maybe they should question such self-labelling. And maybe, when people start comparing political labels to "essentialist" categories of sex or gender, we all should try to be a little more independent of such labels anyway.

W.B. Reeves said...

This whole dispute strikes me as more evidence of the degeneration of our political discourse.

The reduction of the Left/Right dichotomy to the simplistic opposition of collectivism/individualism is one that can only thrive with a selective reading of history.

There's neither space nor time to recapitulate the developement of this terminology but a few observations are in order.

The terminology is European in origin dating to a period when monarchism and medieval theories of absolutism were very much the order of the day. Right and Left in this context did not represent an opposition between individualism and collectivism as we understand the terms. Neither side was interested in liquidating the primacy of communitarian interests, they were arguing for competing schemes for ordering those interests.

To the degree that we can talk about individualism in this conflict it would appear that those who called for abolishing Aristocratic caste and privilege, an end to Autocracy and state sponsored religion, in short, the demolition of the pyramidic social order inherited from the past, were objectively preparing the conditions for greater liberty for a greater number of individuals.

The whole notion of Individualism being the sine qua non of the Right Wing is of relatively recent vintage and has little currency outside of the U.S. Try, for example, explaining to a European that Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, et al were all Leftists since they subjugated the individual to the collective demands of the State. They would likely point out that in this, the above were doing nothing more than extending and expanding upon the model inherited from the old autocratic regimes. In Europe the Right has historically oriented towards defending the privileges of the few against the demands of the many. The only individualism ever embraced by the European Right was the individualism of the ubermensch.

Of course, being Americans, we don't normally feel constrained by history. Which is why we often find ourselves in a state of bewildered denial and incoherence when it catches up to us. I think Althhouse's formulation is a good example of this.

Althouse posits that the individual is at the heart of Right Wingness. From this presumption she proceeds to lump all individual distinctions under the same heading. It follows from this perspective that anti-individualism is the essence of the Left Wing.

Unfortunately for Althouse this abstract model doesn't stand up to the facts of American experience anymore than it applies to European history. Every great advance of individual liberty in our history has been largely opposed by the Conservative wing. From abolition through women's suffrage to the Civil Rights movement, the Right Wing has played an obstructionist role. In contrast, all these expansions of individual freedom were largely supported by the Left.

Given all this, the question remains, how can Althouse buy into the spurious algebra that equates Right Wing with Individualist?

I think the answer lies in the fact that there is more than one sort of individualism. There is, for example, the individualism of the exceptional personality as opposed to that which is rooted in the inalienable rights of the individual human being. The former is dear to the hearts of those who inhabit the heirarchies of power and influence since by it, each of them may define themselves as exceptional and therefore completely entitled to whatever perqs they receive or authority they may exercise over others. The latter is directly subversive to the first since it argues that every individual, however exceptional, is obliged to respect the rights and liberties of all other individuals regardless of personal distinction.

As the old adage goes, "The right to shake one's fist ends where another's nose begins." This definitely constitutes a limitation on the individual but it hardly amounts to anti-individualism. Except, perhaps, in the mind of the fist shaker. In some ways our entire political history could be read as a struggle between these conflicting schools of individualism.

All this aside, the assertion that "great artists" are Right wing by virtue of being individuals of distinction has more than a whiff of the mystical about it. It implies that political orientation is something innate, organic and irrational rather than the product of analysis and conscious choice. This is on par with arguing that a person's politics are dictated soley by national, ethnic, racial, class or sexual identity. The sly implication being that Right Wing politics represent some intrinsic natural order while Left wing politics are a perverse and authoritarian delusion.

I don't mean to suggest that Professor Althouse would necessarily follow her premise to its logical conclusion. In my experience people who embrace such Randian symplicities seldom do.

Nevertheless, to give credence to the notion that individualism (even that of great artists) is an exclusive characteristic of the Right, is to remove oneself from the gritty, often contradictory, reality of politics in favor of the airy regions inhabited by Platonic idealists and ideologues of every stripe.

Larry said...

The "simplistic opposition of collectivism/individualism" is not the only distinction between the contemporary, North American left and right, but it is one --one that's often emphasized by leftists themselves -- and an important one. That fascists and nazis were also collectivists only serves to make the oft-noted point that political extremes come to resemble one another. But there's another, more interesting, point to be made out of that observation as well: it's that the left, far from being the "progressive" force that it's always fancied itself to be, is in fact just another face of an array of anti-individualist reactionary forces. So, kind of like the way Blake considered Milton to be "a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it", we might say that true Artists are of the Individualist's party, whether they know it or not.

Ben Regenspan said...

But there's another, more interesting, point to be made out of that observation as well: it's that the left, far from being the "progressive" force that it's always fancied itself to be, is in fact just another face of an array of anti-individualist reactionary forces

No, that point has to be made with some evidence rather than a rhetorical trick that conflates individualism with modern conservatism. It is not just the far right that emphasizes collectivism, but the religious right, a major force in the Republican party. An anti-choice position and the countless other bedroom-invading stances of the religious and religious-pandering right represent fundamental infringements of individual rights, all in the name of the universalist sort of values that you are trying to ascribe exclusively to the left.

...we might say that true Artists are of the Individualist's party, whether they know it or not.

And what exactly is "the Individualist's party"? The modern ultra-interventionist, big-spending Republican party? Again, if the labels in question refer to concepts that could potentially be defined as rightwing in an abstract sense, but bear little relevance to reality, they are wholly useless and serve more to obfuscate than inform.

bearing said...

Ann:

Bearing: Don't assume you know my intent. What if it was to stir controversy and spark a discussion? What if it was to lure my opponents into demonstrating their contra-creativity, heretic-disciplining ways once again?

What can I say? Touche.

pietro said...

Larry has perhaps unwittingly hit the nail on the head. It is true that the only use of the little exercise is to insinuate incoherence on one's political rivals. But the technique works both ways, and it reduces to the absurd: the right-wing in this country is ever so devoted to imposing its notions of morality, that the identification of right-wing with individualism smacks of incoherence. And the left wing is so devoted to civil rights, that according to Prof. Althouse's new paradigm, it should be labeled right-wing.

W.B. Reeves said...

The "simplistic opposition of collectivism/individualism" is not the only distinction between the contemporary, North American left and right, but it is one --one that's often emphasized by leftists themselves --

Then you shouldn't have any trouble in producing examples of same. Please do.

That fascists and nazis were also collectivists only serves to make the oft-noted point that political extremes come to resemble one another.

It also serves to show that both the Left and the Right are subject to Totalitarian impulses that embrace collectivism. Hardly evidence to support the distinction you adhere to.

So, kind of like the way Blake considered Milton to be "a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it", we might say that true Artists are of the Individualist's party, whether they know it or not.

So you're saying that the Individualists are the "Devil's party?"

Seriously though. Do you realize that this line of argument is characteristic of totalitarian thinking? You're saying that regardless of an individual's stated opinions, conscious beliefs or overt acts, you are entitled to define them according to some abstract, theoretical notion of Individualism.

If you wish to define some one or some thing, you need to demonstrate that the definition is consonant with the facts, not at odds with them.

mr. weg said...

I always thought the basic Althouse formulation made a certain amount of sense - left-wing politicians emphasize problem-solving through collective decision-making ("It Takes a Village"), while right-wing politicians (and artists) prefer problem-solving by individual action (or freedom). There's something vague but kind of unavoidable in this lumping.

But one thing I don't think I saw pointed out on CT, Volokh or here (I didn't read every comment, thank you), is that the preferences of artists for independence and freedom and the rejection of community may not always be the best thing for their art.

Note that Dylan's early period, his peak as measured by the popularity of his songs with the public and with other artists (who covered him endlessly) - was the period in which he did not go off on his own, but immersed himself in the folk music scene of the day. (I think you could argue that Dylan's true artistic achievement was turning the ideas of folk music and folk musicians into great popular songs). The Scorsese film shows some explicit details of this process - e.g. Dylan using Van Ronk's arrangement for House of the Rising Sun.

Later, of course, Dylan pursued a more independent, "right-wing" path - and as with Lennon and McCartney, it's not hard to wish his less independent, "left-wing" period had lasted a bit longer....

pietro said...

larry: Consider this. Physicists rely to a large extent on a language that invokes cause-effect relations, and good predictions play a central role in physics. Does it follow that physicists *ought* to be determinists? The fact of the matter is that, notwithstanding its aspirations, physics is grounded on a highly non-deterministic foundation. The perceived *incoherence* is simply a short-sighted illusion. I claim that your perception of incoherence on the left is similar: leftists may believe that forces outside of the individual can and do shape the destinies of a lot of people, but nothing commits them logically to believe that there is no possibility for individual agency in the world--they may believe, for example, that the degree of agency of a person varies with social class. Likewise, the fact that an individual has been able to succeed, through hard work and determination, doesn't commit that individual logically to believe that hard work and self-determination invariably lead to the kind of success he/she has attained.

In my individualist and not so humble opinion, the reluctance to admit that social class, economics, ethnicity, politics, etc. have very real effects on the capabilities of people, and the insistence that success is the product of simply personal responsibility do not deserve to be called right-wing traits. Rather, they are expressions of intellectual simplitude. A different thing is to advocate, for political purposes, the dissemination of that creed. No doubt, people can articulate intelligent reasons for rejecting social engineering programs. It is utterly unnecessary to do so, however, to hold the naive view that individuals can achieve what they want, if only they are talented enough and determined enough.

Larry said...

Much of the left-wing denial in these comments seems more than a little disingenuous, since the identification of the left with collective or communal values and the right with individual values is widespread and usually non-controversial. Neither side, of course (apart from pathological extremes), asserts that only their emphasis matters, but that doesn't mean that political distinctions along the collectivist/individualist fault line can't be made or aren't significant. And then, having made the distinction, it isn't much of a stretch to argue that artists, to the extent that they're artists, fall on the individualist side of that divide.

More generally, I'd say that I also find the left-wing commenters here to be simplistic (i.e., displaying "intellectual simplitude") in their understanding of what "individualism" is supposed to mean. For a sense of just how profound and far-reaching this concept, in its historical and cultural context, actually is, consider a passage like this:

All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

There was somebody who understood that the emergence of the modern individual meant a little more than the idea that "hard work will get you what you want". (The passage should also illustrate the point that "right wing" and "conservative" are not synonymous.)

XWL said...

I think I'm beginning to comprehend the method behind the madness of revisiting this issue of right/left identities regarding artists and people's interpretations of said identities.

Prof. Althouse must have been invited to a large multi-discipline dinner party that will be predictably dull but socially required and she is hoping to be dis-invited by getting enough of her fellow faculty to believe that she is an evil creature of the vast right wing cabal ruining this country and therefore would befoul the punchbowl and wilt the rhododendrons with her mere presence.

Or alternately it is an interesting idea to explore and the fact that there has been so much back and forth both good and bad is the kind of debate that proves irresistible to a legalistic/political mind.

Ann Althouse said...

Mr. Weg: Dylan's peak consisted of "Bringing It All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited," and "Blonde on Blonde," the three albums that came out in a row AFTER he broke with the folkies - when he went electric (or, as they saw it, commercial). The peak ended with his motorcycle accident.

W.B. Reeves said...

Larry,

Much of the left-wing denial in these comments seems more than a little disingenuous, since the identification of the left with collective or communal values and the right with individual values is widespread and usually non-controversial.

This appears to be a rhetorical dodge. You present no evidence. You simply assert that something is so. I invite you again to produce some substantiation for your view.

More generally, I'd say that I also find the left-wing commenters here to be simplistic (i.e., displaying "intellectual simplitude") in their understanding of what "individualism" is supposed to mean.

Really? Which is more simplistic, treating individualism as an monolithic, though ill defined, concept or recognizing that individualism comes in a multiplicity of specific forms, some of which are mutually antagonistic?

All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

There was somebody who understood that the emergence of the modern individual meant a little more than the idea that "hard work will get you what you want". (The passage should also illustrate the point that "right wing" and "conservative" are not synonymous.)

I give you points for chutzpah. It's difficult to see how quoting this passage from Karl Marx supports you. Somehow I doubt he'd agree with your interpretation. "Man" in this instance, does not refer to the individual personality but to the collective sense as in "modern man".

Since few people, including himself, would classify Marx as either Right Wing or Conservative, this exerpt is hardly the illustration you claim. Unless, of course, you are again asserting the right to ignore facts in favor of your prefered theoretical construct.

In any case, Marx was describing what he saw as the impact of Capitalism on existing social forms, not the advent of the "modern individual." I might add that he saw this process as a positive rather than a negative developement. Hardly a Conservative view.

Professor Althouse,

Mr. Weg: Dylan's peak consisted of "Bringing It All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited," and "Blonde on Blonde," the three albums that came out in a row AFTER he broke with the folkies...

This is a matter of opinion, not fact.

Larry said...

RW: ... Marx was describing what he saw as the impact of Capitalism on existing social forms, not the advent of the "modern individual." I might add that he saw this process as a positive rather than a negative developement. Hardly a Conservative view.

I'd give part marks for this -- as I said in my comment before this, the passage illustrates the point that "right wing" and "conservative" are not synonymous. Yes, Marx was a leftist and collectivist (and would have been honest enough not to try to cavil over that term), but, as you say, also honest enough to see the rise of what was called the bourgeoisie as having at least some positive aspects. Where you go wrong, however, is in apparently thinking that that development had nothing to do with "the advent of the 'modern individual' -- re-read the part again about how "All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify", and ask yourself if that doesn't say anything about how people are broken out of their traditional, and even new-formed, group and communal molds, to emerge as something the world hadn't seen before, something it makes sense to call the modern individual. And at least suggest that this emergence was key to the remarkable transformative power of the bourgeoisie.

(Where Marx went wrong, it's maybe worth saying, is in thinking that the so-called "proletariat" would take over and improve upon the good work of the bourgeoisie, without so much as a thank you. Instead -- and if you like irony, you gotta love this -- it was the bourgeoisie that continually broadened the reach of its revolutionary individualism, until now, various reactionary forces on both right and left notwithstanding, it has simply become the human race.)

W.B. Reeves said...

Where you go wrong, however, is in apparently thinking that that development had nothing to do with "the advent of the 'modern individual' -- re-read the part again about how "All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify", and ask yourself if that doesn't say anything about how people are broken out of their traditional, and even new-formed, group and communal molds, to emerge as something the world hadn't seen before, something it makes sense to call the modern individual. And at least suggest that this emergence was key to the remarkable transformative power of the bourgeoisie.

Where you go wrong Larry, is in substituting your own prejudices for the clear intent in other people's words. Marx was not talking about the "modern individual", he was talking about larger impersonal social forces. The claim that he is really addressing the emergence of the "modern individual" is your idea, not his.

Like the medieval scholastic, you begin with your conclusion, presuming that everything that has gone before leads inevitably to your own view. As I pointed out earlier, such teleological thinking is fundamental to the Totalitarian mindset.

Your point vis a vis conservative/right wing is pointless. No one, except for yourself, ever raised this question. Strawman anyone?

BTW, since you obviously consider that you know Marx better than he knew himself, perhaps you can point to an instance where he described himself as a collectivist? I know you prefer bald assertion to evidence but maybe you'd give it go for the sake of variety.

Of course, what Marx did or did not call himself is beside the point, since "Marxism" is a distinctly minority view on the Left these days, as it was at the time he wrote the words you quoted. You could just as easily attack the Right by pretending that the adolescent rants of Ayn Rand are representative of all thinking on that side of the fence. However, that would be dishonest and given your accolade to Marx's integrity, I know how you feel about dishonesty.

If you ever decide to engage in substantive discussion, you might start by providing a working definition of what you mean by individualism and collectivism rather than treating them as buzzwords. You might also address some of the actual points raised, as opposed to dodging them.

Larry said...

First, WB asserts that it's a mistake to substitute one's own prejudices for "the clear intent in other people's words". Then he writes an absurdity like "...such teleological thinking is fundamental to the Totalitarian mindset" -- which, besides contradicting himself, calls into question his ability to understand the meaning of totalitarianism, teleology, and thinking.

Nevermind. No doubt he's trying. For those with some capacity for abstract thought, I'd just point out that, by the phrase "modern individual", I'm not referring to specific Toms, Dicks or Marys, but rather to the kind of person that results when "man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind". And yes, that is my idea, not Marx's -- the quote was intended to be suggestive, not exegetical.

W.B. Reeves said...

Unwilling or unable to engage a differing point of view, much less refute it, Larry falls back on what is his strongest suit: imagination.

Rather than demonstrating that a proposition is absurd, he imagines it enough that he pronounces it is so. He likewise imagines contradiction where none is apparent. The difference between invective and analysis escapes him, as does the distinction between the world of his imagination and the external world.

It may be that Larry is an exceptional individual possessing an intuitive insight rivaling the revelatory powers of the prophets. It may be so but I am not prepared to proclaim him as such. I prefer evidence to revealed truth.

Evidence, such as the following. Larry now claims that:

And yes, that is my idea, not Marx's -- the quote was intended to be suggestive, not exegetical.

However, in the original he sang a somewhat different song:

There was somebody [Marx] who understood that the emergence of the modern individual meant a little more than the idea that "hard work will get you what you want".

Of course Marx understood nothing of the kind. This is an interpolation on Larry's part which he now pretends to have never made. Imagine that.

Considering this level of "discourse" I can't say I'm sorry that Larry has chosen to exit spouting bile. I only regret that we couldn't have the serious discussion of individualism that Professor Althouse indicates she wanted.

Larry said...

WB: This [the emergence of the modern individual] is an interpolation on Larry's part which he now pretends to have never made.

No, no, WB, it was an "interpolation", if you like, from the start. But a legitimate interpolation, based upon Marx's own insights and a modern understanding of "individualism". You know, the concept that you claim you'd like a "serious discussion" of? But the concept that you've given no indication of having the slightest inkling of? But you know - don't worry about it. It's not as though you'd be likely to have anything interesting to say in any case.

W.B. Reeves said...

Larry,

In order to have a discussion, serious or otherwise, one must be willing and able to engage other viewpoints. I see no indication of such willingness or ability on your part.

Of the two of us, only one has bothered to offer any definition of Individualism and it wasn't you. Consequently, your pronouncements on the subject lack substance and simply make you appear foolish.

It's apparent that there is only one voice that you are interested in hearing, so I leave you to yourself.

Larry said...

WB: In order to have a discussion, serious or otherwise, one must be willing and able to engage other viewpoints. I see no indication of such willingness or ability on your part.

Nor do I on yours, I'm afraid. But a deeper problem has to do with your weak ability to deal with concepts or abstract thought in general. Perhaps, WB, this sort of thing just isn't for you, after all -- you might consider taking up another hobby.

W.B. Reeves said...

As per usual, opinion presented as fact without any support or foundation whatever other than the bias of the author. This isn't abstraction and it barely qualifies as thought. Just the usual posturing engaged in by those who have no case to make.