The Liberated versus Organic Individual

Patrick Deneen discusses the atomization of the individual here.  He shares the interesting insight that liberalism seeks the atomization of the individual, not to make the individual a slave to the state, but to liberate the individual from all restriction by and obligation to others.  Through the support of the state, we need no longer depend on community, family, and other organic bonds of relation that might hinder our quests for self-fulfillment.  We can – and I do – question whether or not this is a desirable state of freedom, but, nonetheless, it is liberation of a sort that liberalism seeks.

Deneen contrast this with a conservativism that seeks to preserve organic bonds and free us from domination by the state.  Perhaps that is true for certain types of principled conservatives, like Deneen himself.  But we certainly can’t say this of Republicans in general.  The rhetorical anti-statism of Republicans isn’t conservative.  There’s nothing conservative about unrestrained or state-supported capitalism.  Capitalism is, ironically, the ideal of Trotsky’s permanent revolution.  The “market,” as if that’s a real thing, is one of the greatest forces for destroying those organic bonds that Deneen wants to preserve.

Also, when Republicans work to dismantle public education, for example, they, as far as I can tell, want to do so because they don’t control those institutions ideologically.  They want to replace public schools with state-funded charter schools that are free of labor unions and in which they can insert creationism and other ideas more suited to their ideological interests.  This has nothing to do with liberating us from the state, since the charter school is as much a state creation as the public school.  This has nothing to do with preserving organic relations between individuals, since it in fact promotes the breaking of those very bonds.  Afterall, aren’t they saying that when it comes to education that we do not have obligations to one another?  That we needn’t commit ourselves to a local institution and work to fix it?  That we can just smash it and scatter it?

Deneen is a principled conservative who really believes in organic relations and is critical of the Republican Party.  But, if he does really want to preserve those relations, that he needs to acknowledge that the the parts of liberalism he questions are just as much a part of the Republican Party as the Democratic.

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