Monday, August 22, 2016

A Curious Deception

The life that one lives under capitalism is not mere individualism; it is society, social, as much as any other kind of expression of human “socialness.” Those who claim the special character of an individualistic capitalism do so for a reason. They are afraid of the social, or of any way of life that involves more social responsibility than individual responsibility. These are merely two different ways of living. I am not saying one is objectively better than the other. A way of living that has more of the social quality is engaged in making its constituent members responsible for others. This is not the only way, however. The other way, espoused by many great Western intellectual figures, emphasizes primarily one’s individual responsibility. So there are these two trends. Both may provide viable ways of living, under specific circumstances. The trend towards capitalism is not a kind of individualism. Now, as to that kind of idea, the more individualistic kind of understanding of things, there are all kinds of justifications for this (which we can accept or not). But at the end of the day, one lives either in one system or the other. There is a system of shared responsibility and there is a potential, but probably not very current, system of potentially more individuatedness. Should the West have a system of social responsibility or one of individual responsibility? It is not ours to answer.

History has rendered its answer: social. Capitalism is in fact the answer that history has given. Capitalism, contrary to the received doctrine, a doctrine imposed on us by the very same capitalistic intellectual or cultural edifice, did not decide the case for individualism, capitalism only claimed to, and so over the years what we have been subject to is a curious deception.

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