“The dilemma arises, however, of how to uphold the precedence of the individual over and above the society with which he or she must necessarily engage. The answer is a two-stage path to modern tyranny – first collectivism and then the authoritarian state. The extreme individualism that underpins the liberal account of human nature in the end demands collectivism as a means of preserving the sanctity of the singular when confronted with the reality of others. If enduring human relationships – the family, corporations, communities – offer only subjugation, society must be stripped of its oppositional forces and of a genuine difference in order to preserve this radical idea of liberty intact. Individuality cut away from human relationships and inherited traditions demands that, in order to preserve this extreme sense of identity, all individuals must be exactly like each other: this is exactly why John Rawls imagined that one could only construct a model for a liberal society by imagining a ‘veil of ignorance’ in which no one knows what identity or what social role they would occupy in any actual social arrangement. But genuine decision-making is always a reflection upon what we have received and what we owe each other: a fictional abstract subject, identical to all other subjects and free of all relationships, can only choose a society that preserves this formal identity and equality as far as possible. Such a society will be bound to become tyrannical: to purchase identical freedom for all at the price of a terrifying control of all by all, which will be exercised in the name of what Rousseau called the ‘general will’ by a tiny elite.
Precisely because he conceived liberty in such individualistic terms, Rousseau was forced to say that the price of sustaining a mutual recognition of liberty is to hand over all our rights to the power of the state. We then receive our rights to freedom back from the state in an enhanced form, supposedly, and together we participate in the mystical collective liberty of the power of the state itself. But in reality this conception of liberty leads to conformism and terror, as first the French Revolution and many subsequent revolutions have shown. Yet, in rightly attacking the revolutionary tradition, conservatives too often lose sight of the fact that the entire liberal tradition has fomented a dangerous creeping revolution – and alongside this a creeping terror and a creeping conformism, as we have so clearly seen with new Labour and its restrictions on civil liberties and association.
The alternative to this modern form of tyranny is a virtue society and a polity that constantly seeks to discern a just order of priorities between differential claims and between various associative groups in society for the attainment of various purposes.
Liberalism, then, paradoxically tends to promise a totalizing unity within an overriding collectivist framework that nullifies opposition in the very name of negative freedom. For an authoritarian state claims only to intrude upon the will of the individual when it moves against those associations that are restrictive of individual freedom. By attacking potential constraints, rather than promoting specific goals, it seeks to insulate itself against opposition by perpetually eradicating anything that might prove a barrier to self-gratification. But almost any positively creative assertion of free action impinges in some way upon another person…and in this way can be taken to reduce the other’s freedom of choice and scope for unhampered activity. Thus, the state is driven to homogenise individuality in the very name of individual diversity. Individual liberty becomes inexorably the ‘general will’ of the social whole and the only truly freedom belongs to that individual write large – which is the state. Competing claims to loyalty, from customary tradition, localities and the family, are anathema to this modern state, because they are supposedly anathema to the unfettered freedom of the individual agency.”
– Phillip Blond, Red Tory –
– Lucas G. Westman
*Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix It, Pg. 148-151