Instead, I want to riff on a few more ideas I encountered about community, social unity, and nationhood in the early chapters of The Human Condition. I’ll lay it out with a bold, blanket statement that I feel isn’t getting through to enough of popular culture as it should.
|Humanity in servitude is a mass of indistinguishable organs.|
There are a ton of people who hate all forms of socialism and even just basic caring for your community because they think it’s all creeping communism. And I’m sick of that ignorant shit.
I mean, there are clear sources for this. Ever since Friedrich Hayek helped launch the Mt Pelerin Society and the network of think tanks it inspired, that notion has flooded our popular culture through pretty much all channels of media.
It’s been in the right wing ever since The Road to Serfdom blew up – that any form of collective action or identity contains the conceptual seeds of totalitarian communism. Whether it’s a trade union, a single-payer state-funded health care system, or even simple community organizing to lobby a government or a private company.
For Hayek, solidarity is the same as communism. So it’s gone for a growing chunk of conservative North America. The idea began in the populist work of a Nobel Prize winning economist, and is now in the mouths of dim-witted pundits with terrible moustaches.
At least when Hayek was talking about this, his ideas had some bite. They were wrong, but they bit.
Here’s how the most brutal communism conceives of humanity. Each person has no real meaning in their lives as individuals. Our authentic roles are as members of a class, so our individual personalities express only our general class interests. Because class interests are fundamentally shared, each of our lives are indistinguishable from each other.
|Friedrich Hayek gets his Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974.|
But Karl Marx didn’t invent this concept. Hannah Arendt identifies the root of how comradeship becomes collectivization in nationalist movements and the modern concept of nation itself.
The heritage is pretty straightforward. European society was dominated by feudal relationships through the medieval period. The ethics of these feudal societies were based on paternal responsibility expressed on the scale of entire towns.
The local lord or royal is the father, and the only political relationship of which anyone is capable is subjection. The community consists of one paterfamilias and all others are bowed heads. The lord has the unquestioned authority of a household head, and all members of the community are one family.
As lords disappeared, says Arendt, the morality of subjection and the community as family persisted. That morality became a force of peer pressure to conformity in your identity and political beliefs.
A political morality of subjection, without a monarch to which we’re subject, becomes subjection to the popular morality itself. Dissent of any kind is considered immoral. It would be dissent from the only body that makes your existence legitimate – the nation.
A community of millions who subject themselves to the will of all, as popular morality expresses it. That’s the vision of the dedicated nationalist. Human dignity is only realized in the achievements of the nation itself. This is the ideology that brought us racialization, colonialism, and the two Great Wars of the 20th century.
The nationalism that consumes the modern Western right wing makes them more like their boogeyman communists than the social democrats they hate.