Inventing the Individual

InventingIndividualSuggested by Glenn Fairman • Larry Siedentop firmly rejects Western liberalism’s usual account of itself: its emergence in opposition to religion in the early modern era. He argues instead that liberal thought is, in its underlying assumptions, the offspring of the Church.
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3 Responses to Inventing the Individual

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I suspect this is a book one will have to pick through for good thoughts. My first impression is that the overall theme is a bid adrift and a bit mixed up. Still, even in the free sample section (I haven’t decided if I’m going to buy this or not), I think you get some real nuggets, such as this one:

    Does it still make sense to talk about ‘the West’? People who live in the nations once described as part of Christendom – what many would now call the post-Christian world – seem to have lost their moral bearings. We no longer have a persuasive story to tell ourselves about our origins and development. There is little narrative sweep in our view of things. For better or worse, things have just happened to us.

    Some may welcome this condition, seeing it as liberation from historical myths such as the biblical story of human sin and redemption or a belief in progress ‘guaranteed’ by the development of science.

    And…

    The second assumption is that beliefs are nonetheless of primary importance, an assumption once far more widely held than it is today. In the nineteenth century there was a prolonged contest between ‘idealist’ and ‘materialist’ views of historical change, with the latter holding that social order rests not so much on shared beliefs but on technology, economic interdependence and an advanced social division of labour. Even the declining appeal of Marxism in the later twentieth century did not discredit that view. Rather, in a strange afterlife, Marxism infiltrated liberal thinking, creating a further temptation to downgrade the role of beliefs. That temptation became all the greater because of the unprecedented prosperity enjoyed by the West after the Second World War. We have come to worship at the shrine of economic growth.

    If the books says no more than this, it will have said much. In that second quote, there may never have been a better definition of what “secular” truly is. If not necessarily a metaphysically materialist viewpoint (although it increasingly is for many), it is an economic, cultural, and personal-identity view . . . the new man that Glenn the Greater has sometimes referred to as homo economicus.

    And it’s not that the Left doesn’t have an ideology, a “persuasive story to tell ourselves about our origins and development.” The very problem is that this Leftist paradigm is stupid, simplistic, destructive, narcissistic, unwise, shallow, and based upon man’s worst impulses (even while marketing a different image to the masses).

    Anyway, I’m still reading through the free portion of the Kindle sample. I may quote more later.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Unfortunately, there’s an element of truth to the notion that there’s no longer a West. It degenerated for several reasons, among them the decadence that tends to result from prosperity but also elitist rejection of their culture (“the treason of the clerks”). This has led to the Camp of the Saints situation where the various societies refuse to protect themselves from being converted into third-world hellholes (as Ann Coulter aptly puts it). (Indeed, as long as the elites can thrive in their tiny enclaves, this is perfectly fine with them. They expect to count on the votes of the third-worlders, as well as many of their victims.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Unfortunately, there’s an element of truth to the notion that there’s no longer a West. It degenerated for several reasons, among them the decadence that tends to result from prosperity but also elitist rejection of their culture (“the treason of the clerks”).

        I’m guessing the theme that most grabs Glenn the Greater’s attention regarding this book is the proposition that having let go of the Christian idea is the main downfall of the West. (Yes, I’m baiting G the G to come post some more! LOL)

        I agree with that, with these stipulations:

        1) There are various interpretations of Christianity…the Catholic one, for instance, led to Big Church (benevolent it may have been considering the alternatives) instead of Big Government. The American (primarily Protestant) interpretation emphasized the God who bequeathed upon man the desire for, and blessing of, liberty — if he could restrain his passions enough to institute it and keep it. (Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And it doesn’t take much guessing to obtain which religion he was talking about.)

        2) There were other influences (generally over-rated, such as the enlightenment thinkers and philosophers…probably George Washington’s character had more to do with our West being the way it is more than any other single factor, including Locke and you-name-him).

        3) All nations change and are subject to outside forces…forces that often deform them. The status quo in regards to nations is as non-existent as the status quo in regards to climate. Change is the norm. That anything good is retained is always the wonder.

        But I do agree with one of the central claims of this book, that Christianity brought forth the idea that we are all morally (and thus legally) equal. This is what so offends the sensibilities of those who oppose the fools, flakes, rubes, and ne’er-do-wells who judge according to race, sex, or class instead of individual merit (or lack of same). This is Cultural Marxism, the poison we have let into the bloodstream of Christian ethics.

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