Before we begin I’d like to acknowledge that it has officially been six long and interminable years of running Aleph’s Heretical Domain. The only reason I haven’t got a separate post marking this occasion is because I’ve been spending a long time writing this post, alongside other posts that I suddenly got the inspiration to write (which will be released in due time). So just to throw it out there, here’s to another year of heresy.
Anyways, let us start with the pure state of nature. What is there? We do not see civilization as we recognize it as such. We do not see rights, we do not see the dignities afforded to us in civilization, and we do not see the social basis of freedom as we know it. We know a narrow sense of “freedom”: freedom from society, maybe, but the subjection experienced regularly by animals (an animal is only free in the sense that it is able to do what it must in order to propagate its genetic material and survive).
It is a very narrow, but all too common, perspective that the individual and the society he is contextualized within are apart from each other, when in reality they exist interdependent on each other within the sphere of sociation.
We as a species are evolved to be social in nature,. Many sources of physical, emotional and spiritual fulfillment tie into interdependent relations with other people, and large scale goals inexorably necessitate cooperation. Even our loneliness, our isolation, and the consequent depression, are contextualized predominantly by our adjacence to others and our ability or lack thereof to related to our fellow man. We feel disappointment, anxiety, and anguish when we are unable to relate to those around us, and to society, whether that be due our own temperament or because society is against us (of course, in reality it is surely both). Thus the social realm penetrates the being of Man, even when we are alone.
The Austrian philosopher Max Adler puts it rather succinctly in The New Concept of Sociation (which was published in Lehrbuch der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung).
Even loneliness and unsociability are only possible within sociation. One cannot separate oneself from society, one can isolate oneself only within society. Indeed, even the hermit and the hater of humanity, as long as this is not pathologically expressed, are bound to society, just that they want to know nothing about it. A really isolated individual is a condition that begins where his spiritual connections to others is interrupted, that is madness. When Marx once said that Robinson is a figure in a novel that could never appear in an actual economy, that is also the case for sociology.
Essentially, Adler’s point is that is that the alienation we experience from our detachment from society, and even our hostility to socialization, can only truly be framed in the context of one’s place within the broader sphere of sociation – that is, the domain of social interaction and social being. Without that framework, these phenomenon do not exist. Individuals do not exist in isolation, and inexorably they are shaped by the environment they are in, which of course includes not only the natural environment but the social environment; the behaviors, customs, hierarchies, mores, systems of organization and relations/relationships the individual imbibes in.
You know, I would say it’s possible to think of loneliness in different ways if we’re being fair. Most of us, of course, react negatively to it, as is natural to do. We who are lonely because we are different to the majority of people often have a desire to be accepted by society for who we are, because this allows us to connect with society, and to ultimately support it on the grounds that it has accepted us. Some, however, react to their detachment, and the premise of sociation and socially engendered identity, by seeking further and further isolation from society, by seeking to become some sort of Anarch through their misanthropy. These paths, of course, are all defined through the relationship the individual experiences to society. Just as Adler said, this sense of alienation is only meaningful in the remit of society, taking form only in the context of a society to be alienated from.
Alder also managed to wed the individuated ego to the collective through the conception of sociation, a concept that will be touched upon in a different work later on.
Or put more clearly: the ego is only the experiential form of consciousness; it experiences itself not merely as ego, that is, as a spiritual singularity, rather as a generic-determined subject, whose spiritual contents are nothing other than the necessarily common possession of the infinity of other subjects. From this fact follows the logical and normative value of its conscious contents, which only exist so that the true, the good, the beautiful, and so forth of the individual are contents which are not for only this individual being, but rather for ‘everyone’ the true, the good, the beautiful, and so forth. The process of consciousness is not first found in its ethical or aesthetic ‘social’ form; rather it is from its very beginning as a logical form, in which no truer, that is, logically more correct content can be thought without the individual subject thinking ‘everyone’ is the object of the thought. The consciousness is thus merely a self-conscious form of ego, an individual, but in its essence from its inception a ‘we’, a supra-individual. Consciousness is only lived in the ego, but in this ego as not only ego, rather as belonging to an infinite many other egos, it thus stands together with these other experiential-egos in the possibility of an experientially-connected association. One could also say: consciousness is given only as a ‘we’, that is, as a mentality in which the I is from its cognised inception contained with other ‘I’s. And from this recognition, it can be said that sociation does not arise first in the historical-economic process. Sociation, then, is not initially the product of the interactions of human beings who exist before or after sociation, rather sociation is already in the individual consciousness, given its very being, and thus the prerequisite of all historical connectedness among the majority of individual subjects.
Sociation is a process that seems innate to us because we are social beings, and we are social beings because we are I’s that experience the world in relation to other I’s as a shared experience of reality. It is in part for this reason that solipsism can be treated a foolish vice, because you are most certainly not the only observer in reality and your fellow observers are not simply shadows of your mind: they emerged materially, in a material plane of existence, just as you did.
The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything, written by a situationist collective going by For Ourselves: Council for Generalized Self-Management, had a very good framework for the erosion of the dichotomy of collectivism and individualism from the perspective of, of all things, an egoist framework, which will be demonstrated using a selection of paraphrases.
Is it necessary once again to point out the self-absurdity of the one-sided abstractions “the individual” and “society,” and of the ideologies founded on this one-sidedness – “individualism” (or “egoism”) and so-called “socialism” (or “collectivism”)?
We can be individuals only socially.
We can be social only individually.
Individuals constitute society.
Society constitutes individuals.
Dig deeply enough into the individual and you will find society. Dig deeply enough into society and you will find the individual. Dig deeply enough into either and you will come out the “other” side. The concept named “the individual,” fully grasped, is the same as the concept named “society.” The concept named “society,” fully grasped, is also “the individual.” One is impossible, does not exist, without the other. At the heart of society is its “opposite,” the individual. At the center of the individual is his “antithesis,” society. We must speak of the social individual. Both of the abstract universals, “society” and “the individual” find their concrete universal in the social individual.
Society, without the individual, is empty, is without its existence, just as the individual, without society, is without its existence – and even outside human society, is not a human individual (even if it should chance to survive as a biological individual. However, even as such, it is the issue of a human social – in this case, sexual – relationship). Unless both these moments can be affirmed simultaneously, univocally; grasped as a single, unitary concept – in fact as a conceptual singularity – their contradiction having been transcended (to begin with, in thought), then neither “the individual” nor “society” has been understood.
Self-production can only be social; society is self-production, that is, society is the only possible means-of-production of selves. You cannot ever talk about the “self” without identically implicating or talking about “society.” The “self” exists only in association with other selves, i.e. in and as an association of selves, a society. It is no accident that the Latin root of ‘consciousness’ – conscienta – means literally “together-knowledge”; “to know together.” Subjectivity is essentially intersubjective, that is, essentially social.
Your “individuality” is already a “social structure,” and has been so from its very inception (including, from its very conception).
Individuals are produced only by society. Society is produced only by individuals.
Society can be realized only egoistically, just as the ego can be arrived at, can be realized, and is possible at all only socially.
The self is pre-eminently and essentially social; society is pre-eminently and essentially selfish.
If the philosophers of one-sided individualism, of narrow egoism – that is, of the axiology of the self – want to understand Marx’s socialism, they should reflect on his statement to the effect that the other is a necessary part of your self.
The principle “I want nothing other than myself” – the principle of self-desire, self-attachment (self-cathexis, or self-centration) – becomes the principle of daily life in communist society once it is socially actualized that the other is a necessary part of my self. Society becomes an object of cathexis without this any longer necessitating projection-identification – i.e., the alienation of cathexis from the self – once the social nature of the self, and the “self nature” of society has become a palpable and transparent truth of experience.
Since humans are social beings by habit and by nature, freedom and individuality . Societies may indeed be constructed by individuals, but society is also much more than the product of the individuals who made it. It shapes the individuals who make it as well, for good or for bad, and the individuals in turn shape the society they create. Consequently, we find much of our identity shaped by social circumstance and stimuli, and hence by the society we have created, and therefore to speak of the individual as an atomic being and of society as an abstraction is indeed one-sided. There is a perspective of interdependence and dialectic worth considering here. When it is said that society is nothing without the individual and the individual nothing without society, what is expressed is that the two concepts shape each other – individuals, or rather a collection of individuals, engender society, society and its functions become the stimuli that affect the development and growth of the individual and his material circumstance, and from there the individual derives a means to cultivate him/herself, act within the environment and shape the society around him/her alongside his/her fellows.
Any useful conception of individualism, if we are to hold on to any individualism, has to account for the interdependence that exists between beings, and in particular between individuals and the society they live in. This is because, as was explained earlier, the being of sociation is at least practically innate to humans, and we share reality with a seemingly infinite ocean of individuated consciousness, and that is what is identified when it is said “Dig deeply enough into the individual and you will find society”.
In addition, it is very much worth considering cooperation as a necessary prerequisite of independence, as the late Tupac Shakur, of all people, actually put rather succinctly in his interview with MTV. While I do recommend you have a listen, I’d like to place a quotation from it here to show you what I mean.
“Everybody’s smart enough to know that we’ve been slighted, and we want ours. And I don’t mean forty acres and a mule, because we’re past that. But we do need help. For us being on our own two feet, we do need help because we have been here and we have been a good friend, if you want to make it a relationship type thing. We have been there and now we deserve our payback. It’s like, you got a friend that you don’t ever look out for, you know. America’s got jewels, they paid and lending money to everybody except us. Everybody needs a little help on their way to being self-reliant. No independent person just grew up and was born independent. You worked and you learned teamwork, cooperation, unity and struggle and then you became independent. We have to teach that and instill that.”
There is something to take stock of here, because a lot of it is very intuitively true. People are not born capable of making their own decisions, commanding their own faculties, navigating their course right out of the cradle, we instinctively know this and this dawns people especially when the time comes for them to be parents. Because of this, we make efforts to raise people as children so that they may develop those faculties.
This perspective also rather underpins the need to see collective cooperation and individuated freedom and experience as a dialectic. You cannot simply subsume the individual to the other as per the doctrine of altruism – each man is an individual, he has his own concerns, and he needs to be mostly free to pursue them in a healthy manner that does not cause harm or exploitation to others, but we cannot atomize the individual and place him in a vacuum free of societal consideration, for far from meaningful freedom it actually generates loneliness, isolation, and from there a deep seated suffering and anguish that results from these things. And in the end doing both extremes disempower the individual. By suffocating the individual to some altruistic mode of the group, and that mindset hangs over the individual, the individual can’t really express his/her will or agency outside the remit of the hivemind, but by atomizing the individual and cutting him/her away from society, you take away the ability of the individual to cooperate with others, in turn cutting off a major source of power for the individual – after all, there is great strength in numbers and being in a pack comes with its own rewards. As a consequence of this reality, the greatest source of freedom, development and power for the the individual lies within sociation, within the individual’s ability not only to act of his own agency and volition but also to make the best of the relations and collaborative efforts he imbibes in. In a sense, the social realm is necessary for a human being to cultivate him/herself fully as a civilized and free being capable of affecting anything. This is not because of any chains that have been placed upon humans by some tyrannical deity, but it is by dint of man’s social nature and of the interdependence that exists between all people and all things.
There is also to be said when it comes to knowledge from this perspective. No one starts off with knowledge, and it is only by our interface with the world around us that we acquire it. Without, you can have all of the strength, desire and will in the world and still amount to nothing more than a mighty slave. You’ll be driven forward by desire, strength, and willpower, but without intellect and wisdom you will lack awareness of your surroundings, and you will be unable to guide your own destiny. And since learning depends being able to receive knowledge from the outside world, from your peers, and from there a healthy society, it will be impossible for the individual to gain knowledge and wisdom and from there emancipate oneself outside the remit of sociation.
To summarize my point, the dichotomy between individualism and collectivism melts away when you consider not only the social nature of human beings, but also mutuality and cooperative societal relations as the basis for proper societal freedom and liberty. Or, perhaps…..
This has been the first in the series of posts where I attempt to deconstruct the common dualistic frameworks we imbibe ourselves in. I apologize in advance for taking so long to post this, along with anything else for that matter. I will be working on the next post in that series, but in between I would like to release some posts I have been planning for a while as well as talk about new developments concerning The Satanic Temple (which will likely be the next thing I write about after this).