| up a level
from the pox-populi dept.
St. Paul spoke up on the Hill of Mars
The arguments against collectivism can be divided into two tiers.
The first objects to the constraints that the collective places upon the individual. The writings of Ayn Rand and the views of many Libertarians serve as examples.
It is also true, however, that the interests of individuals can constrain or harm the interests of the collective. Unbridled consumerism, for instance, puts a strain on the environment we all share. The pursuits of the wealthy and powerful, if unchecked, disadvantage the masses with ever-growing inequity. For the individualist critic of collectivism, though, these concerns are either non-issues or are to be solved through an even greater focus on self-interest.
The second tier of arguments recognizes that a balance is needed between individual and collective interests, but observes that collective "fair play," empowering everyone to have a voice, is not itself sufficient for the integration and sustainability of the whole. This view recently came to my attention through writings associated with the Spiral Dynamics system (I know, I know: there I go again), particularly discussions on the SD mailing list on the subject of the "Mean Green Meme" (roughly, oppressive collectivism), and Ken Wilbur's insightful (if somewhat lengthy) analysis of "Boomeritis", or the "combination of pluralistic relativism and emotional narcissism."
The key distinction between the two tiers is that, while both value the needs of the individual, only one remains aware of the legitimate concerns of the collective.
The idea of the Open Society attempts to address individualist and collectivist concerns in one framework. But it does not address the issues raised by the second tier, "systems view," argument. What appears to be needed are ways to have our best ideas and solutions come to the fore without ignoring the collectivist critique of the concentration of power into the hands of the few.
Thelema's opposition to collectivism can be (and often is) viewed as parallel to that of Ayn Rand's. But I prefer to see it as inclusive of the objections raised against tyranny, and thus more similar to the second-tier arguments of Wilber and Spiral Dynamics.
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