Individualism

by Dominique Venner

Europe since earliest antiquity has always been ruled by the idea that each individual is inseparable from his community, clan, tribe, people, city, empire, to which he is linked by a bond more sacred than life itself. This unquestioned belief, of which the Iliad offers the oldest and most poetic expression, took various forms. Think of the worship of ancestors for whom the city owed its existence, or the loyalty to the prince who was its visible expression.

The first threat was introduced by the individualism of early Christianity. The idea of a personal god emancipated men from the hitherto unquestioned authority of ethnic gods of the city. Yet the Church itself reimposed the idea that the individual will could not order things as it pleased.

Yet the seed of a spiritual revolution had been sown. It reappeared unexpectedly in the religious individualism of the Reformation. In the following century, the rationalist idea of absolute individualism was developed forcefully by Descartes (“I think, therefore, I am”). The philosopher also made central the biblical idea of man as the master and possessor of nature. No doubt, in Cartesian thought, man was subject to the laws of God, but God set a very bad example. Unlike the ancient gods, He was not dependent on a natural order anterior and superior to him. He was the single all-powerful and arbitrary creator of all things, of life and nature itself, according to His sole discretion. If this God was a creator free of all limits, then why not man, who is made his image, as well?

Set in motion by the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, this idea has no known limits. In it lies what we call “modernity.” This idea assumes that man is his own creator and he can recreate the world as he pleases. There is no other principle than the will and pleasure of each individual. Consequently, the legitimacy of a society no longer depends on its compliance with the eternal laws of the ethnos. It depends only on the momentary consent of individual wills. In other words, society is legitimate only as a contract resulting from a free agreement between parties who are pursuing their own advantage.

Still, despite this individualistic and materialistic logic, we have long maintained communal ties of birth and fatherland and all the obligations these imply. These ties have been progressively destroyed across Europe in the decades following World War II, while the triumphant consumer society arrived from the United States. Like other European countries, France has gradually ceased to be a nation (based on nationality, common birth) to become an aggregate of individuals united by their pleasures or the ideas they have of their interests. The former obligation to “serve” has been replaced by the general temptation to “serve oneself.” This is the logical consequence of the principle that founds society solely on human rights, thus on each individual’s interests.

And now, before our eyes, this repulsive logic faces a revolt from the depths. We are witnessing the unexpected awakening of all those who, through atavistic reflexes, feel deep down that unquestionable ancestry is what make a clan, a people, or a nation.

(Excerpted from a Counter-Currents article)

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. While I for one can certainly agree with the general sentiment of this article and especially this quote:

    “And now, before our eyes, this repulsive logic faces a revolt from the depths. We are witnessing the unexpected awakening of all those who, through atavistic reflexes, feel deep down that unquestionable ancestry is what make a clan, a people, or a nation. “

    still, I would like to play the part of the “devil’s advocate” here and state that the Catholic Church, at least, (if not most Christians) would argue that this quote:

    “If this God was a creator free of all limits, then why not man, who is made his image, as well?”

    is incorrect in that (so the argument would run, say from a Jesuit ) “God is not free of all limits in that since he created the laws of nature and the universe itself, he set limits for Himself and He cannot violate His own laws”. This is the argument that I have heard put forth in the past from Catholic priests regarding the idea that God is “free of all limits”.

    I would like to respond further Chechar, but I just had surgery to my left hand and typing this is difficult to say the least. But so the argument would go, that Mr. Venner is writing starting from a false assumption and so the whole of the article would be dismissed as invalid.

    • Thank you for your input. I can only hope that your hand will fully heal soon (yesterday I also experienced a minor surgery but the aftereffects of the anesthesia are a little bothersome).


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