5.11.2010

Unnatural Relations I

Modern political theory, beginning popularly with men like Lock, Hobbes, and Rousseau, understands the origin of political associations as a thoroughly unnatural process that must be artificially constructed by man in order to ensure his well-being, however defined. The story runs as thus:

Individuals who have no prior relations with each other must form political bonds because they cannot sustain themselves otherwise. For Locke, men can more easily secure their property and their rights if they enter into contractual governance. For Hobbes, men must place their security in the hands of the absolute sovereign.

Since this time, we have had a myriad of ideologies seeking to enforce upon us a particular structure which emphasizes either the state at the expense of the individual (socialism, communism, collectivism, modern liberalism) or the individual at the expense of the state (capitalism, anarchism, classical liberalism, modern conservatism). Politics is seen as a sort of balancing act between the two exclusive actors of the state and the individual. Which side do you fall on?

Well, the answer that a normal human being should give is "Who says that individuals have no prior relations with one another?! Of course we do!" All modern political philosophy, to use an inappropriate analogy, thinks that Humpty Dumpty has fallen and broken into a million pieces, and each political/economic ideology wants to put him back together again according to their own crazy set of blueprints. The truth, of course, is that there will never be a time when people truly consider themselves as free and utterly separate "individuals" with no prior spheres of obligations to family, friends, and broader clans (racial or cultural). All men are either fathers, brothers, or sons, and all women are either mothers, sisters, or daughters; and this relational set only covers the nuclear family!

To be continued...

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