So on Wednesday, November 13, Ben Storey of Furman will talk at BERRY COLLEGE on TOCQUEVILLE AND BIOTECHNOLOGY. There will also be a seminar/light dinner featuring Ben, my TECHNOLOGY class, and some others after the lecture. If you want to be part of the seminar, please let me know. You can reach me either by email or by locating the event’s FACEBOOK page.

Carl, in the thread below, rightly accuses Patrick Deneen of promiscuously conflating various meanings of INDIVIDUALISM to suggest that the HISTORY of America is an unfolding that begins with the Lockean Founding and ends with the hyper-statism of schoolmarmishly intrusive soft despotism.

When I teach Tocqueville, I actually spend time explaining what Tocqueville doesn’t mean by INDIVIDUALISM: He certainly doesn’t mean the aggressive conquest of nature, the Marlboro Man, Clint Eastwood, being a Protestant, being a TRANSHUMANIST, restlessly expanding the frontier of civilization or science, Emerson or Thoreau, Epicurean “serenity now,” being free to work to meet one’s own needs, being bourgeois, being entrepreneurial, being a wack-job Randian, or consenting to government to secure one’s own rights. Tocqueville accounts for all those other meanings of individualism. They’re just not what he means by individualism.

Now you could say all those other, mostly aggressive forms of individualism eventually devolve into the apathetic passivity or emotional narrowness of Tocquevillian individualism. But that requires a big argument, one that Tocqueville himself doesn’t explicitly affirm.

If you wanted to have a Tocquevillian THREE WAVE theory (and who, beginning with Socrates, doesn’t love THOSE): The intensely personal LOVE and hate of ARISTOCRACY devolves into the weaker and more passive (because more general or diffuse) COMPASSION of early DEMOCRACY. Democratic compassion eventually morphs into INDIFFERENCE. Under “late democracy” (in the spirit of “late capitalism”) INDIFFERENCE or INDIVIDUALISM (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) becomes a virtue, hate (and by implication love) become crimes, and the cognitive elite that rules has no emotional connection to those they rule (see Tyler Cowen). From this point of view, individualism is not the emotional judgment of the dependents, but of those with money and power but no class (see Tocqueville’s chapter on how aristocracy might return to democracy). These waves could help Patrick’s case out a lot, although it’s a WAVISM I only half-believe in.

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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