John Stuart Mill on Societyism vs. Individualism

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture
Submitted by Kyrel Zantonavitch on Sun, 2017-09-03 02:35

Individuals frequently, voluntarily, and freely come together to form societies, or temporary groups and collectives, for their own benefit. Individuals also frequently, properly, and by right leave those societies, or allow them to disintegrate, when they no longer serve their interests. Such collectives can include a small circle of friends, a country club, a large social organization, a mass movement, or even a nation-state. But in every instance it's the various individuals involved, acting singly, which make or break the subservient, provisional, always-temporary groups. Thus the individual is the fundamental unit, or foundation, of society. It isn't the family, or tribe, or society itself, which is most important or fundamental in human life.

Unfortunately the philosophy, culture, lifestyle, and attitude of Enlightenment liberalism -- which nourished and uplifted the Holy Individual to a previously unknown extent -- was well in decline by the mid-1800s. This reverse in human progress was carefully analyzed by the flawed, but still powerful, liberal, theorist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). In his seminal 1859 book On Liberty this philosophical and political thinker took note of the profound decline of liberalism in Western Civilization and observed that: "the tendency of all the changes taking place in the world is to strengthen the society, and diminish the power of the individual."

This wasn't just a matter of mid-1800s Western intellectualism valuing the rather-nonexistent, collective society above the very-real, individual person -- and energetically promoting it in popular culture -- but also of the government coercively imposing these false values and evil ideals. As Mill saw it: "there is also in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the power of society over the individual, both by force of opinion and even by that of legislation."

The most powerful philosophical and political destroyers of liberalism in that era, such as Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Engels, were ostensibly pro-reason and pro-science, and thus against religion. But they sought a mental and psychological subjugation of the individual -- placing him beneath his derivative society -- which was unprecedented in the 2600-year history of philosophy and belief. It went well beyond mere monotheism, such as Christianity and Islam.

As Mill saw it: "some of these modern reformers who have placed themselves in strongest opposition to the religions of the past, have no way been behind either churches or sects in their assertion of the right of spiritual domination." Ultimately, the enemies of the philosophy, culture, lifestyle, and attitude of Enlightenment liberalism are: "aiming at establishing...a despotism of society over the individual surpassing anything contemplated in the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient philosophers."