Tuesday 28 July 2015

The destruction of civil society by the Left

Going back to the early 1990s, there emerged a considerable literature and a political movement concerned with Civil Society - which was the layer of organized social life between the government and the family: churches, professions and guilds, charities and clubs and the like.

This movement came in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and most of its satellites and colonies in 1989, and the break up of that empire into 'democratic' nations. The idea was that totalitarianism had been characterized by the destruction of civil society (either annihilation - as with many Christian churches, or take over by the state).

By contrast, civil society was seen as a vital characteristic of a healthy and free society - the idea that Men should have forms of organization that were substantially autonomous was seen as both efficient and also morally necessary.

The idea was that civil societies should be encouraged in the emerging nations of central and Eastern Europe - and indeed elsewhere - so that they might become Free as the West was Free.

What we have seen instead has been the near-complete destruction of civil society in the West - and the process has been all but un-remarked and un-noted as a general phenomenon. Almost all forms of human association have been brought under control of the state, most are irrelevant, participation in civil society is very low and feeble, many churches, professions social hobby groups been severely weakened or become extinct.

By the criteria of 25 years ago, objectively this means The West is not free, and is instead totalitarian.

It happened by a different mechanism than under Soviet Communism - which used direct suppression, making institutions illegal, confiscating their assets. imprisoning their leaders etc. In the West the imposition of totalitarianism was a mixture of subsidy-control and strangulation by regulation.

But if its implementation has been far more successful and complete; the motivation in the West was exactly the same as it was in the USSR - the motivation of Leftist totalitarianism - that there should be one ideology, and that ideology should be imposed by the state.

But of course the modern New Leftist, politically correct ideology is a very different beast than the utopian Socialism of a century ago. Both are destructive of good - destructive of marriage, the family, churches, professions, guilds, self-education, self-organization... all forms of voluntary autonomous cooperation...

But the Soviets wanted to harness the liberated resources and energies to build utopia; whereas the modern Social Justice Warriors have no utopia in mind - they simply want to destroy that which they oppose. And they have succeeded.

At first social institutions are indeed co-opted to the New Left project, usually by subsidies in return for conformity - but sooner or later the external takeover will destroy the institution, because once made-over to fit in with regulations over membership, politically correct objectives, and working in an environment increasingly onerous in terms of regulations and restrictions - the organization all-but loses its proper function, and instead operate merely as a branch of the state civil administration, just another organization dedicated in its essence to inclusion, equality, diversity...

So clubs are closed, churches and charities dwindle or disappear, organized group hobbies are abandoned - the population uses its leisure simply on being entertained, drinking, eating, plugging into the mass media.

The population are atomized, demoralized, demotivated, unable to think or act for themselves. Which is just how Leftism want them to be: because when there is no organization with autonomy - there is no threat.

Note: It needs to be recognized that inclusion, equality and diversity are negative and destructive concepts. They do not point to any end-point - there is no conceivable state of affairs which is inclusive, equal and diverse - so a 'justice' based on such ideals is always and necessarily destructive of whatever is.


Dave said...

The difference between chemistry and biology is the cell membrane. Chemical reactions convert one molecule to another, but a cell membrane confines that molecule for use in another reaction, and keeps out other molecules that might interfere with this process. Most antibiotics work by puncturing this membrane, allowing the cell's resources to disperse into a lifeless soup of random molecules.

Government does exactly this to civil society. By telling a club who it must accept as a members, what it may spend money on, etc., it dissolves the boundary between club and non-club, thus turning everything into non-club.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dave - What an arresting metaphor!