Individualism and human rights, the loss of the social being.
My starting point appears to be an inescapable conception, provided that it presents a major difficulty for social science and humanities disciplines: in the course of its long-term development, modern ideology by making the individual (the autonomous subject) the ultimate value, has rendered society itself less and less conceivable. Ever since the Middle Ages, and most notably since the Enlightenment, society, experienced and understood as a whole, has been gradually and continuously devalued, if not completely wiped out. The outcome of this slow progression is that society is now considered as a simple collection of individuals, a ‘pile of sand grains’. We, contemporaries, place the ultimate value on the individual, we worship Human Rights and defend them as our dearest homeland, we consider that our preferences are reasonably founded as they have been crowned by a certain success in the West, in the East and even in the far East, we use this ideology and its foundations as tools –held to be superior to all others, even scientifically- for describing societies in general and often, alas, for our disposal in accordance with our preferences.
However one may ask oneself, at a more fundamental level, whether being human does not simply imply belonging to a community. Undoubtedly, the defence of the Human Rights may lead one to see a danger in an understanding of societies as coherent totalities, which may finally be regarded as oppressive.
But is the reverence for the human rights truly incompatible with the judgement that societies, as such, on their own, also deserve respect? To deny this respect means spurning all differences, all specific cultural identities. Worse yet, the refusal to take into account this common social dimension inherent of the human condition, far from offering protection against totalitarian deviations, this refusal may lead to them. The intention which wants to see nothing but individuals alone often presumes a destructive madness. On the contrary, a sense of belonging to humanity and of slowly constructing the foundations of a planetary society often offers a renewal and a force based on a prior confirmation of specific local identities which, once consolidated, become supports for the emergence of a supplementary greater identity on a larger scale. Daniel de Coppet Continue reading