The Other Half of Socialism: Independence from Our Fellow Man

There is a latent and relatively unknown element of socialism we've all been living through during the coronavirus lockdowns: independence from all forms of social attachment.

To properly identify this tenet of socialism, we must understand how socialism came to exist in both its modern iterations and its ideological inception.  We must look at the work and thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Rousseau is the godfather and patron saint of not just socialism, but all liberalism.

In his most celebrated work, The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau outlined his plan for the best method of governing human beings.  The name he gave his form of government is "the general will."  The general will is Rousseau's nomenclature for big government.

            One of Rousseau's goals in crafting the general will was not just dependence on the government, but independence from our fellow man.  In one of the most famous passages of The Social Contract, Rousseau wrote:

In order that the social contract shall be no empty formula it tacitly implies that obligation which alone can give force to all the others: namely that anyone who refuses obedience to the General Will is forced to do it by the whole body.  This means nothing less than he will be forced to be free.  For this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his countrymen secures him against all personal dependence.

 Rousseau desired to free man of all dependency relationships.  If the people are not willing participants, the government will force them to be free.

A dependency relationship is not a complicated academic term.  What Rousseau meant is any relationship we have with someone else that makes any sort of dependence — depending on someone or being depended on.  He found all dependency relationships corrupting and enslaving.  Rousseau explained the problem of dependency relationships in The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755):

On the other hand, although man had previously been free and independent, we find him, so to speak, subject, by virtue of a multitude of fresh needs, to all of nature and particularly to his fellowmen, whose slave in a sense he becomes even in becoming their master; rich, he needs their services; poor, he needs their help; and being midway between wealth and poverty does not put him in a position to get along without them.

Dependency relations are enslaving because these relationships create obligations, and any form of obligation is upsetting to Rousseau.  Read this interpretation from Judith Shklar (a scholar of Rousseau) of Rousseau's view of dependency relationships: "He adored liberty and could endure no constraint, no discomfort and no subjugation whatsoever.  Moreover, all society was a form of enslavement for him, since it inevitably forced him to do something he did not feel like doing."  Rousseau wanted to live a life free from any obligations and duties.  He was really advocating for hedonistic self-indulgence masquerading as the quest for equity through big government.

The general will is Rousseau's effort at freeing man from all social relations and any form of dependence and obligation.  The only dependence that is acceptable to him is dependence on the government.  After all, that's an enormous goal of the general will.  Rousseau knew that it was "therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to express itself, that there should be no partial society within the state, and that each citizen should think only his own thoughts."  There can be no intermediary bodies between the individual and the state.  The church, the family unit, trade unions, our schools, the parent-teacher association, bowling leagues, flag football teams, the Scouts, gymnasiums, and our bars and social clubs all create dependency relationships that are incongruent with the dependency-free goal of the general will.

As each of our intermediary bodies disappears, its authority and function are absorbed by the state.  The state then grows larger and ever more present in our lives.  One term for this ever-growing government is "the leviathan."  The growth of the leviathan and the dwindling of our middle institutions is the thrust of so many books lamenting and singing the elegy of our vanishing communities.

Ask the average person how he would feel if all his intermediary associations disappeared, or worse, were made illegal.  It would be a permanent reminder of what our lives were like in the early months of 2020 with the lockdowns from the coronavirus.

No intermediary bodies, no attachments or dependency relationships, while simultaneously being completely alienated is the other half of socialism that's so infrequently recognized or discussed.  Socialism is not only about dependence on the government, but about independence from our fellow man.  Rousseau — and his socialist disciples — want us secluded and estranged from our friends, families, churches, places of business, and places of leisure.

The next time the government intercedes in your personal social life, this is the essence of socialism.  Socialists want us not only dependent on the government, but also independent from our social attachments.

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