Monday, February 09, 2015

Betraying the Enlightenment I: individual freedom.

We have decided to briefly betray one Enlightenment value each day*. Today's Enlightenment value which we shall be betraying is individual freedom.
The locus of individual freedom in classical liberal philosophy is the soul, be it spirit or matter. The willing soul corresponds to the legal personality who is accorded certain freedoms.
Yet what is the material basis of this soul? Nothing other than the social relations established under the capitalist mode of production which uproots agents from structures of fealty and bondage and isolates them in a matrix of competitive relations.
The corresponding politico-legal iteration of this is the individual. The individual only enters into relations of authority or hierarchy on the basis of contract, freely entered into. It does not matter as such that many of the most important contracts, such as those between family and child, or between citizen and state, are forged before the subject is born, since a responsible adult can make free and willing decisions on the unborn child's behalf. Indeed, they must, because free and willing decision-making is required as a presupposition of the contractual relation.
To see that there is nothing perverse about this, one need only remember that no contract is ever strictly voluntary. All consent is conditioned and all consenting beings are in some way coerced. Hence Marx's apparent paradox: "the wage-labourer . . . is compelled to sell himself of his own free will."
This is not an imperfectly realised individual freedom; it is the essence of individual freedom as the product not of some pristine Enlightened thought, but of coercive and exploitative relations of production.
So there we have it: individual freedom is bullshit. I spit on your individual freedom. All power to the barbarians.
*Do YOU have an Enlightenment value you'd like to see betrayed? Please leave a message below, or call our hotline.