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Printed in The Modern Subject, ed. by Siri Meyer & Otto M.

Christensen, Bergen, 1996: Center for the Study of European Civilization (Kulturtekster 6), 63-92.

INDIVIDUALISM vs. HOLISM The Story of a Dichotomy and its Relation to Social Reality
Otto Martin Christensen

The relationship between social theory and socal reality may be discussed from various perspectives. In the following I will attempt to apply a "symptomal" perspective. More precisely: I intend to investigate the possible insights one may reach by considering the development on the level of philosophical (mainly socio-philosophical) theories as a symptom of the development taking place on the level of social practice. In conclusion I will evaluate the usefulness of the perspective I have applied. The phenomenon that I intend to illuminate within the symptomal perspective I have chosen, is the individualism which, it is widely believed, has become increasingly obvious in the sphere of European culture ever since the Renaissance. In very general terms one may define "individualism" as an increase in the importance attached to the individual human being at the expense of over-individual phenomena. At the outset we may note that this emphasis on the individual is both of a theoretical and a practical nature. Individualism on the level of social practice has developed simultaneously with theories that focus on the individual. However, the overall development is obviously more complex than that: while increasing individualism on the practical level has been supported by some philosophers, it has also generated a counter-reaction on the level of theory. Hence, we can in general terms distinguish between two groups of theories regarding the relationship between the individual and the social, which are clearly contrastive, and which Louis Dumont characterizes in this way: may contrast 'organic' theories... with 'mechanical' theories...In order to distinguish between them, one may attempt to establish which of the two concepts is given primary value, whether it is the totality...or the basic individual. Accordingly, one can talk about 'holism' and 'individualism'.1

During and after the Renaissance the development on the level of theory was for some time characterized by an increasing individualism that contrasted sharply with the holism that had been dominant in the Middle Ages. To the scholastics it was God, and not individuals, that constituted the community a community which one imagined as universal and therefore gave the appropriate Latin name of universitas. A decisive element in the growth of individual-oriented theories in the Renaissance is the development that occurs with the extension of the very concept of 'individual': it is gradually transformed so as to include only human individuals, which was not the case in the Middle Ages. As Norbert Elias writes: "The medieval concept of individuum ... was not at all related to human beings only". On this background Elias asks: "How come that the recognition of the singularity of all particulars, that was represented by the scholastic concept of individuality, was restricted, so that the concept of individuality in the end only was related to the singularity of human beings?"2 In his attempt
Louis Dumont, "La catgorie politique et l'tat partir du XIIIe sicle", Essais sur l'individualisme, Paris: Seuil, 1983, p. 69. I will draw heavily on the terminological distinctions established by Dumont: 'organic' vs. 'mechanical', and 'holism' vs. 'individualism'. In both cases these are of course familiar distinctions, and as for the former, Dumont refers to T.D. Weldon, States and Morals, London 1946, as his primary source. All further reference to Dumont will be to this article. All quotations from French or German texts are translated from the original by the author. All references to such works will be to the indicated editions in the original language. 2 Norbert Elias, "Wandlungen der Wir-Ich-Balance", Die Gesellschaft der Individuen, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1988, p. 216. All further reference to Elias will be to this text.

to answer this question, Elias applies a symptomal perspective similar to the one that I have indicated. His answer may briefly be summed up thus: in the early years of the Renaissance the social development in leading European nations enabled more and more people to step out of various forms of traditional associations and start competing for higher social positions than their backgrounds formerly would have permitted. As part of this new situation of competition, people from an increasing number of social levels felt the need to emphasize their individual particularity, and on the conceptual level this need was met by making the extension of the concept of the individual narrower than the scholastics had done: the concept of the individual came gradually to include human individuals only. The enterprising individual soon found a number of supportive philosophers, but before long the philosophical opposition also appeared on the scene. In the following I will first briefly discuss the contract theory, whose advocates on the whole may be regarded as supporters of the modern individual. I then intend to show how Rousseau appears as a half-hearted opponent of the mainstream of this theory, which leads up to a presentation of the wholehearted opposition which is made up of the holistic reaction that followed in the wake of the French Revolution. Contractualism as Individualism On the basis of the social development suggested through Elias's description, the community is on the philosophical level increasingly constructed as an "association" of individuals. One no longer imagines the community as a divinely warranted universitas, but as a mechanically construed societas, held together by secular powers. With Dumont one may say that the concept of the community as an association pure et simple gradually gains support in the course of the Renaissance. This concept is a familiar element of modern theories on natural rights, which are developed inside of the framework of the contract theory as an answer to what Dumont calls the "primary problem" of this theory. According to Dumont the primary problem is " establish society or the ideal state on the basis of a 'natural' individual"3.The problem is solved by constituting society on the basis of a "contract". The concept of the contract is presented as a means to tie together in a stable community what one imagines are the particular individuals of the natural state. It is based on the idea that the individuals are "associated" in a community, and that the community therefore is something which is "instituted". The contract thus appears as a "contract of association" and the community as something into which the individuals enter "as into any kind of voluntary association".4 In the field of political philosophy contractualism represents a theory of mechanically established association, which corresponds to the empiricist theory of psychological association within epistemology. Many people have pointed out that it is hardly a coincidence that these theories appeared simultaneously in the wake of the mechanistic view of nature. We may note that they became particularly dominant in the English-speaking countries, and are often connected within the theoretical constructions of one and the same thinker (as is typically the case with Hobbes and Locke). The fact that psychology and the social sciences have important historical roots in empiricism and contractualism respectively, may help explain why these sciences, especially within the domain of the English language, have developed an obvious mechanistic profile. As Dumont writes about the contract theory and its influence in modern social sciences:

3 4

Dumont, p. 84. Dumont, p. 84.

3 Societas ...has here the limited meaning of 'association' and evokes a contract by which the basic individuals have been 'associating' themselves into a society. This way of thinking corresponds to a widespread tendency within the modern social sciences, namely to consider society as made up of individuals that are regarded as primary in relation to groups or relationships that they more or less voluntarily are constituting or 'producing' among themselves.5

However, the associative psychology of the empiricists is not the only phenomenon within epistemology that may be regarded as a symptomal expression of individualism. It is tempting to view Descartes in the same perspective, as Elias does:
Descartes's cogito, with its decisive emphasis on the ego, was precisely a sign of the changing position of the individual human being within society. While thinking, Descartes could forget all the 'we-relations' of his own person".6

The tendency towards solipsism that we can see inter alia in Descartes is an expression of the pervasive basic problem of the modern age, says Elias, "...from the early modern period...this basic problem of man, experiencing his utter loneliness..., demonstrates an extraordinary ability to survive through the centuries".7 Hence, this is a general trend in modern philosophy:
It is a general characteristic of a mighty philosophical tradition from classical epistemology to more recent metaphysical philosophies, whether mainly transcendental, existentialist or phenomenological in approach, that its advocates take their starting point in the concept of man as an originally isolated individual.8

The project of the contract theory built on the concept of society as an "association" of originally singular individuals is by Dumont considered a characteristic representative of a type of modern thinking which he maintains has its theoretical roots in the nominalism of the late Middle Ages, and which he characterizes as theoretical artificialisme. Dumont links this in particular to the most fundamental precondition of the contract theory: its point of departure is the presupposition that man is not a social being, but a self-sufficient entity; in other words, the individual is considered logically primary in relation to the community. This leads to the conclusion that:
...the fundamental principles of the constitution of the state (and of society) must be extracted or deduced from intrinsic properties and qualities of man considered as an autonomous being, independent of all social and political attachments.9

According to the contract theory, then, it is each single individual with his intrinsic properties primarily his "rationality" that provides the basis for the community. Reason dictates that the individual should yield to a superior power some of the absolute power which he possesses in his natural state, simply because this serves his self-interest. In other words, it is most rational to obey your self-interest. This is an idea that undoubtedly has impressed itself on modern man. The fact that rationality in the modern age tends to become a servant to self-interest is formulated thus by Simmel:

Dumont, p. 82. Elias, p. 264. We may also note that Elias employs the term "sign" (Zeichen) in the same way as I use the term "symptom". 7 Elias, p. 265. 8 Elias, p. 312, footnote 7. 9 Dumont, p. 81.

4 The general opinion is that in practical no less than in theoretical issues the ego is the obvious foundation and inevitably primary interest; unselfish motives do not appear in the same way natural and primordial, but secondary and somehow artificially implanted. The result is that acting in self-interest is regarded as strictly and simply the 'logical' thing to do.10

Simmel considers the philosophical emphasis on the individual's self-interest to be a symptom of a specific phenomenon on the practical level: not surprisingly, it is money that in his Philosophy of Money is considered the leading agent for self-interest in practice. On the background of elements from Dumont, Elias and Simmel, and with a little help from Marx, my tentative story of the indidividualism/holism dichotomy may thus be summed up as follows: In the modern age individuals are to an increasing extent thrown back on themselves and their self-interests as a result of the accelerating development of the capitalist monetary economy and its corollary social mobility. In other words: because capitalism tends to dissolve alles Stndische und Stehende, as Marx said, the individuals are liberated not only in relation to a divine order, as represented by a powerful church the Middle Ages, but also in relation to over-individual instances within the secular sphere: traditional ties to family, guild and native region are loosened. This leads to a situation in which human beings face each other as singular individuals in a struggle for advantageous social positions. And the contract theory with its individualist presuppositions as expressed in the concept of the natural state that consisted of self-sufficient individuals may be considered a symptom of that liberation of the individual from traditional ties which has been taking place since the Renaissance. Rousseau's ambivalence Since the contract philosophers take their starting point in the single individual and his selfinterest, they may generally be considered theoretical supporters of the development taking place in social reality, characterized by the liberation of the individuals from traditional overindividual ties (church, family, guild, etc.), and therefore also from over-individual interests. However, a philosophical opposition to this development gradually begins to appear. In the 17th century this opposition may be seen in the almost manic fixation of the French moralists on a phenomenon for which they coined the expression l'amour-propre (it was first used in 1609). It is hardly coincidental that it is an author of high social standing that appears as the foremost representative of the criticism against this "self-love" the nobleman La Rochefoucauld.11 Even though his maxims are often taken as an expression of a highly cultivated cynicism a kind of apology for egotism , most facts seem to indicate that his ideals sprang from a completely different source than from the self-love that he describes so thoroughly. On the basis of the correspondence between La Rochefoucauld and the Jansenist Jacques Esprit it would seem that Augustin is one of La Rochefoucauld's most important guiding stars. Jansenism was based on Jansenius's book Augustinus (1640), and it exerted its greatest influence precisely during La Rochefoucauld's lifetime. Pascal was a convinced Jansenist, and he supported the more mundane moralists in their criticism of l'amour-propre. On this background it is possible to see this concept as a French variety of Augustinus' amor sui, a term which in his De civitate Dei refers to a self-centred attitude related to an adherence to the
G. Simmel, Philosophie des Geldes (1900), Frankf. a. M. 1989: Suhrkamp, p. 605. The fact that "self-love" (l'amour-propre) to La Rochefoucauld is more or less equivalent to "self-interest" (l'intrt) appears from the following maxim (which due to its literary quality is quoted in the original): "Ce que les hommes ont nomm amiti n'est qu'une societ, qu'un mnagement rciproque d'intrts, et qu'un change de bons offices; ce n'est enfin qu'un commerce ou l'amour-propre se propose toujours quelque chose gagner", Maximes et Rflections diverses, Maxime no. 83. L'amour-propre and l'intrt are among La Rochefoucauld's most frequently used words: they appear in 33 and 36 of his maxims, respectively.
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worldly state an attitude which Augustin regards as the most grievous of sins. Does this mean that the complaints of the moralists against man's selfishness is nothing else than a continuation of a more than 1000-year-old tradition of religious philosophy? This connection appears plausible, but I will still claim that it does not prevent theoretical models and concepts from this tradition from being used in an attempt to deal with the impulses that the modern age brought with it an assumption that appears even more plausible since the moralists themselves, as indicated, belonged to very mundane circles, and therefore were in contact with, and were strongly influenced by this recent development: it led to a social mobility which the moralists, as advocates for traditionally privileged groups, considered threatening and interpreted as a deplorable decline. Manfred Schneider comments on this:
...the many signs of distinction have suddenly become accessible to everyone, and the emblems of aristocracy are spreading with inflationary speed to the habitus of all classes....The political revolution, that in the first half of the 17th century had removed the old nobility [Waffenadel, i.e. noblesse d'epe] from its dominating position, is the background for the bitterness and scepticism with which La Rochefoucauld deplores the raving rule of the others.12

Somewhat later Rousseau ostentatiously enters the stage. In his two Discourses on the sciences and the arts (1750) and on the origin of inequality (1755) he mercilessly criticizes the direction in which civilization is developing. In this criticism he draws on the contract theory as opposed to his predecessors among the moralists , but certainly not unconditionally. In line with what I have said about the symptomal relation of the contract theory to social practice, he maintains that the alleged natural state which is presented by the advocates of this theory is nothing but a disguised version of existing social conditions.13 Rousseau blames Hobbes for having encumbered man in his natural state (l'homme sauvage) with "a multitude of passions produced by society".14 The individuals' fixation on their self-interests i.e. what Rousseau like the moralists calls man's self-love appears in such a perspective as a result of a social development and not as a natural inclination, as in Hobbes:
Self-love (l'amour-propre) is only a relative emotion, artificial and born in society, which makes each individual make more of himself than of others, and inspires men to harm each other mutually.15

In his frustration over civilisation's detrimental effect on man the power of self-love is a very serious instance of this Rousseau makes in The Social Contract a theoretical attempt to establish a new and better society. He realized the impossibility of "a return to nature" in any real sense, and therefore he attempts in The Social Contract to establish a theoretical foundation for the introduction of a social condition which is cleansed of the accumulated ciM. Schneider, La Rochefoucauld und die Aporien des Selbsterkenntnis, Merkur 42: 1988 (p. 730-741), p. 737. Inter alia in the works of La Bruyre, the most competent of La Rochefoucauld's heirs in the tradition of French moralists, we may see how that decline that La Rochefoucauld deplores is connected to the growing influence of monetary power. (Again, I have chosen to quote the passage in the original): "Il y a des mes sales, ptries de boue et d'ordure, prises du gain et d'intrt...; capables d'une seule volupt, qui est celle d'aqurir ou de non point perdre;... uniquement occups de leurs dbiteurs; toujours inquites sur le rabais ou sur le dcri des monnais; enfonces et comme abmes dans les contrats, les titres et les parchemins. De telles gens ne sont ni parents, ni amis, ni citoyens, ni chrtiens, ni peut-tre des hommes: ils ont de l'argent", Les caractres, VI/58. 13 "[The philosophers], incessantly speaking of needs, greed, oppression, desires and pride, have transported to the state of nature ideas which they have taken from society. They have been speaking of natural man while painting civil man", Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'ingalit parmi les hommes (1755), Paris: Gallimard (Folio), 1985, p. 62. 14 Ibid. p. 83. 15 Ibid. p. 149 (footnote XV).

vilized slag of the old society, and therefore takes on the character of a kind of recycled condition of nature. Before I go further into how Rousseau carries out this project in The Social Contract, I will take a closer look at the natural state that he recycles in this work, as it is constructed in the Discourse on the origin of inequality. In the first place, it is obvious that despite his scepticism towards, for instance, Hobbes's construction of the natural state, Rousseau accepts the individualist premise of the contract theory. His man is "by nature" not a social being. The natural state appears to be inhabited by vagrant, but harmless individuals. Secondly, the reason for the harmlessness, and the explanation for why the natural state does not degenerate into a general state of war as in Hobbes, is man's natural compassion (la piti). This serves a very important function in Rousseau's natural state. As an intrinsic human character trait it mediates between the originally isolated individuals, so that a rudimentary kind of community is established despite everything. The community that thus comes into existence is still made up of vagrant individuals, but these are connected through a mutual compassion. It is a kind of "emotional community". In this way Rousseau in his Discourse of 1755 manages after a fashion to solve on the level of the natural state the problem that he in The Social Contract attempts to solve on the level of the civil state, and which he here explicitly formulates as his fundamental problem:
To find a kind of association that with all common powers defends and protects the person and the privileges of each associated member, and within which everyone, being united to all but still obeying only himself, remains just as free as before.16

In this text Rousseau does not establish the community as an emotional community of the natural state, but he attempts to establish it as a political community of the civil state. In order to achieve this, he accepts the established contemporary ideology of rationality: it is no longer la piti that mediates between the separate individuals and creates a foundation for the community, but la volont gnrale (the "general will") that appears as an expression of the universal reason which inhabits each single individual. As a result, the political community of the civil state appears as a "rational community". The fact that Rousseau's The Social Contract was inspired by the significant group of 18thcentury philosophers who still found a firm anchor point in reason, is clearly to be seen in the following quotation:
This passage from the natural to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man by replacing instinct with justice in his behaviour, and by giving his actions the morality which they were formerly lacking. It is only now, the voice of duty supplanting the physical impulses and the right to appetites, that each man, who so far has been considering nobody but himself, sees himself forced to act on other principles and to consult his reason rather than listen to his inclinations. 17

These rather Kantian phrases are at times surpassed by formulations even closer to Kant's:
... to the acquisition of civil society one may add the moral liberty, which alone makes man real master of himself; as being driven solely by the appetites is slavery, and obedience to the law prescribed by oneself is liberty.18

The reason why Rousseau here seems to have an even stronger belief in rationality than was the case in his two Discourses, and hence an even stronger belief in the civilisation that he feels is founded on reason, may be the fact that he now makes a new man the basis of his ar16 17

J. J. Rousseau, Du contrat social (1762), uvres compltes, III, Paris: Gallimard (Pliade), 1985, p. 360. Ibid, p. 364. 18 Ibid, p. 364.

gumentation. Here he advocates the revolutionary belief that it is to change man's "nature" by political means:
He who dares to institute a people has to feel himself able to change, so to speak, human nature; to transform each individual, who is himself a perfect and isolated whole, into a part of a more comprehensive whole from which this individual somehow receives his life and being; to alter the constitution of man in order to strengthen it.19

This idea of "the new man" which we find in The Social Contract, may also be seen as a further development of the idea of man's unlimited perfectibilit which is presented in the Discourse of 1755. Both of these concepts contribute significantly to the ideological basis for the French Revolution. Thus, Rousseau's works, and not least The Social Contract, became an important theoretical source of motivation for the French Revolution; perhaps not so much in the early stages, but correspondingly so much more so later on, when an ideological legitimacy for the new republic was sought. This shows that the movement between the theoretical and the practical levels does not exclusively go in one direction, but that it may go in both directions: even if The Social Contract in itself must be seen as a "negative symptom", i.e. a counterreaction to the development on the level of social practice, it backfired in the direction of the latter level and had a definite influence on the revolutionary vanguard. Conversely, the revolution fully released the theoretical opposition to what was considered as a growing and pernicious individualism. Dumont is one of several prominent representatives for this oppositionin the 20th century.20 Before I go further into the criticism of individualism which appeared in the immediate wake of the revolution, and as a background which will help explain this criticism, I will discuss Dumont's interpretation of the basic concept of Rousseau's The Social Contract, i.e. the general will mentioned above, an interpretation which claims to show why Rousseau is unable consistently to carry through his individualist starting point. In the following paragraph I will first, on my own responsibility, sort out those elements of The Social Contract that are the basis for Dumont's interpretation. Rousseau has problems in providing a satisfactory answer to his basic question in The Social Contract (cf. the quotation above, note 16): it turns out to be difficult to find arguments for why each single individual remains "just as free as before", i.e. as free as in the natural state, after having complied with the general will which is the basis for the community of the civil state. He has problems in explaining the transition from the various self-interests of the individuals (les volonts particulires) which Rousseau gathers in a purely additive concept: the "will of all" (la volont de tous) to the general will of the community (la volont gnrale)21 which according to Dumont appears to be a rather mystical, practically "alchemist" concept. The degree to which Rousseau has problems in establishing this transition, may be illustrated by the following paradoxical formulation: "...those who refuse to obey the general will are going to be constrained by all the others: which simply signifies that they will be forced to be free".22 Like many others, Dumont has commented on the problematic relation between the general will and the wills of the particular individuals in The Social Contract. He maintains that Rousseau, through a thinly disguised crisis manoeuvre, actually has to reverse the relation between the general will and what at the outset seemed to be its constitutive individual wills:
Ibid. p. 381. Elias is another one. This opposition has during the last couple of decades gained impetus from the writings of many famous "communitarians", such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Christopher Lasch. This article may be read as a story of the social and theoretical roots of contemporary communitarianism. 21 Cf. ibid., p. 371. 22 Ibid., p. 364.
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that he in reality makes the general will constitute the particular wills of the individuals, rather than the opposite that Rousseau actually posits the general will before the particular wills. Dumont raises the question why Rousseau in this way was forced to establish the general will as a transcendent instance in relation to the individuals or as a unanimity avant la lettre, if you will. He seeks sociological assistance in order to answer this question, and presents the following quotation from Durkheim:
It is the customs [les moeurs] that represent 'the real constitution of the state'. Thus, the general will is a fixed and constant orientation of the the direction of the general interest.23

In this passage, Durkheim singles out a paragraph from The Social Contract (book II, ch. XII) in which Rousseau does not claim that the "real constitution" of the state is represented by the individuals, but contends that it is based on les moeurs, les coutumes, l'habitude which, according to Durkheim, not only constitute the state, but also the general will. I have suggested above, in agreement with Durkheim and everybody else, that in The Social Contract the political community is founded on the general will, but contrary to Durkheim I suggested that the general will is based on reason, as a natural property of human individuals. These two contradictory interpretations the general will and thereby the legitimacy of the state as constituted by the outer framework of tradition (what Rousseau calls "customs" and "habits") or as constituted by the intrinsic faculties of each individual may both be defended on the basis of different passages in The Social Contract, and this is precisely Dumont's main point: In this work there is a real competition between an individualist and a holistic perspective, but as a child of his time, Rousseau takes the former as his natural starting point, but nevertheless permits the latter to prevail in the end. Let me try to formulate Dumont's point more precisely: On the basis inter alia of the paradoxical formulation that I quoted above (note 22), there is proof that Rousseau finds it problematic to imagine how the will that constitutes the community, provided it springs exclusively from each individual, actually can appear as a volont gnrale, a general will in the real sense, and not just as an accumulated mass of disharmonious individual wills a volont de tous. Hence, in the end he finds himself forced to anchor it in phenomena external to the individual: in "customs". The peculiar unconstrained constraint which Rousseau at times makes the general will exert, is no longer so peculiar when he anchors the general will in the legitimizing weight of traditions. It is only society's given traditions ("customs") that in reality are able to mediate between the particular wills of the individuals. This is the view of Dumont, and he claims that Rousseau actually realized this, too:
[However,] Rousseau obscured this fact by taking the abstract notion of the natural individual as his point of departure, and by presenting the transition to the civil state as a creation ex nihilo of the universitas.24

Post-revolutionary Holism According to Dumont the idea of the "natural individual", as he proposes that Rousseau has inherited it from the contract theory, is an unacceptable abstraction: man is by definition a

Dumont, pp. 99f. Dumont quotes a posthumously published study by Durkheim, Montesquieu et Rousseau prcurseurs de la sociologie, Paris, 1953, pp 166f. 24 Dumont, p. 100. Cf. the following formulation on the same page: "... the universitas into which Rousseau's societas suddenly seems to be transformed is presupposed and exists prior to the societas". I.e., the community of the universitas (and thus the general will) exists ahead of and independently of the individual, because it is rooted in the customs.


social being, so that each individual gains his identity only inside a social context.25 On this point of his criticism of Rousseau's views, Dumont endorses the holistic criticism of the postrevolutionary restoration thinkers, which heavily marked the socio-philosophical landscape of Europe in the 19th century, and has been carried on in our own century by Dumont and many others. The criticism was originally a reaction to the revolution, i.e. to events on the level of social practice, but it often appeared in the shape of a critique of those philosophers who were despised as the revolution's forerunners and collaborators Rousseau among them. Like Dumont, the advocates of this criticism reject the possibility for founding a social community on the intrinsic properties of the individual: Not only do they regard the concept of the individual as an abstraction, they would preferably avoid the term "individual" altogether. When they do make use of it, the word is negatively loaded. Thus, Louis de Bonald is the first to distinguish between "individual" and "person".26 The core of this distinction may tentatively be formulated thus: the human being appears as an "individual" when he no longer experiences traditional ties as obligations, but as restrictions; whilst he appears as a "person" when traditional ties are not experienced as restrictions, but as obligations.27 From de Bonald's point of view, the society which the philosophers of the Enlightenment provided a basis for, and which one attempted to create in social practice as a rational republic through the Revolution, is to be regarded, so to speak, as a collection of disconnected beings a mechanical association of monadic "individuals" who are not connected by any obligations to a tradition, and who for that reason can be accorded a mass of arbitrary "rights". In de Bonald's phrase: "The society of the republic is no longer a general body, but a union of individuals".28 Gradually, many philosophers came to feel the need for a terminological distinction also on an overindividual level: A distinction between a social state which one regarded as a nonbinding mechanical association of "individuals", and a social state which one regarded as a binding organic community of "persons". Bonald did not carry out such a distinction. He made use of societ as a neutral term. As we have seen, Dumont gives mechanical connotations to the the Latin equivalent of this term societas , by emphasizing its etymological connection to the empiricist concept of association. As an organic counterpart to the concept of societas he chooses the medieval universitas. However, in 19th-century France communaut was frequently used as the counterpart of societ. The main point is nevertheless that many philosophers, not just in France, but in all of Europe, felt a strong need to establish a theoretical distinction between holistic societies and individualist societies, by employing various terms which were given, respectively, negative and positive value as a reaction to what one in practical life experienced as a threatening fragmentation. As Dumont writes: "...the need for universitas was felt more strongly than ever by the Romantic individual who inherited the revolution".29

Cf. Dumont, p. 83: "... society, with its institutions, values, concepts and language is primary in relation to its particular members, who become human beings only through education and by adapting to a specific society." 26 In a critique of 18th century philosophy he writes: "[The philosophy of the last century] has ... pulverized the states and the families, where it has seen nothing more than individuals, each having their own rights, and not persons held together by mutual ties", Du perfectionnement de l'homme (1810), cited from the extremely useful anthology edited by A. Laurent, L'individu et ses ennemis, Paris: Hachette (Pluriel), 1987, p. 213. 27 In the 20th century this distinction between "individual" and "person" has been used, for instance, by Emmanuel Mounier, who expresses his anti-individualism by calling his philosophy "personalism" (cf. his Manifeste au service du personnalisme (1935) and La Rvolution personnaliste et communautaire (1935)). The distinction is also taken up by Russian-in-exile Nicolas Berdiaiev (cf. his De l'esclavage et de la libert de l'homme (1939)). 28 Ibid, p. 209. The quoted passage was originally published in Bonald, Theorie du pouvoir politique et religieux (1794). 29 Dumont, p. 108.



Robert Nisbet has the following comment on this relationship: "Thus, the idea of community is opposed to the idea of society... in which reference is to the large-scale impersonal contractual ties that were proliferating in the modern age, often, as it seems, at the expense of community".30 In the classical work here quoted Nisbet shows that the development of sociology in continental Europe may be regarded as the expression of a longing to return to a pre-modern society, which one imagined as an organic community based on close relations and that sociology in its founding phase31 thus is closely connected to the 19th century conservative reaction which was triggered by the revolution. Foremost among the early advocates of this reaction was, besides de Bonald as already discussed, the arch-traditionalist Joseph de Maistre. Comte, who first developed the concept of sociology, represents an immediate further development of the anti-individualist reaction. Also Durkheim, the founder of methodological sociology, is part of this holistic reaction which was initiated by, inter alia de Bonald and de Maistre.32 In the terminology of Nisbet, we may say that many of the basic concepts of sociology turn out to be connected either to the idea of society or to its conceptual opposite: to the idea of community. They are in other words created according to a mechanist/individualist or an organic/holistic theory respectively. The archetypical expression for this distinction is undoubtedly what we find in Tnnies, as a distinction between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft.33 We may note that Dumont in the above links the post-revolutionary yearning for the lost community to the Romantic "individual". This may seem striking on the background of the polemics against the concept of the individual that is part of the holistic tradition he himself represents. However, even if he criticizes the the concept of the individual, he does not permit this to have consequences on the level of terminology, as does for instance de Bonald. Hence, Dumont makes no point of the fact that he employs the term "individual" in the above quotation. I will nevertheless make a point of this or more precisely, I have chosen to make Dumont's application of the term "individual" illustrate a point: Romanticism was inscribed in the holistic reaction. However, there is a paradox in the manner in which individual Romantics more than anybody before them realized in their lives the individualist ideology. (This is of course especially the case for artists, but they undoubtedly represent a general tendency.) They may justly be called Romantic individuals. However, as such they also had a stronger yearning than anybody before them for a return to more organic social conditions in France it was l'ancien rgime which most commonly functioned as the positive reference, while in Germany and Britain it was often the Middle Ages. The
R.A. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, London: Heinemann, 1967, p. 6. As communitarianism today, one may add. 32 It may seen confusing that Durkheim relates the expression "mechanical solidarity" to traditional societies (societies with a low degree of professional specialization) while he relates the expression "organic solidarity" to modern societies. However, Dumont gives this explanation (p. 69): "If compared, the use of the same terms by Weldon (cf. note 1 above) and Durkheim is not contradictory as the terms are applied at different levels, and the apparent inversion is a relation of complementarity: the same modern society that to an unprecedented degree has developed the organic division of work and actual interdependence between people, has also on a moral and political level established each particular human being as an independent and ideally self-sufficient being". 33 From this distinction Tnnies has in turn derived a distinction between Krwille and Wesenwille. This distinction is developed futher by Weber in his typology of actions. Purposive-rational actions may be regarded as expressions of Krwille, and thereby related to Gesellschaft, while the other types of action (value-rational, traditional and affective actions) may be regarded as expressions of Wesenwille and thereby linked to Gemeinschaft. The development of a society in which the purposive-rational type of action is becoming increasingly dominant (in Tnnies's terms: the development from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft) is by Weber characterized as a specifically western phenomenon: what he studies is precisely the development of what may simply be described as the particular Western "rationality", but also, in less value neutral terms, as an Entzauberung der Vernunft. To Simmel this development is characterized by a growing discrepancy between what he terms "objective" and "subjective" culture a development which he frequently studies and describes in dealing with the modern metropolis.
31 30


Romantics were escapists to the past, and not utopists of the future, as the revolutionists had been. My main point is that through their practical obeisance to individualism (which they then compensate through an escape on the imaginary and theoretical level) they appear to be caught in the inherent dynamics of the development that generally characterizes the level of social practice. This development leads to the fact that traditional ties lose their character of obligation: what de Bonald and others term the "individual" prevails over the "person". Those who accept this victory may therefore allow the retrospective holists to carry on their criticism of the modern in peace. As Alain Laurent writes:
If individualism finds very few spokesmen in those times, it is because its adherents consider it to have entered into the normal order of modernity to such a degree that nothing can prevent it from continuing its expansion.34

The Romantic critics of the modern react to a development characterized by changing relations between human beings: the community appears to be dissolving, and one longs back to what one believes to have been the organic society of the past. I choose to see their longing as directed towards a lost community in three different meanings, all of which appear critical of the revolutionary "rational community": (a) First, in accordance with what Rousseau writes in his Discourses, this development is accused of having dissolved the emotional community. There are many examples of this, and in order to illustrate my point I will here discuss the most ambivalent, and perhaps precisely because of his ambivalence, the most clearsighted of all French critics of the modern age: de Tocqueville. He presents the American society as background for his analysis of the development taking place in his native country after the Revolution. In France, too, one will develop a democracy like the American, he says. In Democracy in America he contrasts, through a study of the contemporary American society, "aristocratic societies", which in reality means the immediate past of France, with "democratic societies", which in reality means contemporary America and what he regards as the near future of France. About the former society he writes: "The effect of aristocratic institutions is to produce ties which unite each man firmly to numerous of his fellow citizens".35 The close ties which characterize aristocratic societies are not least of an emotional nature, and tend to dissolve under democracy: "In democratic centuries...devotion to another man is rare: the ties of human affections are extended and loosened".36

A. Laurent, "L'difiante histoire de l'individualisme", Magazine littraire no. 264 (pp. 35-37), p. 36. Here Laurent makes reference to Frdric Bastiat as the only French philosopher who in the aftermath of the Revolution represents "an intellectual answer of importance" to the "hostile rhetoric" of the traditionalists. The situation in Britain is different. Burke is obviously a world class critic of the revolution, but the mechanist/empiricist way of thinking is here so ingrained that the criticism of the modern never reaches the heights it does on the continent. It is a fact that a number of British poets joined the critics of the modern age: Coleridge, Wordsworth and others, but rather in reaction to the ravaging effects of the industrial revolution in Europe's foremost industrial nation than in reaction to the French revolution and other political revolutions that followed it in continental Europe. 35 A. de Tocqueville, De la dmocratie en Amrique, vol. II (1840), Paris: Laffont (Bouquins), 1986, part 2, ch. 2 ("De lindividualisme dans les pays dmocratiques"), p. 496. 36 Ibid., p. 497. In Tocqueville, as in many others, this criticism of the emotional frigidity of the modern age is connected to a criticism of "egotism", and this criticism appears as a continuation of the earlier criticism of "selflove" (the term 'egotisme' appeared in 1755 and gradually supplanted the amour-propre of the moralists). Tocqueville defines egotism as "a passionate and exaggerated love of oneself" as opposed to individualism which he characterizes as "an advised and peaceable emotion". However, at the same time he claims that the difference between egotism and individualism tends to dissappear "as conditions are becoming more equal", i.e. as democracy is developed. "Individualism will in the end be absorbed by egotism", he writes (p. 496).


(b) Secondly, the absence of a moral community is deplored. This absence means that it is impossible to establish a stable political community, since it would have to be based on morals, which in turn must be anchored in religion. Hence, not just religion, but also morals and politics since in the last resort this is anchored in religion become a matter of belief, even if not in a Lutheran meaning: anti-modernism has solidly Catholic roots. As we know, in a Catholic perspective belief is not anchored in the inner man (as in a Lutheran perspective), but in given dogmas under which the individual must be willing to subjugate himself. Thus Maistre writes in Des origines de la souverainit (1794-96): order to conduct himself, man is not in need of problems, but of beliefs. His cradle must be surrounded by dogmas, and as his reason awakes, it is necessary that he finds finished convictions... Where individual reason dominates nothing great can exist, since all greatness rests on belief, and the collision between particular and isolated convictions produces nothing but scepticism which destroys everything.

He emphasizes the fact that it is not "individual reason", but "beliefs" (les croyances) that create the real basis for a religious and moral as well as a political community: "Without them [the beliefs], neither worship, nor morality, nor government can exist".37 Maistre, and many with him, accuse in other words the development of having dissolved the community of belief. (c) If we turn to the German-language area, the yearning for a return to the lost community of mutual understanding is palpable. There is despair over the disintegration of the framework for understanding between human beings, which in earlier times was guaranteed by the unified society. The loss of the community of mutual understanding, like the loss of the community of belief, appears as conditional to the secularising process of the modern age; however, in addition to their concern for the political and moral significance of religion, the German Romantics were particularly concerned with its "mythological" significance: it was the pervasive power of the Christian mythology that in reality gave the society of earlier days its unfied character, and the mythology provided the girders for the solid hermeneutic framework that existed in these societies. Hence, many German Romantics, like de Maistre and his colleagues in France, wanted to restore society through a religious mythology that would be able to establish unity. A characteristic expression for this desire for a religious and corollary social renewal is Die Christenheit oder Europa (1799) by F. von Hardenberg, better known as Novalis, who, as distinct from many others, gives this longed-for religious renewal a more ecumenical than a Catholic colour. Schelling, for his part, sees what he in different places in his writings calls "the new mythology" (die neue Mythologie) as anchored in Catholicism. Fr. Schlegel even though it is well known that he cooperated closely with both Schelling and Novalis in Jena chooses the mythology of Greek antiquity as the model for his project of restoration, as presented in Rede ber die Mythologie (1800). However, he gradually adopted the idea of a Catholic restoration: eight years after the publication of this book he became one of the most famous converts of his time. Schlegel's work on mythology is as pointed out by Peter Brger38 influenced by a work by another of Schlegel's co-workers in Jena: Schleiermacher's Rede ber die Religion (1799). Although this book does not express any significant infatuation with either antiquity or Catholicism (Scleiermacher remained a good Lutheran all his life), Schleiermacher was nevertheless influenced by that longing for unity which the Jena Romantics generally advocated. This longing was not least directed towards the lost unity of understanding, as mentioned above: we may se Schleiermacher's thematising of understanding in a number of works from the period 1805-33, collected in his Hermeneutik
37 38

Quoted from Laurent, Op. cit., pp. 203 and 206. Cf. Peter Brger, Zur Kritik der idealistischen sthetik, Frankf. a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1983, p. 38.


(1839), as a symptom of the fact that interhuman understanding had begun to seem increasingly problematic. It is tempting to follow these lines all the way up into our own times, and suggest that the strong fixation on hermeneutic problems which for a time have been evident within a number of disciplines, may be interpreted as a symptom of the increasingly problematic character of interhuman understanding inter alia as a consequence of the individuals' growing insistence on their singularity and difference. This insistence may also be seen as a part of the "struggle for identity" which the modern, liberated individual is forced to go through. My story may thus be rounded off in the following manner: In the course of the modern age (i.e. from the end of the Middle Ages) man has gradually grown more liberated from traditional ties of various kinds. As a result, each individual has been thrown back on himself and his particular self-interest, and has been able to fight for social positions in an increasingly open competition. But in the modern age man must not only fight for his social position, he must more than anything fight for his identity. Modern man's (i.e. our own) battle for social positions is just one element among many in this struggle. In societies where the individual is tied to the traditions of the community by many and strong bonds, the individual is to a large extent "provided with" an identity. When traditions lose their power of obligation, and when the ties of the individual become fewer and looser, as in the modern age, the individual must to a large extent "win" his identity: Simultaneously with the decimation of traditions, the struggle for identity has become harder. Thus, there is a paradoxical duality that is connected to the individualism developed in the modern age: at the same time as people to an increasing extent appear as autonomous individuals because they are liberated from traditions, their identity is destabilized for precisely the same reason because they are liberated from tradition. Methodological Afterthoughts As is apparent, I have drawn from rather extensive source material for this article. In order to entertain the slightest hope of eliciting any insight from such a large body of material in the course of a few pages, I have had to deal with the material within a clearly limited perspective. The majority of those who work within the philosophy of science have ceased to believe that there is an alternative to applying a specific and clearly defined perspective in the study of the humanities or that there are any alternatives to the teeming multiplicity of actually existing perspectives in this field. The consequence of this fact must be that the writer to the extent possible clarifies his relationship to the perspective in which the material is interpreted. I have to the best of my ability attempted to do this by consciously choosing a "symptomal" perspective, as defined in the introduction. This has enabled me to sketch a development along two partly divergent lines: The social practice has been dealt with in the straight line of increasing individualism, while the line of development of the theories I have discussed has meandered more freely, in so far as the theories have been interpreted partly as reflections of and partly as counter-reactions to the social practice i.e. partly as "positive", partly as "negative" symptoms of this practice. Since the possible insights presented by this sketch of the development have been produced like all insight through the application of a limited perspective, I will in the following attempt at relating my selected perspective to other possible perspectives, in order to clarify the specific limitations of the perspective that I have applied. This somewhat masochistic exercise will at the same time serve as a basis for an evaluation of the limitations of both my perspective and the insights it may have produced.


At first glance it may seem as if I adhere to the most denounced elements of the Marxist tradition, in the sense that I seemingly view theories generally as pure reflexes of social phenomena i.e. that my symptomal perspective appears to be an instance of "crude Marxsm", "social reductionism" and "sociologism" of the most nave kind. Naturally, nobody likes to be stuck with such labels, and in order to avoid this I will maintain that one has to distinguish between various types of theories as concerns their dependence on social practice. It is in particular theories about the social practice which are dependent in this manner i.e. political theory, sociological theory, etc. theories that may be grouped together under the vague common term of "socio-philosophical" theories and it is mainly this type of theory I have dealt with above. Those who develop such theories relate to social practice as their primary material. This does not exclude them from relating to other texts, but "intertextuality" is definitely not of the same importance in this field as in other fields of theory (in which one primarily relates precisely to the texts of predecessors and of contemporary partners in the discussion) not to mention fiction, or in particular theories on fiction, i.e. literary theory where the intertextual practice (and theories on this phenomenon) at times are completely dominant. The intertextual element of socio-philosophical theory may of course be made the object of separate investigations, which has been frequently done, but since this element in my opinion is secondary within this field of theory, I have not made a point of it, even though I have pointed out certain familiar connections such as Rousseau's negative reaction to Hobbes and the similar reaction of the Catholic restoration philosophers to Rousseau and other 18thcentury philosophers. However, in these cases the negative reactions to the theories of other thinkers were based on the fact that, according to Rousseau and the restoration philosophers, these theories presented a completely incorrect picture of the field of social practice, and the main objective of Rousseau as well as de Bonald and de Maistre was precisely to make a more adequate statement about this field. Their criticism of other theories may therefore be seen as part of their attempt to carry out this task in a better way, since their own presentations through this criticism might receive the added impact of the polemical form. The fact that all types of text always appear at the intersection of several axes (of which I have so far alluded to an extra-textual and an intertextual one, but every text also appears along an intratextual axis, apart from the fact that extra-textual facts may be spaced out along several axes39), and the fact that which is the dominant axis will vary according to what type of text one is dealing with, means that all texts in a certain sense will always be more or less "over-determined"40, and that one in each case may choose to focus on one or several determinants, i.e. one may choose to expand various connections by discussing one or several axes. In this article, then, I have chosen to focus on what I see as the main socio-philosophical axis: I have attempted to clarify the connections between theories on the social practice and the social practice within which they are written. In this connection I wish to point out that the "symptomal" relation that I have established between the axis points of theory and practice has been of a dual nature: while I have mainly presented the contract theory as a reflection in theory of actually existing elements in the contemporary social context, I have also presented the theories of Rousseau and the Catholic restoration philosophers to make reference to
A text may for instance have a relationship of dependence to social and political as well as to biografic and psychological phenomena. When it comes to Rousseau, with his at times paranoid inclinations, this distinction may be more difficult to work with than in many other cases. This has been shown by several convincing interpretations which establish close links between Rousseau's written works (including his works on political theory) and his mental constitution (interpretations carried out, not least, by Jean Starobinski). 40 The phrase "in a certain sense" is employed in order to express that texts are not determined in a strictly causal sense, since causality in the strict sense, i.e. causality that refers to universal laws of causality, is a phenomenon that pertains to nature alone. As for extratextual determinants it makes better sense to say, as I have done, that the relation between these and a text is of a "symptomal" rather than a "causal" nature.


them once again as a negative symptom of the development within the social practice, i.e. as a counter-reaction to society's increasing individualism (even though Rousseau, as we have seen, is ambiguous even to the point that de Maistre and his followers gave him the status of prime adversary). At the same time I have indicated that the movement along the axis of theory/practice may move in either direction, so that theories that take their point of departure in some kind of reaction to events on the level of social practice may turn back in the direction of this level by serving as motivating or legitimizing factors for social action, as Rousseau's works definitely did. However, I have consciously limited myself here as well, by focusing mainly on the movement from practice to theory which is the only real movement according to "crude" Marxists. I hereby hope to have substantiated the point that there is no basis for lumping me together with these (in so far as they do exist beyond the polemical function accorded them in this article). The opposite perspective of the "crude" Marxist one, would be to consider only the movement from theory to practice as real. The position of, inter alia, Heidegger may be understood in this way: since the theoretical level, or more generally das Denken, is primary, he makes it his point of departure and interprets the history of thinking as an increasing "forgetfulness of Being", in the sense that he claims that since the pre-Socratics Being has been subjected to a masking and increasingly accentuated subjectivization in that the philosophers in their theories have given man status as a superior "subject" which can dominate all other beings, considered as passive "objects". And in this context it is a major point that the subjugation on the level of theory has made possible a domination on the level of practice as well. The development of thinking is namely presented as a precondition for the development of modern technology. The latter, with its devastating effects, allegedly represents the completion of instrumental thinking, which is developed within post-Socratic "metaphysical" philosophy. Heidegger therefore argues that the terms "technology" and "completed metaphysics" are identical in meaning. The fact that text and theory function as motive powers in the development of science is a matter of course, but many would have reservations against investing them with such paramount importance as Heidegger tends to do. In all modesty and with all due respect for a giant like Heidegger, I will maintain that the variety of perspectives that I have indicated will in general do more justice to the multiplicity of history than Heidegger's rather fixated perspective. The fixated element in Heidegger's perspective does not just consist in the fact that he in principle seems to reduce the "actual" development of history to an appendix to thinking, but also in the fact that the development of thinking, and therefore also necessarily that of the actual history, is presented as single-tracked: After Plato had taken the first step in the wrong direction, subsequent thinkers were doomed to follow in his tracks until Heidegger himself found new Holzwege ("paths through the woods": the title of one of Heidegger's own books). I have attempted to find a more differentiating perspective by pointing out how the development at least within the field of social philosophy has moved along two widely divergent tracks. It would of course be rather difficult to reach such high levels of abstraction that both holistic and individualist theories could be reduced to variants of one and the same basic type even though this is what Heidegger attempted to do (particularly) to theories of knowledge, by regarding rationalist, empiricist and other types of theories within the field of epistemology simply as different manifestations of a subjectivising way in which to cover up Being. Also in this connection I will maintain that I have chosen a perspective which at least in principle does not cover up the multiplicity of history, so that oppositions within social philosophy might be made more explicit rather than obscured by being reduced to agreement on a higher level. I will nevertheless admit that this explication actually may have served to cover up internal disconsonance inside of the individualist and holistic camps which in that case is caused by the fact that the material on account of its vastness has had to be studied on a higher


level of abstraction than is permissible. This may also have caused oppositions within the individual periods to become invisible so that, for instance, it may have seemed that the production of socio-philosophical theory since the Restoration has been wholly in the tradition of the holistic counter-revolution. This is of course far from the truth. It is also part of history as Heidegger tells it that the development is not only singletracked, but also moving in the wrong direction: ever since Plato the development has gone from bad to worse. Heidegger is obviously a historian of stature, but it is equally obvious that he tells a story of decline. Others have sketched a similarly single-tracked movement of decline on the basis of "actual" history rather than on the basis of the history of philosophy, for instance Elias. In his main works he tells a Freudian story about "the civilisation process", in which this process is interpreted as a gradual dissemination of the stylized existence of the nobility, and hence as a process that meant a painful curbing of spontaneity and instictive impulses.41 It is obviously problematic and hardly desirable for a philosopher to assume neutrality and avoid value judgements when dealing with a development which he interprets as a decline (even though Weber made his heroic attempt), but this may become downright questionable when the researcher, in order to avoid being caught in the decline of thinking, permits his negative evaluation of the development to have the consequence that he at times chooses a non-communicative language (something we may see in both Heidegger and his arch-enemy Adorno, as well as in many of Heidegger's heirs among the deconstructionists), or when thinkers in the field of social philosophy at times pathetically raise themselves above the decline by protesting their superior moral and political insight and conduct (as do both Rousseau and his major opponents among the Catholic Restoration philosophers, as well as their relatives the Marxists and many, many others42). I hope to have avoided explicit evaluation of the development I have described, and in so far as I have succeeded it is a result of the fact that I, in accordance with what I have said about the multiplicity of history, have presented the development on the level of theory as less than completely unambiguous, and that in the conclusion of the main part of the paper I have suggested that there are paradoxical tensions also on the level of social practice which is hardly a controversial assertion. The reader may of course feel that I, in this apology for my own brief history, am in danger of raising myself to an unreasonably high level by rather pathetically criticizing Heidegger perhaps the greatest story-teller among the philosophers of this century. The most positive of my readers may ask: what about Foucault, does not he differentiate the single-tracked perspective of his great inspirator Heidegger in a direction that would satify the demands raised here? Does not he rather subtly make explicit all those different axes on which the complete variety of text would be found, by separating them with surgical precision on an analytical level, despite the fact that they are actually interwoven, so that he is able to present complex, but still clarifying images? The texts are placed, one might continue, inside comprehensive
This story, as it is presented in the main works ber den Proze der Zivilisation (1939) and Die hfische Gesellschaft (1969) may seem to be reversed in relation to what is said in the text referred to above: Die Gesellschaft der Individuen, in which Elias, in the article quoted, ("Wandlungen der Wir-Ich-Balance") describes how what he terms the Ich-Identitt of European man since the Renaissance has been reinforced to the detriment of his Wir-Identitt. This seems to mean that the individuals gradually have been liberated from overindividual, disciplining instances. However, Elias regards, in the Freudian tradition, individualizing and disciplining (or Distanzierung, as he often writes) as two sides of the same coin. Cf. for instance Die hfische Gesellschaft, Suhrkamp 1983, p. 362, where he writes that one is here dealing with "a stronger individualisation, a stronger armouring of passions, a stronger distancing of nature, people and self...". 42 What I have done here is on the one hand to place Heidegger together with Adorno, who mocks Heidegger, and on the other hand as I have now done repeatedly to place Rousseau together with his enemies the Restoration philosophers, and in addition to lump both the Restoration philosophers and Rousseau together with the Marxists. This may very well seem to be a similar reduction of real differences as the one that I have accused Heidegger of. However, I will maintain that I have not employed "reductionism" as a methodological principle, which is what Heidegger appears to be doing.


practical-theoretical networks or "discursive formations", of which, fair enough, many of the formations like psychiatry and medicine have contributed to a disciplining of man in a manner similar to that described by Elias, but in which the development is not presented as a completely uniform decline. And finally one may suggest that this is condititoned by the fact that he does not present history as a continuous single-track process and one may point out that something of the most subtle in Foucault's project is the way in which he instead divides history into autonomous units by audaciously radicalizing the concept of period, so that the discursive formations inside each unit even though they separately appear as complex networks merging into even more complex networks may be said to be based on one common set of epistemological preconditions (or one "episteme") which is completely different from the preconditions for adjacent units. I might possibly agree to some of this, but at the same time I would claim that Foucault's homogenizing of what is produced inside each of the clearly separated units still represents an elimination of real oppositions similar to what we find in Heidegger's presentation of the history of thinking since Plato as a continuously advancing "forgetfulness of Being". The two thinkers reduce, respectively, historys diachronic (Heidegger) and its synchronic (Foucault) multiplicity to an unreasonable extent through their heavily theoretical interpretations of the material. (The fact that a certain reduction is a necessity, should be apparent from what I have said about all interpretations without exception being made within a limited perspective43). By dividing history into separate epistemic units of an epoch-like nature, Foucault may operate with a kind of diachronic multiplicity, but the fact that the various units are presented as divided by such radical epistemological breaks that anything resembling continuity is removed from the historic development, is another unreasonable result of an interpretation in which the theoretical element is far too strong in relation to the empirical. What I seek is a sober perspective which first, contributes to making explicit rather than covering up obvious synchronic oppositions, and secondly, contributes to the preservation of continuity as well as breaks that are less counter-intuitively radical than the breaks that Foucault suggests. The problem is, however, that this would result in such balanced presentations that they would attract no notice. The less balanced a presentation is, the more prominent is the profile it will present, and the more easily will it be noticed. However, the fact that a presentation is unbalanced is not a sufficient condition for its noticeability. And conversely; if my little story of the two levels of individualism and holism should happen to share the fate of most written material and slide unnoticed into oblivion, that may not necessarily be because it is so terribly balanced. The same goes for these methodological afterthoughts.

This means that one necessarily reads one's material on the basis of certain theoretical preconditions in a wide sense. Hence, one will never reach a purely empirical level. Today this appears self-evident. However, it has become self-evident to the extent that some people apparently feel that the empirical level at best is of no interest, at worst is non-existing. My frequent reference to the multiplicity of history is intended as a reminder that the empirical level both exists and is interesting even though it is always interpreted from a given theoretical standpoint. Hence, the empirical level may be said to be an important and irreducible element in all presentations of history.


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