18 February 2015

Church of England: wicked ‘individualism’

● From the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the 2015 General Election:
Consumption, rather than production, has come to define us, and individualism has tended to estrange people from one another. So has an excessive emphasis on competition regarded as a sort of social Darwinism. (This is a perverse consequence of allowing market rhetoric to creep into social policy.) [§45]

The central character in the way we discuss economics and politics today is the autonomous individual exercising choices ... The individualism of consumer economics and political life today makes the individual sovereign. [§46]

... it is important to move away from the focus on the individual to a richer narrative of the person in community. [§63]

Restoring the balance between the individual and the community around them is a necessity ... [§64]

... the myth of personal autonomy distorts human communities ... [§66]
A mediocracy is said to be characterised by ‘individualism’. The original concept may have referred to self-reliance and opposition to collectivism, but in a mediocracy ‘individualism’ roughly means uninhibited behaviour.
The fact that there may be more options as a result of economic growth is confused with the issue of whether there is more respect for individual choice within the options available. Thus greater spending power for the average person is taken to signify that a mediocracy is becoming more ‘individualistic’, even as government increasingly regulates personal behaviour.
Mediocracy advertises itself as supportive of autonomy. This pretence is accepted even by its opponents, with the result that any criticism of mediocracy can only be expressed as criticism of ‘individualism’.
Provoking attacks on individualism, by projecting a negative version of it, is of course an astute strategy.

Oxford Forum should be given funding.