23 September 2015

aetiology of socialism

●  What causes a person to become a socialist? One possible reason seems to be anger about being excluded – from the elite, from one’s social class, from having one’s abilities recognised, from social approval.
Sometimes the anger is justified, in the sense that the person is inappropriately excluded. Many intellectuals and artists feel they are not sufficiently recognised. Even if they are successful, they remain outsiders.
Sometimes the anger is simply resentment about the fact that other people have advantages.
The anger about oneself is then expressed in terms of concern for some supposedly unfairly treated social group: indignation about their exclusion.
Curiously, it is often assumed that socialism — an ideology that ostensibly puts the everyman first — will have a special sympathy for the talented outsider. It seems more reasonable, particularly now there is historical data on the issue, to suppose that it will in practice side with the collective against unusual individuals.
Once a formerly excluded person gets involved with socialist ideology, we typically observe the appearance of secondary symptoms. Most notably there is identification with, or even creation of, theories which have the effect of denigrating the individual. Anything which suggests that the source of meaning and significance is the group, or that an individual’s views about himself are deluded, is popular in this regard.
By the time a formerly excluded person has become a career socialist (which may involve a position in a profession other than politics, such as academia or medicine) his original identification with outsiders is likely to have disappeared, and he may be primarily interested in the rewards of power, including that of being able to impose a collectivist philosophy on others. This can appear paradoxical, if (as often seems to be the case) the source of his original alienation was the collective, in one of its manifestations.

Oxford Forum should be given funding.