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June 25, 2007

Comments

Kate

I'm not sure anyone actually claims that the right doesn't believe in collectives - just that its collectives were 'traditional,' the nuclear family, or at worst, the 'race.' The left orginally developed its collectives on class lines - then abandoned that for the swamps of identity politics from which it is yet to emerge. The right has found it much easier to update its collectives (gay parents as well as straight ones). The left lost its rationale for the collective - either to oppose or reform capitalism, depending on what sort of leftist you were. And now it is just left with an argument that says that the value of community is.. er ..community.

Will Davies

"I'm not sure anyone actually claims that the right doesn't believe in collectives..."

Obviously it depends which people and which variant of the right. Many Leftists and New Labour types regularly make the claim that they stand for community and/or society, while the right stands only for individualism and self-reliance. In the US where there is a libertarian tradition, this charge successfully sticks quite often.

Obviously in the UK it depends whether you are thinking Edmund Burke or Friedrich Hayek, who pull in quite opposite directions (I thought John Gray's False Dawn did a very good job of explaining how the Tory party pulled itself in two). There does exist a tradition - which might include people like Karl Popper as well as Hayek - who believe that the worst crimes in history have been committed in the name of collectivism, and that collectives (or at least very large scale collectives that go under the name of 'society') must be constantly placed under suspicion, or even dismantled.

Phil

Many Leftists and New Labour types regularly make the claim that they stand for community and/or society, while the right stands only for individualism and self-reliance.

I'd put it a bit differently - I think the watered-down appeal to "community and/or society" is only associated with the Left because it's invoked for that reason by New Labour. I wrote something along these lines back in 1997:

"Yes, there is such a thing as society; yes, a sense of community is important; yes, it is good for people to be active in their communities. There’s nothing there that wouldn’t be endorsed by Women Against Pit Closures or the anti-roads protesters, or for that matter by the BNP. The hard questions - what kind of society, what kind of community, what kind of activity - are never addressed."

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