The Words of Gandhi and How the Libertarian Collectivist Anti-individualistic Post-Modern Turn has Shaped our World


Academic Paper, 2015

15 Pages


Excerpt

Table of contents

Abstract

Good vs bad side effects and how we can learn from understanding them

The problem with the definition of the individual and individualism: left wing ideology- libertarian ideas – from the French Revolution

Down with hierarchy, meta narratives and an era of protest

The Internet

The 1990s and the death of the grand narratives / meta-narratives and the transgression of all boundaries and categories

The 2000s, the digital dream and the age of alter-modernism (digital was supposed to be different - it was supposed to be inventing the world)

A solution? What can we do?

Bibliography

The Words of Gandhi and ‘How the “Libertarian”

“Collectivist” Anti-individualistic Post-Modern Turn has Shaped our World

By Cyrus Manasseh c. 2015, c. 2020

Abstract

The social effects of a “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernism for us today, are meaningful and significant. Perhaps, many of us have heard about post-modernism? And some can say that we have read about it. But how many really know how much post-modernism has influenced every single thing we now do and think? Making special reference to Jordan Peterson's critiques as well as Socrates and The Enlightenment period and the internet, the essay discusses and evaluates the good and bad side effects of post-modernism and addresses how we might learn from understanding them. This academic essay was part of previous research undertaken when I was lecturing at the University of Western Australia where I had also achieved my PhD. In 2015 I left it unpublished and have subsequently amended and updated it.

Good vs bad side effects and how we can learn from understanding them.

In a sense, we have never really come out from the confusion that had arrived to us from questions asked in the 60s in the age of high modernism and in the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernism of the 90s. In fact, the social effects of a “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernism for us today, are meaningful and significant. Perhaps, many of us have heard about post-modernism? And some can say that we have read about it. But how many really know how much post-modernism has influenced every single thing we now do and think?

There is Jordan Peterson of course who speaks today about post-modernists. As he said in 2017, “They don’t believe in the individual…they don’t believe in logic, they believe that logic is part of the process by which the patriarchal institutions of the west continue to dominate and to justify their dominance. They don’t believe in dialogue. They don’t believe that people of good will can come to consensus through the exchange of ideas…they don’t believe in letting people speak…” because it would be in support of the dominant culture.1 However, the topic is larger and starts far earlier.

But what exactly is post-modernism?

Post-modernism is a philosophical and cultural movement. It is something that is central to all parts of our culture and the way we think and live life, “from law, to religion, to art, to economics, which are not often easy to see…”.2 The movement was originally non-conformist in nature but nonetheless has put great pressure on everyone who does not accept to conform to it especially in the Anglo-Saxon speaking world. One thing that is central to it, is that one must not try to define or measure it, and this is part of its philosophy. Instead, post-modernists “…love plurality, ambiguity, they don’t much like singularity and precision”.3 In fact, against the temple or church being number one in society and against conformity, they are suspicious of people who like pigeonholing, dissecting and pinning things down, see Thomas Kuhn (1922-96), François Lyotard (1924-98), Michel Foucault (1926-84), Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) and Richard Rorty (1931-2007), who all greatly influenced the way our world now works.

Post-modernists believe the author is dead because the author’s intention is not important. Instead, a casual and hit and miss interpretation of the author’s intention from anyone is more precious than listening to, or trying to discover the author’s intention. Moreover, as Albert Mohler has pointed out, “everything in postmodernism is reduced to the therapeutic. This world view infects the entire society, it’s all about therapy. When truth is denied all that remains is therapy. The crucial question shifts from what is true to what makes me feel good.” 4

Hooked on gaining power and keeping it, because they misinterpret the ideas in modernism and before it, post-modernists condemn the application of fixed truths for responding to and explaining the meaning of things in certain situations, based upon, and linked with the truth which lies in meta narratives. In opposition to this, their idea is to create a new and spontaneous truth at each new moment, and it is why post-modernists automatically, say the opposite to the truth, which exists in the meta narrative but cannot give evidence for what they say.

The problem with the definition of the individual and individualism: left wing ideology- libertarian ideas – from the French Revolution

We must remember that the influence and bias of a “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernism has been with us for a very long time. It started in the 60s, in an age of high-modernism when large institutions and governments had caused people problems. In parts of Europe and the USA, the 60s had been an important time for the remodelling of the public’s thinking. Although the original intent had been “cosmic consciousness”,5 what had begun well, began to sour. In this time, artists, writers, and scientists had tried to change society. The late 60s, was a time when negative judgements of the organisation and the rules of the systems in society and of the status quo was strong. This had been a time of “the trashing of the text” as well as being a time of a hippie intellectual generation. People like Dr Timothy Leary (1920-1996), who had been part of the group with PhDs who became left-wing intellectuals in the 60s, and people such as John Perry Barlow (1947-2018), George Lucas (1944- ) who had shown us a new kind of person – the artist-philosopher-scientist, visionary helped shape many of our sensibilities, attitudes and our consciousness today.6 Before that, our ideas had mostly been right wing and modernist – except for the French.

In fact, French radical left-wing philosophers and intellectuals such as the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modern political theorist Michel Foucault, the philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist. Francois Lyotard, as well as philosopher Jacques Derrida had triggered much of it. In fact, Derrida, “regarded western culture…as phallogocentric…that’s the insistence that what you see in western culture is the consequence of a male dominated oppressive self-serving society…”.7

The ideas of these post-structuralist or post-modernist French writers created a destruction and deconstruction of the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) and his creation – Socrates as well as the destruction of the ideas which belonged to the Enlightenment. Denying, boycotting the past and condemning it, has meant also denying, boycotting and condemning Socrates’s influence in the world and in culture.

But who was Socrates and what was his thinking which was so strongly opposed by post-modernist/post-structuralist thinking and what were the ideas of the Enlightenment?

In fact, Socrates was an Ancient Greek philosopher (470-399 BC) said to be responsible for much of the basis of western philosophy and thought. He was known as the first moral philosopher and his ideas can be found in Plato’s dialogues, which centre greatly on ethics and epistemology.

But how can we describe what these things are?

Ethics

Ethics can mean moral philosophy, which uses reason and rationality to answer questions about ethics. It focuses on how we should live our lives. It can also be used to name and talk about individualistic characteristics and qualities in people.

Epistemology

Epistemology is concerned with the theory of knowledge and sticks closely to the study and analysis of justification, rationality of belief and knowledge. It is focused on four things: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such ideas and theories as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of doubt (3) the origins and scope or measure of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the measuring, ingredients and basis for knowledge and how this can be proven and justified. Epistemology addresses such questions as: what proves and gives evidence for a belief in something? What can it mean to say we know something? and basically and centrally, how can we know that we really know something.8

In fact, before our world of post-modernism, which began in the 90s, Socrates’s ideas were extremely dominant, persuasive and significant in our world, mind and spirit because of his inquiry into these things in the world and for all ideas and philosophy that came after him until the 90s. His influence was always found in the way people could reason things out using arguments that they could prove using universal and fixed definitions which he argued do not change regardless of the situation and even after the subject or person does not exist or is not present anymore even though the behaviour of people may change.9 In his thinking, he supported many examples which showed how there is a need for a universal characterisation of things like a definition of justice, mathematics and objects fixed and outlined by levels of beauty and mathematics. In this way, he influenced all subsequent western thought and thinkers including Aristotle who defined man as a “rational animal”.10 As such, Socrates is one of the most well-known and renowned figures in the tradition of western philosophy and portrayed in literature, art, and in widespread culture in general. In fact, his ideals had been part of western thought and behaviour and can be found in many very influential philosopher’s writings including the aforementioned Plato, Zeno (495-30 BC), Anisthenes (445-356 BC), Diogenes (412/404-323 BC), Epictetus (50 AD-135 AD), Montaigne (1533-1592), G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), John Stuart Mill (1806-73), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Karl Jaspers (1883-69), Leo Strauss (1899-1973), Karl Popper (1902-94) and Hannah Arendt (1906-75).11

The other thing that the post-modernists hated and denounced was the Enlightenment.

But we need to ask, had this been such a good idea?

In addition to Socrates’s influence, the ideas of The Enlightenment had been an intellectual 'individualistic-centric' movement, which took much from Classical ideas - such as hierarchy and re-developed them. A scholarly, humanistic and individualistic-centric movement, it was chiefly anti-authoritarian and established on fixed rationalist principles of logic and reason which most historians say ended in the nineteenth century. Yet its ideas ruled the ideas in the European and the Anglo-Saxon world from the seventeenth to late twentieth centuries. Its effects would not end until post-modernism and the start of the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic time from the 90s. Yet, although it was ignored, denied, boycotted and condemned by post-modernists, it was a highly intelligent renaissance which brought back and redeveloped many ideas from Classical antiquity.12 Most of all, it re-instated the authority of reason and rationalism as the measure of all public discourse and method for understanding and building the world. Central, was an individualistic individualism free from the need of group support.

But why was its ideas shun?

Down with hierarchy, meta narratives and an era of protest

In the 60s many good things that had developed from the time of the Enlightenment and had flowed in modernism like the fact that it was seen as a good thing to have alternate and multiple interpretations or multi-perspectives of the same thing, which could be seen for example in literary criticism, were still in existence. Yet, for the post-modernist French philosophers writing at the time of high modernism in the 60s, the ideas of the Enlightenment were strongly ignored by those of the new time and their followers who forced us to ignore the philosophy and ideas of the past. The post-modernists wanted the old world to go and to create a new one in its place. In fact, two of the things they most wanted gone was hierarchy and meta narratives. Tired of governments and its militaries, which used hierarchy as a human dominance hierarchy to push down and control the weak, following the French “Libertarian” anti-individualistic left-wing intellectuals, post-modern artists, writers and scientists wanted hierarchy and meta or grand narratives to go from society.

What is hierarchy?

Based on the idea of meritocracy, hierarchy respects and organises people and things into different levels and categories according to their talents and abilities or perceived qualities. The idea and system focusses on ‘individualistic-centric’ Enlightenment principles re-developed from antiquity. In the late 60s and 70s, many institutions and the whole systems they used including their systems of hierarchy were criticised for being human dominance hierarchies. Hierarchy which contained individualistic thinkers were blocked because this system was blamed as a bed for tyrannical power. Yet, in its place, perhaps things were no better. Nowadays, hierarchies can exist in this way – unfortunately. However, perhaps the real problem is not hierarchy itself but rather tyranny and tyrannical power, which exists without modernist hierarchies, and perhaps therefore power itself should not be seen as the problem.

However, in the 60s, a post-modern turn against all forms of hierarchy showed itself very strongly early on in visual art and sculpture. It was an art full of pastiche and opposition and in the 60s, the art viewer was given to create the meaning because art works were made void of meaning. It happened also in architecture, film and even in music too. Making art without a concept or meaning cancelled the previous fixed ideas for traditional painting and sculpture. Ideas of the past were taken over by a new art, an art of nothing. Artist/theorists’ ideas became focused on an art that could go back to something as primitive as possible which came from their increasing strong criticism of what they saw as the unreachable ‘loftiness’ of what had been programmed by the culture of the past, which had used what they saw as a modernist human dominance hierarchy of power to make meaning in regard to the audience’s viewing of the works.

In museums and art galleries, art objects on a stool or pedestal were therefore taken off them and the presentation of paintings for the audience was changed to a need to show them so that they could be seen and appreciated from a critical viewing distance which was cancelled since it was no longer important to admire or worship art. This idea to block meaning itself would result in no meaning - as viewers were forced to dissolve all previous perceptions and instead engage physically in completing the work’s meaning. Truth in the works were eliminated and instead, the audience was supposed to create it.13 By making the audience responsible for the meaning of the art itself, the everyday person became more important and equally important to each other, while the importance of art as something that could inspire worship from the audience was destroyed becoming something almost invisible, since no meaning existed.

Through this, everyday people were put above, and in some cases were made to feel superior to great art works and masterpieces, which had always been worshipped above all, which may not have been the best thing.

Perhaps trying to place everyone on an equal footing with each other and not respecting the art institutions, traditional views, ways of making art and the way it was being looked at in galleries was not such a bad thing in its intention, yet was it so wise overall? Perhaps it would have been better to not destroy the heritage of Socratic and Enlightenment ideas and instead directly focus on ending tyranny.

The Internet

However, many of the ideas that had been put in place in the high modernism of the 60s gathered further momentum. In this time, artists and revolutionary thinkers like post-conceptualist artists as well as the French non-conformists already mentioned, continued to shape the influence of the anti-individualistic post-modern effect on us and create a ‘collectivism’ which we have now inherited today. Another thing that in large part had been created to dissolve human dominance hierarchy and put everyday people above those that would run institutions, was the internet. Is it true? well, let’s just look at this quote from John Perry Barlow, the political activist and lyricist for the Grateful Dead who was a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation and also an Emeritus professor at Harvard University who had published this in 1996:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather… We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different. Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself…. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live. We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.” 14

But as Andrew Keen states, the internet would actually undermine human expertise. For Keen, “The internet has become the vehicle, the weapon for destroying the old institutions and old ideas but of course the problem comes when there’s nothing replacing it.”15 In fact, the internet had been designed to improve communication between all and as a platform to make everyone equal. It was “the equality of opportunity to have a go.”16 Yet because of post-modernism, without the existence of the concept of modernist hierarchy in society this has become confused with competence and expertise.

The 1990s and the death of the grand narratives / meta-narratives and the transgression of all boundaries and categories

Social Politics

From the 80s, the intellectual hippy movement born in the 60s would, in a sense, change into a movement of corporate career people. By the 90s, while Socratic ideals and the Enlightenment continued to be forgotten, because it combined with a new left-wing, post-modern political correctness, the idea of grand narratives / meta-narratives of civilisations were killed off. Instead, the post-modernists, against the temple or church being number one in a town or city and against conformity, while their collectivist principles needed to be conformed with, while violating and opposing all boundaries and categories used them to convince others of their own story. As Jordan Peterson states, “I still don’t know how the post-modernists can make the no grand narrative claim but then, immerse themselves in this grand narrative…”.17 Yet, perhaps the problem might have been that though the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernist thinkers who said they wanted to put the individual first and sought to violate and oppose all boundaries and categories did not know about history and Classical antiquity and so they sought to only solve the problem without reference to the knowledge of the past?

Perhaps this had been dangerous, because in doing this, being part of this way of thinking and collecting people, reinforced the destruction of the past influencing us to forget some of its wisdom. In fact, under the idea of maximum freedom and liberty, although the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic post-modernists seeking to violate and oppose all boundaries and categories prided themselves in having and supporting alternative views, no alternate views were and are permitted.18 Though the post-modernists said their belief was to be interested in the individual to question meaning more and spontaneously, this code, belief and anti-ideology was collectivist conforming to the “Libertarian” anti-individualistic principles, which had started in the 60s with the French philosophers and the hippy movement in the USA and UK.

As such, the belief in individualism was not the Socratic or modernist individualistic individualism as it had been up to the 60s, but instead, people were, and are still now given a collective identity, which permits them to do anything they want which is defended and cared for by political correctness blocking individual individualistic thinking related to Socratic teaching and ideals. As Stephen Hicks has pointed out in his speech in ‘Do Free Societies Need post-modernism? A Debate’19 even the leading post-modernists do not see people as individuals - they explicitly reject individual’s individualism. He quotes the American Philosopher Richard Rorty (1931-2007), who he says, tells us that we are all now “stuck in our ethno-centric predicament.”20 Hicks explains that for Rorty, the individual’s ethnicity is actually more important than anything else - in fact even more than their individualism and uniqueness. Instead, the uniqueness of individuals are defined by race. Yet, as Jordan Peterson states, collectivist identity groups are groups “which cannot communicate with one another.”21 In this way, for the left wing, though individuals are now supposed have more rights, they still are being classified and grouped together. Although post-modernism’s intention was, and still is to create a freedom movement, like the 'individualistic-centric' Enlightenment, differing or alternative views of its consensus are not permitted. On the other hand, in the past, before the 60s, while it was true that the many people in the previous time were controlled by right wing governments and political and military ideology who didn’t have rights inside that previous time, individual thought was more respected for being individualistic because it wasn’t group centred and collectivist within every part of society.

[...]


1 Peterson, Jordan. “Jordan Peterson: Postmodernism: How and why it must be fought.” (2017), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf2nqmQIfxc (accessed May 1, 2020)

2 Hicks, Steven, “Postmodernism Part 1.” (2015). Atlas Society, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhK6XOT3uAA (accessed May 2, 2020)

3 Ibid.

4 Mohler, Albert. “Postmodernism and Society.” (2007). Ligonier Ministries, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r9L8lPCY_M (accessed May 2, 2020)

5 Paglia, Camille “Modern Times: Camille Paglia and Jordan B. Peterson.” (2017). Jordan B Peterson, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-hIVnmUdXM (accessed May 1, 2020)

6 Ibid.

7 Peterson, Jordan. “Jordan Peterson: Postmodernism: How and why it must be fought.” (2017), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf2nqmQIfxc (accessed May 1, 2020)

8 “Epistemology.” (2020, first publ.in 2005). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/ (accessed April 25, 2020)

9 Copleston, F., History of Philosophy Volume 1: Greece and Rome From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus, Image, Reprint edition, (first publ. 1946), pp. 104-11, 1993.

10 “The early history of western philosophy reflects a tendency to see animals as lacking rationality. Aristotle defined “human” as “the rational animal”, thus rejecting the possibility that any other species is rational (Aristotle Metaphysics).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, cited in “Does Aristotle ever explicitly refer to man as a rational animal?” https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/42206/does-aristotle-ever-explicitly-refer-to-man-as-a-rational-animal (accessed April 25, 2020)

11 Richard Kraut. “The Legacy of Socrates, Socrates, Greek Philosopher,” (2020). Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Socrates/The-legacy-of-Socrates (accessed on online April 28, 2020)

12 See my published paper: Manasseh, C. “The Art Museum in the 19th Century: J. J. Winckelmann’s Influence on the Establishing of the Classical Paradigm of the Art Museum.” (2009). Anistoriton Journal, vol. 11 (2008-2009) In Situ, http://www.anistor.gr/english/enback/2008_1s_Anistoriton.pdf (accessed May 4, 2020)

13 See my book: Manasseh, C., The Problematic of Video Art in the Museum 1968-90, Cambria Press, New York, p. 26, 2009.

14 Barlow, John P. “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” (1996). Hache et les auteurs sauf indication contraire http://editions-hache.com/ [PDF 6 avril 2007] (accessed May 2, 2020)

15 Keen, Andrew. “How the current Internet culture undermines expertise.” (2014). Andrew Keen at Ted X Talks at Utrecht, Ted X Talks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT35dTpcPMY (accessed May 3, 2020)

16 Barron, Peter. “Debate: The internet is a failed utopia.” (2015) Intelligence Squared, filmed at the Intelligence Squared and Vanity Fair Digital Summit at Shoreditch Town Hall, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPJTE640ogg (accessed April 27, 2020)

17 Paglia, Camille “Modern Times: Camille Paglia and Jordan B. Peterson.” (2017). Jordan B Peterson, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-hIVnmUdXM (accessed May 1, 2020)

18 Ibid.

19 Hicks, Stephen. “Do Free Societies Need Postmodernism? A Debate.” (2019). Soho Forum in New York City, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb9Eajt0KVA (accessed May 2, 2020)

20 Stephen Hicks quoting Richard Rorty. “Do Free Societies Need Postmodernism? A Debate.” (2019). Soho Forum in New York City, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb9Eajt0KVA (accessed May 2, 2020)

21 As Jordan Peterson has said, “…if you are in the predator group you better look out”, Peterson, Jordan. “Jordan Peterson: Postmodernism: How and why it must be fought.” (2017), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf2nqmQIfxc (accessed May 1, 2020)

Excerpt out of 15 pages

Details

Title
The Words of Gandhi and How the Libertarian Collectivist Anti-individualistic Post-Modern Turn has Shaped our World
College
The University of Western Australia  (School of Visual Arts)
Course
Philosophy
Author
Year
2015
Pages
15
Catalog Number
V591114
ISBN (eBook)
9783346171672
ISBN (Book)
9783346171689
Language
English
Tags
anti-individualistic, collectivist, gandhi, libertarian, post-modern, shaped, turn, words, world
Quote paper
Cyrus Manasseh (Author), 2015, The Words of Gandhi and How the Libertarian Collectivist Anti-individualistic Post-Modern Turn has Shaped our World, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/591114

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