George Walford: Political Individualism and Collectivism

The ideologist does not dispute the general opinion that the ideas of the Right are different from those of the Left, but he does add something to it. Right and Left, eidostatics and eidodynamics, not only have different ideas, they also have different ways of thinking. As Walsby phrases it, they differ not only in the content but also in the form of their thought. The thinking of the Right tends toward agreement, toward acceptance of the prevailing opinion and toward compliance with authority. It tends toward fusion. The thinking of the Left tends in the opposite direction, toward disagreement, independence of thought, and resistance to authority. It tends toward fission.

These tendencies Walsby names, respectively, political (as distinct from economic) collectivism and political individualism. As is commonly the case with the features which distinguish the various ideologies, each of them is to be observed in the purest form toward the appropriate end of the range, political collectivism among protostatics and autocratic movements, political individualism among extreme eidodynamics.

The intermediate ideologies exhibit a greater or lesser tendency toward political collectivism or political individualism according to their position in the range. Nazism was explicitly and emphatically opposed to political individualism. The establishment of a totalitarian state required the elimination of independent thinking. The Nazis burnt books, imposed political control on the teaching given in the universities, killed, suppressed or expelled those holding political beliefs other than their own, and suppressed or banished those displaying mental independence even in what might appear to be neutral fields, such as art and literature.

In ideological terms they endeavoured to suppress all ideologies other than the protostatic. Nazism exhibited, in a virulent form, the absence of restraint, the identification with unmodified assumptions, characteristic of the protostatic phase. As one moves away from this end of the range through the more moderately eidostatic phases, epistatic and parastatic, the identification with political collectivism, and the opposition to political individualism, becomes less intense. Freedom of the press and of research come to be accepted, tolerance and the rule of law replace the demand that the individual should submit without reservation to the state. But even in these phases there is no doubt which way the balance of identification lies. Among Conservatives and among Liberals the assumption is that tradition, loyalty and submission to authority should take precedence over independent thinking as guides to action, and these are all forms of political collectivism.

This contrasts with the behaviour exhibited at the eidodynamic end of the range. As we move from Labour-Socialism, through Communism to Anarchism, so the tendency towards, and the influence of, collective thinking diminishes and independent thinking comes increasingly to be accepted as a valid guide to social action, until with Anarchism it becomes explicit that the individual is to be subjected to no authority or influence whatever, but is to decide his own course of action for himself.

One apparent anomaly needs mentioning. It is in the Communist movement, rather than among the eidostatics, that supporters are required to accept a prescribed “party line” under pain of disciplinary action, and this may seem to run against our connection of the eidodynamic ideologies with independent thinking. We need only comment that the eidostatic organisations do not need to impose such a requirement; their members rarely display a tendency toward independent thought strong enough to need restraining.

The term “individual” usually means an individual person, but this is not the only sense in which it may be used. We may equally well speak of individual families, individual parties, movements, firms, teams, crowds and so on. We may speak not only of biological but also of social individuals. Every distinct group is a social individual, and in political affairs (and also in economic affairs) it is these, rather than the biological individuals, which are the relevant units, the biological individual being a special case, a group consisting of one member. The proposition, therefore, that political individualism is exhibited by the eidodynamics, is not invalidated by the observation that Communists, or Anarchists, although perhaps displaying greater personal independence of thought than do Liberals, or Conservatives, yet accept the same general assumptions as other Communists or Anarchists, and to this extent may be said to think collectively. It is not only the Communists and Anarchists as separate persons who display political individuality, but also the Communist and Anarchist movements. Where the eidostatic movements tend to be supportive of the general society and, in time of stress, to submerge in it such individuality as they may at other times exhibit, the eidodynamic movements, Socialism, Communism and Anarchism set themselves up against the general society and the more extreme of them, at least, continue this opposition even in time of stress, as when the continued existence of the community is threatened by an enemy. They behave toward it (and also toward each other) as separate individuals.

See also Domain of Ideologies Part I Chapter 6 and 7.

Continue reading An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology (1977):
The Walsby Society | Introduction | Ideology and the Left | The Field of Ideology | Assumption and Identification | Definition of an Ideology | Ideological Groups | The Major Ideologies | Ideological Development | Intellect | The Group Situation | The Cosmic Situation | Political Individualism and Collectivism | Economic Individualism and Collectivism | Personal Ideological Structure | Social Ideological Structure | Conclusion | Papers on Systematic Ideology