The Abstract Nature of Modern Political Science

"the inaugural act of modern political science [was] eliminating all real communities as so many insubstantial appearances, [and fixing] it's gaze on a purely abstract being, the individual out of which -- out of whose rights and power -- a political order that at last is rational can be constructed." -- Pierre Manent, Metamorphoses of the City, p. 22

The human being is conditioned by society and history. (Not to say that society and history are not conditioned by human beings.) The individual of methodological individualism is, in fact, himself a socio-historical creation, called into being by the very sciences that supposedly take him as a natural object.

6 comments:

  1. The human being is conditioned by society and history.

    I don't know how anyone can deny this. I mean, it's basic causality. Affirming this really isn't a strange notion.

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  2. "The human being is conditioned by society and history. The individual of methodological individualism is, in fact, himself a socio-historical creation."

    It doesn't follow from the first that the individual is a socio-historic creation. Society and history no doubt impact the individual personality, but they aren't the only things that do so. Nature, completely distinct from anything human, shapes it as well. Furthermore, the fundamental essense of the individual (aka purposeful action) is not itself a creation of, or even influenced by, society and history (even if many of the ways it manifests itself are).

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    1. "It doesn't follow from the first that the individual is a socio-historic creation."

      Yes, that is why I connected the two sentences using "in fact" and not "therefore."

      "Furthermore, the fundamental essense of the individual (aka purposeful action) is not itself a creation of, or even influenced by, society and history"

      Nonsense: the very fact that you think of things this way is itself an historical product. Read more history and anthropology, and you will discover that that is so.

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  3. I can understand if you said that the *concept* of the individual, and individualism, are socio-historic constructs. But how can the individual itself be a socio-historic construct?

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    1. Well, of course I don't mean the fact we have different bodies is an historical creation. I mean that people who think of themselves individualistically, or perhaps "modern individuals." Without the concept there is no such individual.

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    2. Without the concept there is no such individual.

      Laozi would beg to differ. "The individual" really isn't a new phenomenon.

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