The Relationship Between the United States and Left (IV)
Post four in my series on the relationship between the United States and Left.
How can a community survive the full creative expression of its individual members?
This faith in self-construction goes together in the contemporary religion of humanity with a faith in human solidarity. At its extreme limit, it is the visionary conviction, belied but not destroyed by the terrors of ordinary social life, that all men and woman are bound together by an indivisible circle of love. In its more prosaic form, it is the historical insight that the practical benefits of social life all arise from cooperation and connection.
That form of cooperation will be most productive that is least bound by the restraints of any established scheme of social division and hierarchy and that is most successful in moderating the tension between the imperatives of cooperation and innovation. Every innovation — technical, organizational, or ideological — jeopardizes the present system of cooperation because it threatens to upset the social regime of rights and expectations in which cooperative relations are embedded. We should prefer the way of organizing cooperation that minimizes this tension. It will generally be one that makes the endowments and equipments of individual independent of the accidents of their birth as well as the particulars of their position; that rejects all the social and cultural predetermination of how people can work together; and that encourages the spread of an experimentalist impulse, harnessing confrontation with the unexpected to create the new.
The most valuable form of connection will enable people to diminish the price of dependence and depersonalization that we must pay for engagement with others. Self-construction depends on connection, and connection threatens to entangle us in toils of subjugation and to rob us of the very distinction that we can develop only thanks to it. There is a conflict between the enabling conditions of self-affirmation. To diminish that conflict is to become freer and greater, not by living apart but by living together while deepening the experience of self-possession.