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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Myth of Robinson Crusoe’s Individualism

The individualists demand “freedom from” religion, clan, culture, moral norms, and politics—they preach that man is like a Robinson Crusoe, and he must live in a metaphorical deserted island where he is free from all collectives. But such views are a sign of their ideological over-maturity and psychological backwardness. 

Man is not just the maker of civilizations (which are the largest collective of humanity)—he is the product of civilizations. Robison Crusoe, the protagonist in Daniel Defoe’s book, is a brave man who gets trapped in a deserted island. He does all that he can to preserve his sanity, meet the needs of his body, and survive as a human. But man is not designed to be like Crusoe. His mind might identify as an individual, but the heart of most men identifies with the collectives: relatives, friends, customers, associates, employees, employers, and the religious, political, social, and intellectual groups of which he is a part. 

Man qua man is a political creature and politics can never transcend collectivism. We join the collectives in order to find a sense of security and belonging, to develop spiritual, cultural, and political bonds for defending our way of life, and to avoid the one thing which we truly dread: loneliness. The man who sees himself as an individualist is no Crusoe; he is naive, politically ineffective, and culturally alienated, and he lacks the sense to realize that he is overestimating his virtues and capacities. The nations where individualism becomes a popular movement generally see a steep decline in the quality of their politics and culture. 

If these individualists end up on a deserted island, they will not last for a week—they will undergo mental disintegration from the feeling of being lonely and they will eventually starve to death. Individualism is not a virtue; it is a vice.

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