The Personhood Of “Society”, And The Myth Of The General Will

How can anything benefit “society”? There is nothing we can call “society” that actually experiences anything at all — and what (and to whom) is the value of a benefit unexperienced? If “society” benefits, it is only experienced by individual persons, each of whom experiences any social benefit or blessing as an individual. There is not, nor can there be in humanity as presently constituted, any “mass man”.

Collectivist ideologies imagine the ideal State to be the expression of the “general will”. But if there is no “mass man”, how is it possible for such a thing as “general will” even to exist, let alone to express itself? At best, all that is possible for the masses is to choose, from among various men of ambition, which of them they will submit to. In terms of actual power — which is the capacity to originate and compel policy, laws, and dynamic action — they have nothing.

What the masses have in democratic societies, then, is simply a comforting illusion. It is nothing whatsoever like real sovereignty, which has, and must have, the possibility of original and effective Will.

Update, December 13th: The above is what might be called a hard-“nominalist” view. Have I not written often about societies as living organisms? How is such a view compatible with what I’ve said in this post? There is much more to say about this.


  1. Correction:

    There is no – nor can there be in humanity as presently constituted – any “mass man”.

    Jeffery Hodges

    @ @ @

    Posted December 12, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  2. Oops . . . not . . . any or no . . Mass

    Jeffery Hodges

    @ @ @

    Posted December 12, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Right you are, Jeffery. Fixed it. Thanks.

    Posted December 12, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  4. Whitewall says

    Wouldn’t “real sovereignty” require an actual flesh and blood Sovereign? If not, then wouldn’t we, or any population, simply become a collection of self regulating and self governing individuals constantly running to each other…figuratively and literally?

    Doesn’t religion also require a “comfortable illusion” to make it durable and ever lasting?

    Posted December 13, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  5. Jacques says

    I’d like to hear more about this Malcolm. I’m sympathetic to the ideal of an organic society, where an elite class embodies the spirit or mind of the whole group, linking ancestors to descendants spiritually and mythologically. I wonder whether the only reason most (white) people nowadays reject this idea in favor of nominalism is just that we’ve been acculturated in such an atomized, degenerate and weak society–we’ve been taught from infancy to think only in terms of the nuclear family and the present, or even just in terms of some momentary version of the self; we’ve been taught that nothing immaterial is real, that all that matters is money, etc. But if we use the family as a (rough) analogue, it seems to me that families can have a kind of shared spirit or mind extending over generations. I’m not sure I disagree entirely with your view; maybe the group as a whole is not conscious but then maybe the people within it can be conscious of the whole or much of the whole in some way that goes far beyond what we normally think is possible for the individual mind.

    Posted December 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says


    Wouldn’t “real sovereignty” require an actual flesh and blood Sovereign?

    Increasingly, I’m coming round to the view that in most cases (perhaps in all cases, sooner or later) it does.

    Posted December 13, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says


    How to resolve the tension between these views? The question goes to the heart of what it means to be a social being, and to the nature of self-organizing systems.

    I’m thinking about it… mustn’t rush these things.

    Posted December 13, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  8. Whitewall says

    This might play a part?

    Second article, The Hearts of “Millennials”

    Posted December 15, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

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