Ben Lewis

September 3, 2019

More on Resentment as Revolution

In response to my post about resentment, Mitch raises a very good question, namely whether or not leftists wish to raise anything in the place of the social framework they seek to dismantle. He writes,

This is what makes resentment in our time so dangerous and dark– it aims at nothing, it is never satisfied, there is no end to its eternal and constant loathing. It does not yearn for a better world but instead seeks to make social tension and strife a sustaining characteristic of the everyday. Deep down, many of us wonder about the end game; we operate on this idea that someday, soon, the left will have total control and the revolution will be over. But we must remember: the revolution is constant and ever-present; upheaval is the new normal, there is no end game for the grievance mongers.

Since my original post was inspired by Roger Scruton, it’s interesting to note that Scruton concurs with much of Mitch’s assessment as it relates to both the endless modern drive to liberate people from what John Stuart Mill called the “tyranny of the majority” (which to Mill meant not political democracy but public opinion), and to the eternal pursuit of the vague doctrine of social justice. Scruton writes,

Liberation of the victim is a restless cause, since new victims always appear over the horizon as the last ones escape into the void. [Many forms of liberation] have been absorbed into the more recent leftist agendas, to be enshrined in laws and committees overseen by a censorious officialdom. Gradually the old norms of social order have been marginalized, or even penalized as violations of “human rights.” Indeed, the cause of “liberation” has seen the proliferation of more laws than were ever invented to suppress it - just think of what is now ordained in the cause of “non-discrimination.” Likewise the goal of “social justice” is no longer equality before the law, or the equal claim to the rights of citizenship, as these were advocated at the Enlightenment. The goal is a comprehensive rearrangement of society, so that privileges, hierarchies, and even the unequal distribution of goods are either overcome or challenged. The more radical egalitarianism of the nineteenth-century Marxists and anarchists, who sought for the abolition of private property, perhaps no longer has widespread appeal.
But behind the goal of “social justice” there marches another and more dogged egalitarian mentality, which believes that inequality in whatever sphere - property, leisure, legal privilege, social rank, educational opportunities, or whatever else we may wish for ourselves and our children - is unjust until proven otherwise. In every sphere in which the social position of individuals might be compared, equality is the default position. ...the most important point to notice is that it is an argument that allows nothing to stand in its way. No existing custom, institution, law or hierarchy; no tradition, distinction, rule or piety can trump equality, if it cannot provide itself with independent credentials. Everything that does not conform to the egalitarian goal must be pulled down and built again, and the mere fact that some custom or institution has been handed down and accepted is no argument in its favour. In this way “social justice” becomes a barely concealed demand for the “clean sweep” of history that revolutionaries have always attempted.

The fact that the leftist revolution is never-ending seems obvious enough. The question is whether this is intended, or is simply a confirmation of the Tocqueville Effect, in which social disharmony is said to grow at roughly the same rate as equality. Either way, the task of rebuilding society is impossible in an environment of institutionalized resentment, and we are left to wonder, as Mitch does, if that is fundamentally the goal.

About the author

Ben is a writer living in Ohio with his family. His reading interests are focused primarily on history and traditionalist conservatism and their relation to libertarianism. He is a contributing editor for Austro Libertarian.

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