Liberty Is the Fruit of Sovereignty

You can’t do anything at all if the world isn’t ordered. Actions are conceivable under conditions of absolute disorder, but their effects are not. So, since acts can complete their actuality only insofar as their actions somehow eventuate in effects – which cannot happen under conditions of disorder – then actions cannot actually happen except under conditions of order.

This holds not just for the cosmic order that warrants our expectations of the consequences of our actions, but for its social subsidiary.

Only in the context of a social order can we do anything as individuals.

Even Daniel Boone, roving ever westward, deeper ever into the wilderness and away from the constraints of society, relied upon those constraints, that prevented (most sorts of) men – his socii, his friends, allies, followers, his fellows – from following him, killing him and his children, raping his wife, burning his cabin and his crops, and taking all his things. Boone’s strategy presupposed and relied upon the good order of Western Christian society. In effect, Boone’s homestead was an outpost and salient of that society he fled. He did not in his lonely cabins teach his children Swahili, or the use of the atl atl, forsooth. They learnt English, and the use of the musket.

And after all, the main work of his life was to found and defend a town.

Only in the context of a social order can we do anything as individuals; indeed, only insofar as they have been engendered by a society (of man and wife) can individuals even come to pass; society, then, is prior to individuals. This, not just logically, but then ergo ontologically, and so nomologically (for, law that does not cleave to what is actual is not law in the first place, but rather only a lie): literally all the powers of the individual derive from his cosmic context; and, ergo, from his social context.

There is no man without there be first a man and a woman.

Likewise: the liberty of any free man supervenes upon and presupposes – and implicitly accepts – the constraints imposed by some sovereign, who is the vicar of society.

Individual liberty then is an artifact of sovereign authority.


13 thoughts on “Liberty Is the Fruit of Sovereignty

  1. Pingback: Liberty Is the Fruit of Sovereignty | @the_arv

    • Mostly wrong, yes. The libertarian economic analysis is largely correct, but it presupposes and omits a prior social settlement (implemented by the social sovereign) on the correct limits upon individual acts, which determine what shall be construed as proper, as appropriate, as property. Only once everyone pretty much agrees on those things can transactions proceed in an orderly fashion, so that there are then markets, contracts, and so forth.

      There is always a law respecting every sort of act, whether or not it is written or even apprehended. And these laws all constrain and regulate – i.e., order, and coordinate – our acts.

      Behavior *just is* constraint of action.

  2. “Liberty” has become a modernist totem representing a reductive view of political empowerment, as if political empowerment of certain concrete options didn’t always and necessarily come at a cost of multitudinous discrimination and constraint — discrimination against and constraint of an infinite number of real potentials, of roads closed off and forbidden, for every single concrete empowerment.

    Choosing to go down one particular road always discriminates against and closes off an infinite number of other really potential roads. Every actual empowerment, every step down a particular road, discriminates and destroys the possibility — the real freedom — to choose something different.

    It is no accident that modernity tends toward denial of the reality of time, that inexorable creator of roads-not-travelled: the ultimate destroyer of freedom. It is no accident that modernity struggles to remain in a state of perpetual suspended adolescence, where a no fault divorce reversing our own choices can (supposedly) take us back to that place of freedom where green and fertile roads stretched out in every direction.

    Of course going back to the intersection doesn’t really take us back in time. That world has moved on, the intersection is now desolate and barren, dust and tumbleweeds and broken rutted roads leading off into the desert and despair in every direction.

    Thus the paradox of anarchotyranny. The more modern man pursues political freedom, the more confined and constrained he becomes in an amoral bureaucratic sterile techno-hive of his own making, until he dies alone in a tiny bureaucratic sterile clinical box.

    • Exactly. All modern accounts of society – including all sorts of liberalism – fail because in one way or another they all improperly reduce society to relations of power between individuals otherwise putatively untrammeled in their scope of action. In reality there is no such thing as untrammeled scope of action, and power is but one of many dimensions of social order. Their improper reduction renders all modern political theories inadequate to man as he really is. Modern political theories are about something other than man.

      Fortunately for man, society rolls along in all its dimensions, regardless of what the social scientists and reformers say or do. Or hobbles along, anyway, dragging their fetters.

  3. Not even consciousness itself can become individual — much less personal — until it has originally been cosmic and social.

    • If the universe is coherent – if, that is to say, it is a true kosmos, a world – then all its parts are interconnected in a seamless integrity, a continuum. And in the final analysis, this means that there is really no such thing as an isolate entity. Not only is no man an island, but there are no islands anywhere at all, of any sort.

      Every creature whatever, indeed every state of affairs, is the final end of some prior. All things are heirs of their forebears.

      • It is a very Bergsonian argument — and I concur! I propose the sequence SOCIETY > INDIVIDUAL > PERSON heuristically. Whereas the individual is someone who has succeeded in dissociating himself from the society, who, let us say, after the Jacobins and Marxists, has liberated himself into what seems a blissful atomism; the person, by contrast, is someone who, having first liberated himself into individuality, has then seen the limits of that individuality and has made an effort to reintegrate himself with the ambient society and with its enfolding cosmos. The procedure is called education and the content that it imparts is called tradition. Tradition is rooted in the pre-existing society, which has codified it based partly on trans-generational experience and partly on what is axiomatic or revealed at the moment when consciousness begins.

        Respecting libertarians — they might be classed as people who have have dissociated themselves from the society, but who are then stuck in that dissociation, which proves itself therein not to be liberating at all, but restricting and stultifying. Such people lack something that they would experience as an impulsion to reintegrate. Therefore, never reintegrating, they never become persons.

        A society fully realizes itself in personhood. This is why healthy societies have rites of initiation that, first, extract the individual from the matriarchy; then isolate him, so as to make him aware of the terrible loneliness of the individual; and finally reintegrate him, so that he combines what is good but incomplete in the social with what is good but incomplete in the individual. Our society currently is not a healthy society. On the one hand, have a plenitude of pajama-boy types who cannot leave the womb of the matriarchy, which has extended itself everywhere. On the other hand, we have a plenitude of libertarians, not confining that term to its strict function as the label of a self-defining political movement, but extending it to cover the full range of “I Did It My Way” and “Selfishness is a Virtue” behaviors. At last, we have a shortage of persons.

        I tell my students that smart people can and do read books, but wise people let books read them. Smart people are usually individuals. Wise people are invariably persons.

      • Well and good, except that I worry about that restricted use of “person.” Foeti are persons, after all. The only alternatives I can think of are socius or adult.

    • Good question. Crime is an empty category in the absence of laws (whether written or not). One can’t break a law that isn’t there to begin with. So we are not able even to act anti-socially except in the context of society and its instruments of constraint upon our acts.

  4. Wittgenstein pointed out that, when Descartes tried to come up with a proposition that was impossible to doubt and produced his famous Cogito, ergo sum, he missed another, equally indubitable and even more obvious: “This sentence consists of Latin words, the meaning of which I know.”

    Now, as he rightly points out, “Thinking is not an incorporeal process which lends life and sense to speaking, and which it would be possible to detach from speaking, rather as the Devil took the shadow of Schlemihl from the ground…” If anyone doubts this, he proposes the following experiment: : “Say a sentence and think it; say it with understanding – Now, do not say it, just do what you accompanied it with, when you said it with understanding!”


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