I made a comment over at Jim’s Blog on the topic of working-class consciousness, how whites needed to see themselves as workers as well. Jim responded pretty strongly to this, to the original comment and to the extent of making a post directly on the topic, Working class consciousness, dismissing the idea comprehensively as leading to Nazism or communism.
It turns out Jim isn’t a “neo-reactionary” at all but just a very familiar figure, a Randian capitalist libertarian. According to Jim, people don’t make things, joint-stock corporations make things.
I don’t like to put my own links in comments, but the comment I made on quasi-black nationalist/comic book nerd/Howard University dropout Ta-Nehisi Coates is strangely enough appropriate for Jim. My comment on Coates was that black people don’t make things, white people make things; my comment to Jim, with only a few side comments needing changes, is that joint-stock corporations don’t make things, white people make things.
Ayn Rand is regarded pretty snidely by the good people- a crazy woman a few nerds like in high school, and some black-hearted libertarians and Republicans. And yet the Randian hero- a capitalist who strives against all odds, opposition, and even the law to build his empire- is at least as much a hero of progressives as of neoconservatives. Who is more the Randian hero than Steve Jobs? More the progressive ideal? Less heroic, but still in the mold, are Mark Zuckerberg, the Google guys, and various other tech capitalists. (The more socially conventional engineers who made it all possible with the actual technology are conveniently forgotten- after all they are just white guys making stuff in their garages like my uncle.) Unrestrained capitalism of the right sort is deeply admired by progressives. Blacks, latinos, women, and gays have rights, but workers are just losers, whatever their skill level.
The existential hero- a more modern version of the German Romantic hero- is the individual who defies fate and the conventional order to create his own destiny, to remake the world in his own image. Ayn Rand saw the mass-manufacturing capitalists of the late 19th century as her ultimate models, and yet the communist terrorists of the same era fit the bill at least as well. The existential hero shapes the colorless and dull mass of humanity to his ideal.
So both the idealized market economy and the two basic kinds of leftism- the cultural kind, progressivism, and the economic kind, communism- place great importance on the figure of the existential hero. Here’s the thing, though- there is no existential hero. Every human being is at the mercy of, a product of and hostage to forces far greater than he and far outside his power and control. The ostensible existential hero is only one, more visible member of a greater human community, and above that creation itself.
Pride is said to be the ultimate sin, but I’m not completely sure about that. Pride is an ambiguous thing that has positive uses. What you might call the bad forms of pride, selfishness and arrogance, definitely are.
Because humans exist in a greater community and in creation they must humble themselves to God’s law. Everybody has rights and everybody has responsibilities. No person or group of people can take an excessive amount for themselves, or abuse others. The scriptures warn against this repeatedly.
(Cross-posted with substantially overlapping content on my politics blog here.)