Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Events and Society - Philosophy


The individualism of
Capitalism and Communism

Gone are the dynamics of difference

by Christos Yannaras (*)

Source:  From the Sunday edition of the newspaper KATHIMERINI of  7-8-2011
at: http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_columns_1_07/08/2011_451977



Capital does not have a homeland, and likewise the proletariat (the way it was defined by Marx).  "Capital" and "proletariat" are concise notions, which aspire to "benefits". Rival benefits, which spawn "classes" and "the struggle of the classes"; they have no homeland, because they preclude - by definition - the notion, the reality and the objective of "communion".  They are ignorant, both of the "community of need" as well as the "community of truth" - the common struggle for a "meaning" to existence and to coexistence.

"Capital" and "proletariat" are concise notions of "benefits", while carriers of those "benefits" are individuals - undiversified units of collective uniformity.  They (both "capital" and "proletariat") have an impersonal character, an international character; their conflict knows no boundaries and homelands.  Both of them reflect the impersonal aspect of man; the instinctive urges of natural uniformity (self-preservation, dominance, pleasure...). They are ignorant of the feat of liberation from the necessities of nature: a feat that comprises the social structure - the human civilization.

A Liberalized Economy and Marxism are the embellished, theoretical affirmations (and subsequently also the modulating matrices) of the organized interests of international Capital and the international proletariat, respectively.  Both theories are the typical products of the philosophy of the Enlightenment; i.e., individualism and physiocracy, which are the organic evolution of the religious (legalistic-pietistic) individualism of the medieval West, as was the rebellion to shake off the yoke of post-physical absolutism.

Capitalism and Marxism - the offspring of individualism and physiocracy - have produced with their coincidence of dialectic peaks an inhumanity, an unprecedented (for humanity) international way of life, with amazing achievements in facilitations and hedonic pleasures for the individual.  A way of life that is (by descent and radically) a-communal and a-political - at least in the original, the Hellenic sense of the terms "community" and "politics".  Even though this way of life is founded in the absolute priority of armorplating the impersonal individual (with individual,  rightful "liberties" or with centrally-controlled benefits of "general welfare"), it has -unduly- been named "civilization"; It has offered conditions of unbelievable prosperity to just a tiny portion of the world's population, and to the great majority a ghastly deprivation, torment and degradation.

But, whichever way we look at it, this "civilization" of modernity is nearing its end, quite obviously.  Twenty-two years ago (1989) the regimes that aspired to incarnate Marxism collapsed. Nowadays, Marxism is only of interest with regard to the history of ideas, or maybe to the hermeneutics of the conditions of Economy during the 19th century.  Here (in Greece) we have remnants of blinder-wearing, fanatic followers of the Schismatic Old Calendarist inclination who continue to be maintained to this day - without the privileges of publicity, the authoritarian power of extortions and richly-paid participation in Parliament - privileges that the Marxists here continue to savour... 

Very recently, there has been a rapid onset of symptoms which have felt like the creakings prior to the collapse of the almighty system of "free markets". But, how can a "civilization" - a common "way" of life collapse, if it has been solidly founded, with dominant institutional safeguards? Well, obviously when it has ceased to respond to basic human needs - even to the needs of those who had been favoured by that specific "way".  Economic Liberalism has rendered the economy autonomous; it has disconnected it from the community, from the serving of collective and individual needs, and has turned every facet of the Economy's function into a field for "liberal" personal games - gambling.  Private gaming has reached the point of abolishing (and degrading) even political authority: private "credit rating agencies" crush state economies; they overthrow governments, and "anoint" feeble-minded straw men as prime ministers.

About ten or more years ago, a Flemish sub-director of the office founded by Jacques Delors for the study of the European Union's prospects (Cellule de Prospective), Marc Luyckx Ghisi, had said to his Greek interlocutors: "You Greeks have a huge advantage: you weren't able to embrace modernity; your organism has inadvertently resisted it. Today (ten or so years ago), when the smarter Europeans are trying to jump off the modernity train to save themselves from the already ongoing derailment, you have the prerequisites to become pioneers in the meta-modernity era.  You can't perceive this, so you continue to struggle, sweating - even now - to climb onto that doomed train."

If only there were one - even if only one - Greek politician who could understand those words and possess the ability to foresee the consequences...  The historical, notional and experiential content of the Greek words for "community" (koinonia), "politics" (politiki) and "economy" (oekonomia), could have become the springboard for designing that pioneering venture in the meta-modernity era. But it looks like the margins are depleted; Greece no longer exists as a cultural entity.  Now lost, in public life and in institutions, is the awareness of the difference: that Hellas and the West are two non-coinciding "ways" of life, and modernity is now seen as "civilization", with the Greek terminologies reversed.

In this reversal of terminologies, the "middleman" form of Greek society has provided certificates of veridicality, of Greek nationality: the forgery and the exploiting of the ancient Greek heritage - which had been insolently dared by the meta-Roman (barbaric) West - was legalized by neo-Hellene arrogance.  This arrogance also consorted with the outright slandering of the Helleno-Roman "oecumene" (universality) by also accepting the pseudonym "Byzantium".  The leaders of provincially-minded Hellenism have come to believe that an awareness of any differentiation from the globalized West would necessarily mean an antithesis - a rift; that the example of Islam is a one-way street. Those ignoramuses did not know that in the Greek tradition, to become aware of differences is a challenge for creative acquirements (compositions), for a reformative pioneering.

But a repentance of that kind would require many decades of realistic political applications in order for any recovery to bear fruits.



(*)  Christos Yannaras is a contemporary Greek professor of Philosophy and author.  He was born in Athens in 1935.  He studied theology in Athens and Philosophy in Bonne and Paris. He is a doctor of Philosophy of the University of Sorbonne and the School of Theology of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.  He had a scholarship of the German Scholarships Foundation "Alexander von Hamboldt Stiftung" and is an elected member of the Society of Greek Authors as well as the Brussels  "Academie International des Sciences Humaines". He is also Professor Emeritus of the University of Belgrade, of the St.Vladimir School of New York and the School of the Precious Cross of Boston. From 1982 until 2002 he was a regular professor of Philosophy at the Panteios University of Political and Social Sciences in Athens - initially at the unified Department of Political Science and International Studies and later Department of International and European Studies.  He taught philosophical terminology and method, political philosophy and cultural diplomacy.  He has also taught as a visiting professor, at the Universities of Paris, Geneva, Lausanne and Rethymnon, Crete.  He has a treasure of authored works to show, with themes that pertain to researching the differences between Hellenic and Western European philosophy and the Orthodox Christian tradition.  Many of his works have been translated into at least 10 different European languages.




Translation by K.N.

Article published in English on: 9-8-2011.

Last update: 9-8-2011.