Jul 4, 2024

real autonomy

N.S. Lyons:

The paradox is that the more individuals are liberated from the restraints imposed on them by others (e.g. relational bonds, communal duties, morals and norms) and by themselves (moral conscience and self-discipline), the more directionless and atomized they become; and the more atomized they become, the more vulnerable and reliant they are on the safety offered by some greater collective. Alone in his “independence,” the individual finds himself dependent on a larger power to protect his safety and the equality of his proliferating “rights” (desires) from the impositions of others, and today it is the state that answers this demand. Yet the more the state protects his right to consume and “be himself” without restraint, the less independently capable and differentiated he becomes, even as his private affairs increasingly become the business of the expanding state.

Subject to the impersonal regulations of mechanistic processes and procedures rather than his own judgement or that of the people in close communion with him, the individual is molded into a more and more uniform cog to fit into the machine: a mere passive “consumer” and easily manipulated and programmed puppet – an automaton – rather than a true individual actor. In the effort to maximize his autonomy, his real autonomy has been lost.