Individualism in Marx

Chris Matthew Sciabarra cms10 at
Tue Aug 31 08:59:29 MDT 1999

At 09:52 AM 8/31/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Charles: But isn't there a connection between methodological and ethical
>individualism ? I mean in a dialectical attitude toward method and ethics.
>It is not a coincidence that bourgeois ideology is filled with both.
>Dialectics is not rare in bourgeois scholarship for nothin'.

Oh, I agree wholeheartedly.  There sure is a connection between the two.
But several issues are important to consider.  First, I think we need to be
clear about the meaning of methodological individualism.  My view is that
it is too often conflated with "atomism" -- and this, it is not.  Menger
and the Austrians are practicing methodological individualists, but they
are "organic" individualists, who would not think EVER of separating the
individual from his or her social, cultural, and historical context.  And
the Aristotelian tradition, which has greatly affected the evolution of
individualist ideas, always began with "man" as a "social animal."

>Charles: The test of Rand's method is the practice of it, like any other
>theory. What are the fruits of her method , whether ethical individualism or
>otherwise ? I don't think a dialectical approach can make this separation
>between method and ethics. The unity of theory and practice ( method and
>ethics) is important to Hegel and Marx.
>Charles Brown

I discuss the applications of Rand's dialectical method in Parts 2 and 3 of
my book, AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL.  The most striking application of
it is in Part 3, where I argue that Rand developed a tri-level analysis of
power relations in contemporary political economy.  The fruits of this
method are grand insofar as they seek to uncover the multiple dimensions
through which power relations work:  the structural, the cultural, and the
personal.  The structural includes the reciprocal causes and effects of
political and economic institutions on the cultural and the personal.  The
cultural includes the reciprocal causes and effects of culture (art,
literature, music, ideology, education, pedagogy, etc.) on the structural
and the personal.  And the personal includes the reciprocal causes and
effects of individual practices (ethical and psycho-epistemological) on
culture and political/economic structures.  Rand filters every social
problem -- from racism to unemployment -- thru the same kind of tri-level
analysis, tracing the internal relations between the levels, and thereby,
examining how power manifests itself differentially.  Her goal is to change
the totality, not to tinker with one level to the exclusion of the others.

For all her ethical individualism, her emphasis on the autonomy and dignity
of the individual, Rand fully recognizes the individual's sociality and
context... her goal is to change the conditions, the context, so as to free
the individual.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar
NYU Department of Politics
715 Broadway
New York, New York  10003-6806
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