What I find more interesting though is that both the left and right are expressing deep misgivings about that atomistic individualism. The right, of course, has been talking about this for decades in terms of the loss of tradition and the collapse of institutions of cultural authority, and the personal instability that collapse has caused. But, while the left doesn’t quite talk about the same things, I don’t know anyone on the left anymore who doesn’t talk about “the loss of community” in much the same way. So, there really might be a deep loneliness there that transcends politics.
This misses the real radicalism of the sustained critiques of “social atomism.” Rufus naturally psychologizes the problem, which changes from individualism to “loneliness.” The tendency to recast abstract nouns as affects has been well hashed out, most blogically by James Poulos, but like its master it returns sometimes as an angel of light, and must be resisted with equal vigilance. This turn vitiates the force of almost all radical critiques of contemporary Western society, because what is common to almost all of them, Marxist, traditionalist, Environmentalist, etc., is that they address themselves to objective conditions. So, a Marxist believes workers to be exploited even if the worker is delighted with his lot, thinks it fair, etc. A defender of our order would say that his being delighted with his lot, thinking it fair, etc., is just what matters. In the same way, a program to alleviate the loneliness of the citizenry (easy if sinister, as ThatPirateGuy writes: “If you talked to me before I met beth, I would have felt a lack of community and loneliness but I really don’t feel it anymore”) wouldn’t do anything to address the criticism that humans under liberal capitalism are “atomized.”