The Principle Of Association

If the present age cannot be saved by philosophy, it likewise cannot be redeemed by the idea of sociality or the principle of association, which in Kierkegaard's view serves in an inversely dialectical manner to weaken and vitiate individuals while seeking to strengthen them by sticking together in numbers (TA 106). Inspired by the Saint-Simon movement of the 1820s and 1830s, for whom the forming of associations was a central strategy for alleviating the plight of the poor by organizing stock corporations with communal ownership of property and dividends, Scandinavian socialists in the 1840s addressed the severe problems of pauperism in their generation in a similar manner.9 In Denmark Frederik Dreier founded the Craftsman's Educational Society for relief of the poor, while Marcus Thrane (1817-90) formed a number of Workmen's Associations in Norway.10 Danish liberals also formed an alliance with the peasant movement in 1846 through the establishment of the Society of the Friends of the Peasant.11 Although Kierkegaard admits that the principle of association 'can have validity with respect to material interest', the levelling that comes with it leads to a loss not only of individuality but also of genuine community which requires a strong sense of individuality in order to be viable: 'Not until the single individual has established an ethical stance despite the whole world, not until then can there be any question of genuinely uniting; otherwise it gets to be a union of people who separately are weak, a union as unbeautiful and depraved as a child-marriage' (106). Only when one is turned inward in passionate self-concern as a single individual can one form a proper relation to and with others: 'If the essential passion is taken away, the one motivation, and everything becomes meaningless externality, devoid of character, then the spring of ideality stops flowing and life together becomes stagnant water' (62).

One of the characteristics of the age of revolution admired by Kierkegaard is that both individually and corporately individuals of that age were passionately related to an idea ('freedom, equality, fraternity') that bound them together, yet not so close as to become a herd, which Kierkegaard, alluding to Aristotle, regards as an animal category, not a human one.12 'When individuals (each one individually) are essentially and passionately related to an idea and together are essentially related to the same idea', he observes, 'the relation is optimal and normative', involving both individual separation in inwardness and corporate unanimity in relation to the idea (TA 62). As Kierkegaard sees it, both elements are necessary for genuine community, for 'if individuals relate to an idea merely en masse (consequently without the individual separation of inwardness), we get violence, anarchy, riotousness' (63). Without a common idea to bind and inspire individuals together, everything devolves into crudeness or a lack of culture. Ideally, then, the proper relation of the

9 Breckman (1999: 151-64); Woszek (1987). 10 Hovde (1943: ii. 626, 635-41.

12 Cf. Aristotle, Politics 3. 11, 1281a40-3-1281b15-20. See also UDVS 190; SUD 118; JP iii.

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