Category Archives: abstractions

Deutscher’s convoluted abstractions and chilling impersonality

Dalrymple points out that Isaac Deutscher was, to put it mildly, deficient in intellectual probity. He

believed in something called the dialectic; and the dialectic is to moral and intellectual dishonesty what Freud said dreams were to the unconscious, namely the royal road.

Deutscher was

one of those Marxists who could not quite make up his mind whether mass murder in the right hands did or did not serve the long-term interests of humanity.

Dalrymple notes that Deutscher’s prose style

is the man himself: evasive, slippery, an equivocator with evil and with the soul of an NKVD apparatchik.

What Deutscher writes

is chillingly impersonal: if he had been writing of the extermination camps, he might have done so by reference to their carbon dioxide emissions. It was as if he believed that if you were cold-hearted and impersonal enough, you became scientific. He saw classes of men, not men. His convoluted abstractions were more real to him than anything as concrete or vulgar as a bullet in the back of someone’s head.

How do I appear concerned and compassionate to my friends, colleagues, and peers?

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More humanitarian than thou, not to mention a great deal richer

This, says Dalrymple, is for the pols, the polly-toynbees, the pundits and the pampered celebs of the West the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem.

The rules are:

  • Never give the appearance of blaming the victim of any social problem, or anyone whose life is poor or unenviable, by examining the bad choices he makes
  • Refrain always from looking at the reasons for those choices, since victims are victims and not responsible for their acts, unlike the small class of human beings who are not victims
  • Do not stare at a social problem for very long. Turn to abstractions, to structures over which the victim has no control

The rawness of reality must be avoided, says Dalrymple, so that

utopian schemes of social engineering can be spun.

The bien-pensants view people as

in the grip of forces that they cannot influence, let alone control—and therefore as not full members of the human race.

That people are reduced to automata suits the élite, for it

increases the importance of its providential role in society.