Monbiot’s enemy is individualism, the “religion of our times”by Richard McNeill Douglas / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
In his new book, the journalist, environmentalist and political campaigner George Monbiot does more than just critique the ideological status quo: he attempts to change it, providing both a vision of a new society—more democratic, cohesive and humanitarian—and a road map for how to get there.
Monbiot’s enemy is individualism, the “religion of our times,” as he calls it, whose political form is economic neoliberalism. To counter damaging atomisation, Monbiot advocates local projects that will activate our empathetic nature. At the same time, though, he is repelled by the thought of “drab conformity”: the communities he values are those that are “vibrant,” thanks to the assertion of individual agency.
The tension between individualism and community runs through the book. In his passages on revolutionary democracy, the author’s attempts to marry authenticity and belonging take on faintly threatening overtones. Inspired by the utopian zeal of Bernie Sanders’ volunteers, Monbiot imagines rallies in which “the energiser” whips the crowd into a frenzy, before leading them in an anthem and directing them towards their next task.
The book’s strengths lie in its positive tone and economic writing style. Its weakness is the overemphasis on apparently authentic communities to provide us with our sense of meaning.
Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis is by George Monbiot (Verso, £14.99)