The Risk that Western Reliance on Science Will Eventually Overturn the Individualistic Ideology of Western Society

It was the individualistic impulse responding to the stifling conventionalism of Mediaeval Europe that led to the development of Science, as an objective standard for defining our relation to the world and our mode and means of action in the world.  However, as Science gains its own ascendancy, and enforces the power of its laws, principles and guidelines, it leads to a new conventional organisation of society based on scientific principles.  This in turn can yield control of the State to a new technocratic elite, or at least to those political actors who harness the technocratic elite, armed in this case with laws and rules that have proven their efficacy in the material world, and with new tools of control and enforcement that science and technology have made possible.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “For this discovery by individual free-thought of universal laws of which the individual is almost a by-product and by which he must necessarily be governed, this attempt actually to govern the social life of humanity in conscious accordance with the mechanism of these laws seems to lead logically to the suppression of that very individual freedom which made the discovery and the attempt at all possible.  In seeking the truth and law of his own being the individual seems to have discovered a truth and law which is not of his own individual being at all, but of the collectivity, the pack, the hive, the mass.  The result to which this points and to which it still seems irresistibly to be driving us is a new ordering of society by a rigid economic or governmental Socialism in which the individual, deprived again of his freedom in his own interest and that of humanity, must have his whole life and action determined for him at every step and in every point from birth to old age by the well-ordered mechanism of the State.  We might then have a curious new version, with very important differences, of the old Asiatic or even of the old Indian order of society.  In place of the religio-ethical sanction there will be a scientific and rational or naturalistic motive and rule; instead of the Brahmin Shastrakara the scientific, administrative and economic expert.”

The consequences of this would imply an ossification of society without the safety valves provided by the Indian system, such as the freedom of the individual to “opt out” in favor of the renunciation of a spiritual seeking.  The conventional controls, starting with youth education, work life and management of each person’s role in society, would lose the dynamic and adventurous energy which led to the discoveries in the first place, until such time as the conventional system breaks down once again through its too rigid formalism.

“And quite certainly this static order would at long last be broken by a new individualist age of revolt, led probably by the principles of an extreme philosophical Anarchism.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 2, the Age of Individualism and Reason, pp. 21-22