Is there a general consensus on de Benoist being correct about what he's saying in this essay? Because to me he sounds like he's right on target. I'll lift some key quotes to entice you.
In “Critique of Liberal Ideology,” Alain de Benoist uses the term “liberalism” in the broad European sense of the term that applies not just to American liberalism but even more so to American libertarianism and mainstream conservatism, insofar as all three share a common history and common premises.
[...] the principle of equality and individuality—which initially functioned solely in the relationship with God and thus could still coexist with an organic and hierarchical principle structuring the social whole—was gradually brought down to earth, resulting in modern individualism, which represents its secular projection. “In order for modern individualism to be born,” writes Alain Renaut explicating the theses of Louis Dumont, it was necessary for the individualistic and universalist component of Christianity “to contaminate,” so to speak, modern life to such an extent that gradually its representations were unified, the initial dualism was erased, and “life in the world was reconceived as being able to conform completely to the supreme value”: at the end of this process, “the otherworldly individual became the modern worldly individual.” Organic society of the holist type then disappeared.
As for the market’s optimal operation, it requires that nothing obstruct the free circulation of men and goods, i.e., borders must be treated as unreal, which tends to dissolve common structures and values. Of course this does not mean that liberals can never defend collective identities. But they do so only in contradiction to their [own] principles.
Liberal freedom thus supposes that individuals can be abstracted from their origins, their environment, the context in which they live and where they exercise their choices, from everything, that is., that makes them who they are, and not someone else. It supposes, in other words, as John Rawls says, that the individual is always prior to his ends. Nothing, however, proves that the individual can apprehend himself as a subject free of any allegiance, free of any determinism. Moreover, nothing proves that in all circumstances he will prefer freedom over every other good. Such a conception by definition ignores commitments and attachment that owe nothing to rational calculation. It is a purely formal conception, that makes it impossible to understand what a real person is.
Liberal individualism tends everywhere to destroy direct sociability, which for a long time impeded the emergence of the modern individual and the collective identities that are associated with him. “Liberalism,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “to some extent makes the depersonalization of the world a condition of progress and freedom.”
Besides supporting the “mechanism” characteristic of liberal ideology, which is given a fundamental epistemological value, Marx himself adheres to a metaphysics of the individual, which led Michel Henry to see him as “one of the leading Christian thinkers of the Occident” (Michel Henry, Marx [Paris: Gallimard, 1991], vol. 2, 445). The reality of Marxist individualism, beyond its collectivist façade, was established by many authors, beginning with Louis Dumont. “Marx’s entire philosophy,” Pierre Rosanvallon writes, “can . . . be understood as an effort to enhance modern individualism. . . . The concept of class struggle itself has no meaning outside the framework of an individualistic representation of society. In a traditional society, by contrast, it has no significance” (Le libéralisme économique . Histoire de l'idée de marché , [Paris: Seuil, 1989] , 188- 89). Marx certainly challenged the fiction of Homo economicus that developed beginning in the eighteenth century, but only because the bourgeoisie used it to alienate the real individual and bind him to an existence narrowed to the sphere of self- interest alone. However, for Marx, self-interest is merely an expression of a separation between the individual and his life.
“The juggling act of the liberal ideology,” according to Caillé, “. . . resides in the identification of the legal state with the commercial state, its reduction to an emanation of the market. Consequently, the plea for the freedom of individuals to choose their own ends in reality turns into an obligation to have only commercial ends.”
As a consequence of the market’s advent, “society,” as Karl Polanyi writes, “is managed as an auxiliary of the market. Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in economic relations.”
Sociology itself arose from real society’s resistance to political and institutional changes as well as those who invoked a “natural order” to denounce the formal and artificial character of the new mode of social regulation. For the first sociologists, the rise of individualism hatched a double fear: of “anomie” resulting from the disintegration of social bonds (Émile Durkheim) and of the “crowd” made up of atomized individuals suddenly brought together in an uncontrollable mass” (Gustave Le Bon or Gabriel Tarde, both of whom reduce the analysis of social facts to “psychology”).
While the nation- state supported and instituted the market, antagonism between liberalism and the “public sector” grew in tandem. Liberals never cease fulminating against the welfare state, without realizing that it is precisely the market’s extension that necessitates ever- increasing state intervention. The man whose labour is subject solely to the market’s play is indeed vulnerable, for his labor might find no takers or have no value. Modern individualism, moreover, destroyed the organic relations of proximity, which were above all relations of mutual aid and reciprocal solidarity, thus destroying old forms of social protection. While regulating supply and demand, the market does not regulate social relations, but on the contrary disorganizes them, if only because it does not take into account demands for which one cannot pay. The rise of the welfare state then becomes a necessity, since it is the only power able to correct the most glaring imbalances and attenuate the most obvious distresses.
This is why, as Karl Polanyi showed, every time liberalism appeared to triumph, it has been paradoxically assisted by the addition of official interventions necessitated by the damage to the social fabric caused by the logic of the market. “Without the relative social peace of the welfare state,” Alain Caillé observes, “the market order would have been swept away altogether.”
Liberal authors believe society can be based solely on individualism and market values. This is an illusion. Individualism has never been the sole foundation of social behaviour, and it never will be. There are also good reasons to think that individualism can appear only insofar as society remains to some extent holist. “Individualism,” writes Louis Dumont, “is unable to replace holism completely and reign over all society. . . . Moreover, it cannot function without holism contributing to its life in a variety of unperceived and surreptitious ways.”
The whole current crisis arises from the contradiction that is exacerbated between the ideal of the abstract universal man (with its corollary atomization and depersonalization of all social relationships) and the reality of the concrete man (for whom social ties continue to be founded on emotional ties and relations of proximity, along with their corollaries of cohesion, consensus, and reciprocal obligations).
Has he done a fantastic job here?