The idea of collectivism and its faults were showcased throughout Ayn Rand’s Anthem. From the beginning, collectivist characteristics were all over the unnamed city. The government’s goal was to eliminate individuality and always think and act in a way that could only benefit the city as a whole. Anyone showing signs of even a little self-thought could be reprimanded. I found this to be excessive to the point where even wanting something was seen as being wrong. If a man desired something for himself, that meant he wasn’t thinking about society as a whole. I agree in a sense that other people have to be put into consideration when acting upon certain decisions, but simply sitting by yourself to think and reflect should not be against the law.
This is where rational egoism comes into play. This idea is backed by the basis of something being rational only if it benefits oneself. This, of course, goes completely against the ideas of collectivism. However, since collectivism is so extreme in Anthem, I argue that rational egoism in moderation could benefit the society. Being able to think about oneself would bring back a person’s individuality. People could do what made them happy and express themselves. Basic human needs could be met by ensuring their own happiness. This, however, opens up the risk that someone’s happiness could be negative for the society and cause damage or a rebellion.
Under Rand’s collectivism, I feel that free choice is eliminated. This ties in with the concept of altruism. Other people’s needs are supposed to be put in front of yours at all times. Being selfish or even a little self-aware is not an option. This leads to people automatically doing things without necessarily thinking about them. Rational egoism could balance this all out by giving the power back to the people and their minds. Acting in ways that could benefit the society and acting as individuals could coexist. For instance, when Equality 7-2521 made the light bulb work, he was doing what made him happy and exploring his curiosity. He then wanted to share his discovery to benefit society as a whole. I argue that this is how the concepts of rational egoism and collectivism can coexist in one society.
My argument is that rational egoism and collectivism both in moderation can work together. Having either as an extreme could be harmful to the society over time. Too much rational egoism can lead to selfishness, jealousy, arrogance, and narcissism, whereas too much collectivism can lead to loss of individuality and freedom of choice. There should be a balance of different concepts to make a Utopian society stand the chance of surviving.
Honestly, what would be the point of living in a society that basically makes you act like a robot? With no free choice, no individuality, and not being able to explore your curiosities, there really is no point. That wouldn’t be living. It would be going through the motions in a fog and wasting time until death. A Utopia is supposed to be the “perfect” society. My interpretation of perfect would be having the opportunities to actually live your life, and by “live your life,” I mean having the opportunity to be truly happy, being able to discover new things, and have relationships.
With all this being said, collectivist concepts can still take place. The fact that people earn the same wages, work similar hours, and take part in community activities would still work. These would not take away a person’s individuality. Allowing people to still do what they truly want and not reprimanding those who think differently will benefit the society. There will always be someone who strays away from the norm, and allowing both rational egoism and collectivism in moderation, can balance out what once were seen as issues.