Community and Bureaucracy

By Dr. Álvaro Abellán | Dr. Abellán teaches Humanities and Social Sciences at Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid. He writes frequently for www.lasemana.es and runs the website www.dialogicalcreativity.es where this article originally appeared.

We have received all of the material, moral and spiritual goods which we enjoy from a human community tied to a tradition whose past is more effectively present than we think. That human community inspired individual talents of genius and gathered collective efforts to set a high bar, which we have come upon as a given, as something natural.

The best men these days, aware of the weakness of the majority of their brethren, -since they are demigods,- have attempted to ensure those achievements without the actual protagonism of people, and have imposed standardization, laws of all kinds which regulate the day-to-day through bureaucracy. All of these inventions have the object of shoring up our social achievements without the concrete subjects that make up each community. Abstract and collective organization, with unquestionable power and anorexic fruitfulness, have replaced the concrete, always fragile, but deeply inspiring genius of the individual.

In this way, postmodern man thinks that milk comes from the refrigerator, that hot water comes from the faucet, that education has to be free and that nobody should have to fight for his or her rights, since rights should guarantee themselves, without being subject, heaven forfend, to the fulfillment of any obligation. Thus, bureaucracy has destroyed community by diluting it in collectivity, which is the same as a mass of individuals mutually indifferent to each other and rather whiny about themselves.

Now that some indicators point out that we may have hit rock bottom, we can come out of the crisis putting patches on the mentality that led us there in the first place –which will lead us precipitously to the next crisis,- we can keep thinking that legislation, directives and bureaucracies will maintain the system. Or we can recover the awareness that no properly human good can be sustained outside of the effective action of persons in a human community bound to a tradition.


– Translated by Dr. Edward Mulholland


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.