“I AM THE GREATEST MAN” A CRITIQUE ON THE STORY OF INDIVIDUALISM
People: Your selfish economic goals were one of the factors which are responsible
for the invasion of Iraq. Why did not you care about others?
Halliburton Co.: We intend to secure just our own interests.
People: You have started the new scramble for Africa. This modern imperialism
will be more malign than old colonialism. Why do not you have a soft
corner for the Africans?
Big Powers: We adhere to the philosophy of Social Darwinism.
People: You always remain conspiring for the opening of new fronts in the
Middle East and Central Asia just for the sake of increase in your sale.
Why are you so selfish and cruel?
Military Industrial Complex (USA): Oh! This is what laissez-faire capitalism all about.
People: A fierce civil war has erupted in your country and hundreds of people have died
already. Your people do not want you any more. International Law requires you
to resign. Why do not you abdicate?
Colonel Gaddafi: I do not care about International Law. I follow my own rules.
Halliburton Co., Big Powers, Military Industrial Complex (USA) and Colonel Gaddafi are individualism personified and the reasons which they propagate as the justifications for their heinous offences are basically the different proportions of individualism. These dimensions of individualism, along with others, are the ideas that have harmed mankind.
... know that if the people have stories they will then have individualism. The stories give people individualism by giving them knowledge, ... the book the Communists ban literature so the people lose there individualism so the government can have complete control of ... it out. Also stories can bring out a persons individualism. Individualism is an essential part of stories, because individuals tell ...
Individualism is one of the most prevalent features of post-modernist culture. Individualism is essentially dissociation of the ‘free’ individual from the matrix of social relations and norms that in fact make agency, freedom and even self-consciousness possible. It claims that individual persons can be and must be understood apart from linguistic, moral, legal and social factors that shape their natures. According to Elwood Johnson, individualism can be defined as “any mode of thought based on the faith that person may become in himself a prime cause; he may in fact, act his way out of his own history.” Similarly, Emil Brunner regards individualism as a “Robinson Crusoe affair” in which the individual is exclusively necessary considering his own self. Robert Bellah disapproves individualists and says, “Such folk owe no man anything and hardly expect anything from anybody. They form the habit of thinking of themselves in isolation and imagine that their whole destiny is in their hands.”
Individualism must never be intermingled with individuality. Individuality means that one possesses a feeling of identity. It believes in self-realization and that the needs and interests of significant others are part of one’s own self-interest. Individuality is uniqueness and it is appreciated by people en masse when each person’s individuality is respected, his talent is recognized and his deficiencies are made up by the collective efforts of others. Whereas, individualism believes in self-absorption, self-containment and self-indulgence. Individualist regards himself inevitable and finds his interests incompatible with that of others. Society, for him, is an object of manipulation for his own interests. Thus alienation from others, lack of cooperation and conflict are the inevitable results of individualism because social cooperation and individualism are antithetical to one another.
The characteristics of individualism are so wide-ranging and the reasons for the individualism are also so complicated that it is necessary to browse through its story in order to comprehend its essence. Individualism has its genesis in Plato’s philosophy of “dualism”. That philosophy argued that this world of reality is nothing but a penumbra of real being_ the pure ideal world. It stated that “living together” in this world is not important and to get to the other world i.e. Utopia, should concern an individual greatly. Dualism was an essential factor that effected Christianity. John Bunyan’s magnum opus “The Pilgrimage’s Progress”, a Christian allegory, can be presented as an instance of this influence in the way that “my” spirit’s journey in an individualistic pursuit for heaven, which is not dependent upon others’ help. So, personal ambition is preferred to societal life.Edward Gibbon, in his book “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, comments that during the glorious days of Greek and Roman civilizations, individuals were considered to be the ingredients of society. Ethics and politics were interwoven and each and every individual was expected to devote his abilities for social welfare. But with the advent of Christianity a wide gulf emerged between individual and society for Christianity neglected collective interest of society and regarded the attainment of personal salvation as an ambition of individual’s life. Christian individualism resulted in selfish monasticism which hindered all the prospects of social integration. In this way the subversive tendency of individualism established and progressed on wards.
Among the arguments supporting euthanasia the Altruism argument and the duty theory of euthanasia are very popular. ! ! ! ! 1) Altruism argument! ! ! ! This theory believes that euthanasia benefits families and society. ! ! ! ! No doubt that families and relatives of the patients have the liability of taking care of the patients. For a lengthy period they bore heavy pressures emotionally and ...
During the pre-renaissance Dark Ages, individualism, along with its cronies i.e. Catholicism and absolutism, reigned for about a thousand years. It was an era of societal collapse. At last, renaissance halted the frivolity of the dark ages. That epoch witnessed Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler, the pioneers of the modern science. Copernicus formulated a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe. Galileo’s telescopic observations proved Copernicus’ claim that earth is a planet which revolves around the sun. It resulted in a conflict between church (Christianity) and science because the former had always been adamant that earth is the centre of cosmos and individual is the centre of society. However, the former was defeated. Francis Bacon, René Descartes and Thomas Hobbs, influenced by these findings of science, laid the foundations of modern philosophy. Francesco Petrarca, Leonardo Bruni and Coluccio Salutati gave life to the spirit of humanism. To understand the ideas of Petrarca is to understand the essence of renaissance. Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci set the new traditions in painting.
The idea and practice of individualism has been subject to repressive desublimination in America. Repressive desublimination is when a hope, a need, that has been buried and denied by an oppressive system, is allowed some room to breathe, then co-opted and redirected back into a form that ultimately reinforces the oppressive system that denied and suppressed out hopes and needs in the first place. ...
Desiderius Erasmus, Thomas More and William Shakespeare revitalized the literature. Reformation, which shattered the spiritual hegemony of Church, is also one of the dimensions of renaissance. Renaissance was not a political or religious movement rather it was, in fact, a cultural movement and even more than this it was a mental revolution. Instead of attaining individual salvation in monasteries, people, now, started to take interest in their society. They comprehended the societal problems and strived for their solutions. Renaissance gave birth to Enlightenment i.e. Age of Reason. This movement was started in Holland and England and from there it spread in all over the continent. John Locke and David Hume were the pioneers of this movement in England. In France, Voltaire and other encyclopédistes laid the foundations of enlightenment. Voltaire was an expert of World History and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of social reform and civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. All over the continent Voltaire and Montesquieu struggled to preach the ideals of: respect of knowledge, wisdom and ‘reason’; egalitarianism and humanism and the awareness of social rights and duties.
The social ideals of enlightenment and the findings of modern science had set back all the proportions of individualism and, in other words, hurt the ‘ego’ of ‘individual’. Individualism did not surrender rather it reacted against this phenomenon. That reaction was ‘Romanticism’. Copernicus’ revealing that earth is not the centre of cosmos and the social ideals of the age of reason had pinched the thousand years old ego of individualists. To soothe the bitterness of that reality they propagated that the universe is nothing but only a creation of human mind. This idea is the theme of romanticism and German idealism. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is regarded as the father of romanticism. He was the contemporary of Voltaire and Montesquieu and was the first to rebel against the rationalism of encyclopédistes. He was of the view that rationalism and philosophical wisdom are unnatural and that the phenomenon which is dubbed ‘civilization’ is basically decadence. Civilization keeps individual away from nature and it is far better for him to revert to nature. Naturalism of the poets of romanticism e.g. William Wordsworth, is based upon this view of Rousseau. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle and then Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats kept this romantic thought alive. In literature, Doctor Faustus, Don Quixote, Don Juan and Robinson Crusoe epitomize romanticism and the study of these characters reveal the essence of romantic individualism i.e. egotism, narcissism, ennui and isolation. These tendencies are the recurrent themes of the writings of François-René de Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo and Lord George Gordon Byron. Chateaubriand said, “I will be Chateaubriand or nothing.” Byronic ennui can amply be gauged from the following lines:
The Term Paper on The concept of Identity a Sociological Perspective on the Relationship Between Individual and Society
The concept of identity can vary from the very physical, abstract and or logical depending on the primary focal point of discussion. Identity on its own may vary or differ and in some cases bear resemblance. These semblances may be results of biological (genetics), sociological, psychological and physiological dictates etc. In the case of an individual they may just describe the very ...
The apostle of affliction, he who threw
Enchantment over passion, and from woe
Wrung overwhelming eloquence, first drew
The breadth which made him wretched; yet he knew
How to make madness beautiful, and cast
O’er erring deeds and thoughts, a heavenly hue
From social point of view, romanticism is the revolt of individual against society and its values. When the romanticists want man to come closer to the nature they actually want him to quit following all the societal norms. In philosophy, romanticism affected German idealism very much. Like Rousseau, Immanuel Kant criticized encyclopédistes and Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Schelling followed suit. Through German idealism, romanticism affected politics as well. Otto von Bismarck, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini are the products of this school of thought. Bertrand Russell discussed the political aspect of romanticism and said that by accommodating the depravity of ‘ego’, romanticism made societal equilibrium and cooperation impossible and it opened two ways for its followers i.e. anarchy or despotism. Emma Goldman wrote in criticism of political aspect of romantic individualism:
Martin Buber was an educator and a Jewish philosopher. He had a great significant in the broad phenomena of the pedagogical ideas that rose during the early years. His main idea and contribution was in the concept of social dialogue. He had an understanding of pedagogical linkage to the idea of persuasive dialogue which provides a rational learning perspective. In his philosophy, Buber often ...
“Rugged individualism’ has meant all the ‘individualism’ for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking ‘supermen.’…Their ‘rugged individualism’ is simply one of the many pretenses the ruling class makes to mask unbridled business and political extortion.”
As a revolt against the tempestuousness and moral turpitude of romanticism, realism made appearance on the scene in the latter half of the 19th century. Positivism, utilitarianism, pragmatism dialectical materialism and empiricism are all realist philosophies. The age of realism is essentially an age of collective common consciousness. Most of the writers of that era belonged to the lower middle class who were incensed at the high status and economic hegemony of upper class so they were naturally inclined to the welfare and betterment of society at large, instead of the glorification of individualist pursuits. The poets, authors and novelists of Germany, France, England and Russia started to present the common rural and urban life in their writings. From then onwards, this trend achieved the permanent station in literature and philosophy. Maria Edgeworth was the first writer who wrote about the common rural life. Charles Dickens presented the real picture of the wretched of his time in his novels. Edward Carpenter was a socialist poet and philosopher of that era. Honoré de Balzac and William Makepeace Thackeray unrevealed the hypocrisies of the aristocracy. Zola’s naturalism was also the outcome of realism. George Bernard Shaw critically analyzed the modern society and highlighted its internal contradictions. Leo Tolstoy vehemently criticized individualism and also regarded private property as a curse and the root cause of all social problems.
The schools of thought which have revolted against realism are symbolism, absurdism and existentialism. Symbolism was born of Theophile Gautier’s motto, “art for art’s sake.” Symbolists were fond of subjectivism and, like romantics; they were suffered from self-indulgence and self-absorption. Symbolism demands individual to dissociate from society and that he should find truth and beauty in his own self. This self-indulgence results in a diseased individualism which is in fact the symbol of individual as well as social decadence. Therefore, this diseased individualism is responsible for the ‘decadence’ of Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and Charles Baudelaire who are the exponents of this philosophy. The fatal individualism of symbolists can be understood from the statement of Baudelaire:
The argument in this paper is based on two assumptions. The first assumption states that, the Shona people like any other group of people of Bantu Nguni origin, share a common social philosophy of life called Hunhu in Shona and ubuntu in Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa and Swati (Ramose, 1999; Mapara, 2012). Secondly, the Shona people like any other human society, had its own focused broad system of ...
“Satan is the epitome of valor.”
Absurdism believes in pessimism and absurdity of ‘ultimate meaning’ in relation to the individual. Absurdists have no sympathy with the aggrieved and then add insult to injury by hurting their feelings through cynicism. Existentialism is basically a reaction against the ideas of Hegel. Unlike Hegel, existentialists believe that ‘existent’ is prior to ‘essence’. This movement approves of romanticism and subjectivism because it regards personal feelings and emotions of the individual independent of rationality and intellect. It is influenced by the ideas of Nitzshe and Henri Bergson’s theory of ‘creative evolution’. Existentialism, being a developed form of individualist romanticism, results in cynicism, pessimism and anxiety. Humility of the individual’s existence in this infinite universe concerns the existentialists greatly. They suffer from ‘angst’ which is primarily a general frustration associated with the conflict between actual responsibilities to self, one’s principles, and others. Like Nitzshe, they ignore this fundamental fact that the individual can only get the completion and perfection of his personality when he is in association with society and that the compromise of some individual interests in favor of collective interests of society is the panacea for their ‘angst’.
There is no denying the fact that the reasons for the individualism are very complicated and its problems are very severe, but the sages have always proposed very simple solutions. Alfred Cyril Ewing suggested in “The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy”: ‘…we can only realize our individuality through intercourse with others. To realize even ourselves adequately we must be unselfish, and even the most selfish of us is willy nilly dependent for nine-tenths of what he knows and does on others and has his life incessantly moulded by his relations to them. To be ourselves we must concentrate our attention on things other than ourselves.” Karl Marx expressed his view in the 6th thesis of the “Theses on Feuerbach”: ‘the essence of man is not an abstraction inherent in each particular individual. The real nature of man is the totality of social relations.” Will Durant advised that the collective interest of the society must be the standard to check the individual behavior. Allama Iqbal opined that:
“Fard qaim rabt e millat se hey tanha kuch nahi
Moj hey darya mein aur bairoon e darya kuch nahi”
Individual exists due to his association with society, alone he is nothing;
Wave is in a river, outside the river, it is nothing.
What individualists have been ignoring for centuries is the fundamental fact that ideal individual is the result of ideal society. And that ideal society can only come in to being when the individuals become able to develop a certain sense of belonging with one another. Individualism, along with its varied dimensions, can never help humanity. If each and every individual is motivated only by his own self interest, there will be an inevitable clash of interest between them. This clash can be reverted to cooperation if they are motivated by their mutual interests. Unbridled laissez-faire capitalism results in the stratification of society as haves and haves-not, and also in the widening of the gulf between the two. The solution for this sorry state of affairs is adherence to the ideals of socialistic economy. If individuals start to define and follow their own rules, their definitions and their modes of following of their own rules will never be the same and anarchy will be the logical conclusion of this phenomenon. So the smooth functioning of social transactions primarily hinges upon the supremacy of social laws instead of individual laws. Competitive and selfish human instincts, which are catalyzed by the philosophy of Social Darwinism, must be barred by the collective effort of society. The weak and mediocre should be allowed and then assisted by the strong and exceptional to make up their deficiencies. Otherwise this world will become an arena and a fierce struggle for the survival of the fittest will ensue. In the end, a day shall come when there will remain no human being alive to listen to the following assertion of the fit of the fits.
“I am the greatest man.”