In sociology, why is American Individualism a myth, and why should Communalism replace it?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are ways in which American individualism is a myth, to be sure, but I am not clear at all on why that would lead to Communism as a replacement for a capitalistic democracy.  Communism is fine as a theory, but somehow, it never works out in practice.

American individualism is a myth because even in a capitalistic society, we are all dependent on one another.  Certainly, there are people who appear to succeed on their own, but they only appear to do so, having always reaped the benefits of living in society.  The entrepreneur who strikes it rich could not have done so without the benefit of the society in which he or she lives.  Without our society having created the infrastructure that provides us with roads, water, electricity, or the public school system and the public library system, how many of us would succeed?  A business entity would have a very difficult time without relying on the police and fire protection provided by our society or the frequent tax breaks that we all pay for.  There are so many aspects of society that help the individual, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone could succeed without relying to at least some degree on the institutions and amenities that our society provides.  This is what President Obama was talking about when he said "You didn't build it."  His point was that business was reliant to some degree on society and that government played a large role in the success of the individual. 

One major problem with Communism is that it removes the incentives from people's motivation.  Another is that, inevitably, goods and services are not distributed equally.  Still another is that Communistic countries always seem to end up being dictatorships, which means that it is not "all for one, one for all" at all, simply "all for one." 

A government that has some elements of socialism, for example, universal health care and free public education, combined with the incentives of capitalism, has always seemed to me to have the best possible combination for a democracy. 

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