Why Is Individualism Important

What do you think is the role of individualism is in our society?

What do you think is the role of individualism is in our society?

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individualism is a prime value in US society. In an individualistic society such as ours, the needs and wants of an individual take precedence over the needs of the group.

Positives to individualism include the freedom for a person to choose his or her own destiny. From early on, this has been valued in American life, at least for white males. For example, in his essay "Self-Reliance," Emerson admonished young men to follow the stirrings of their own hearts and consciences, rather than doing what their families might expect them to do to conform to social norms.

For Emerson, and earlier Americans, individualism was rooted in the divine. Emerson was a transcendentalist, but he emerged from a Protestant Christianity that valued the primacy of the individual conscience, as well as the individual's personal relationship with God. Puritans and Quakers came to this continent seeking religious freedom—in fact, their religions were lumped in England under the label of "Nonconformism," and they were known as "Dissenters." So from our earliest beginnings, individualism informed the American consciousness, though, ironically, this was also severely limited in some places, such as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with strict guidelines about how to live one's external life.

This tension between individualism and conformity to the group continues to inform American life. We value individualism, rewarding individual achievers with wealth. We allow individuals to keep the bulk of the money they earn. However, this can come into tension with American social norms of human decency, which understand that all wealth is not earned (much is inherited) and that poverty is often not the fault of an individual. We continue to struggle to mediate between meeting the basic needs of all people while, at the same time, rewarding individuals for their efforts and achievements. Therefore, while the role of individualism in our society is twofold, both allowing for freedom of conscience and encouraging the highest possible creativity and achievement, it is also tempered by a strong current of social justice. 

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individuality is the act of expressing one's personal views and likes regarding specific topic. The role of individualism has to do a lot with diversification, independent thought, and freedom of emotion. It colors each person with a unique shade, and it allows for others to follow suit into looking for what they really like and believe in. When you practice individualism you are creating a canon for your own use. You have the joy of knowing that you are operating under your own system of wants and needs, and that nobody can tell you that you are wrong because, after all, you are unique.

In all, individualism is the best way to bring the world to change. If we all behaved, acted, dressed, ate, and worshiped the same way, we would not have a very cosmopolitan nor intelligent society.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Individualism has been important to our society since before the founding of our country. We pride ourselves on our individuality. We believe that individualism is strength. It has given us most of our most important inventions and traditions. We are our own people.
hellorana | Student

We acquire the ability to be responsible individuals (and therefore enjoy liberty) only by living among others in communities often governed and organized by longstanding institutions. [When Alexis De Tocqueville diagnosed the ills of American democracy in his landmark work Democracy In America (1835, 1840), he noted that there were many "communal" remedies to the problem of individualism.]

What are these organizations (you are involved in lots of them, I suspect)? Are they healthy? What are the consequences for liberty?

epollock | Student

In the American society, the role of the individual has practically created the country and made it what it is today. The individual creates a capitalist society in which people risk to make great fortunes. Other individuality spurs development, creativity, and altruism.