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...
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