What is your opinion about individualism?What is your opinion about individualism?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have asked a very interesting question, because to me, individualism involves a necessary tension between the desires of the individual to express him or herself and the needs of the society or community to ensure that there is some kind of common agreement on what kinds of behaviour are acceptable. The majority of communities or societies have some form of agreement of what standards they will ascribe to - countries have a common set of laws, for example, or a constitution. Therefore if I choose to express my individuality by killing people, I will rightfully forfeit my place in that society. However, the question that is important is how tightly the society insists on certain types of behaviour. For example, we can think of various societies such as cults or religious groups that only allow you to be a member if you abide by a strict code of behaviour. This is something that clearly inhibits individuality. The trick is to get the balance between finding a common set of rules and regulations that will help the society exist and continue, but also within those rules allowing space for people to express themselves in ways that are not damaging to the society as a whole.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individualism is one's ability and right to express him or herself in various ways--orally, in writing, with craftsmanship, music, etc.--within the confines of the rules and regulations set up by the community which are written with the good of all society in mind.  For example, in Western culture, we are blessed with the freedom of speech.  However, it is against the law to run into a crowded building and yell "Fire!" where there is no fire.  This is endangering the members of society within the building for the whim of one individual.  Likewise, there are rules of courtesy and respect involved (which vary from culture to culture).  It is no secret on this site that I am a Christian; however, I disagree with some of the things that are occuring today--ministers in Florida threatening to burn the Quran and the Baptist church members who are protesting at military funerals.  These acts lack respect, civility, and decorum. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an American, I am of course in favor of a great degree of individualism.  However, I feel that too much individualism is harmful.

I do believe that people should be free to make choices for themselves.  They should be free to decide what is important to them and to decide how they want to behave.  There should not be an overbearing society telling them how to act.

At the same time, I think we take individualism to extremes.  Just because you have the right to behave how you like does not mean that you should behave however you like.  People should be mature enough to voluntarily put their own selfish desires second to the greater good at times.

martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individualism in America is an interesting concept.  Throughout the history of the U.S. there has been this myth of the "rugged individual" that has been responsible for making this country great.  I think it is just the opposite.  It has been teamwork that has made this country great.  Lewis and Clark did nothing on their own. It was the Corp of Discovery that made their journey a success.  It was thousands of engineers working together with the astronauts to put a man on the moon.  Martin Luther King, Jr. did not march by himself.  It has been when people cooperate and act toghether that this country has made its greatest achievements.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say individualism is celebrated throughout Western Civilization, and is expressed in any number of ways.  I think it is partly human nature to try and set oneself apart from the rest of society because we crave recognition and acknowledgement, as well as validation.

To me, this also makes society more interesting to be a part of, and this is perhaps why I resist the efforts of others who demand conformity to an idea, action or religion.  It's a fundamental freedom to be who I am, and often times, each act of individualism is a rebellion in and of itself.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the above post.  Individualism is the right to stand on one's own, a right which we do have here in America.  But I wonder how often that really happens?  The greatest ideas and the greatest accomplishments all usually have many contributors, even if one person getsthe recognition.  Individualism is great to have, but in practice it rarely occurs.  Even people who are part of countercultural movements in fashion or music or art are part of a group, so their individualism may be personal but it's not necessarily individual. 

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individualism is the biggest cause of insecurity in humans.  Growing up, kids have an innate desire to be accepted (by parents, peers, other adults, etc.).  Around the time of puberty, kids start to notice that they are changing, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.  As the changes occur, the fear sets in that they are not like others and as a result, will lose acceptance.  It isn't until a person embraces his or her sense of individualism that a real sense of security can grow.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The United States of America is nothing if not a bastion of "rugged individualism." Individual liberties and initiative are both celebrated here. The desire to act on one's own ambitions and desires have led to wonderful rags-to-riches stories in American history.

Part of the reason for the emphasis on individual achievement in the U.S. is the concept of competition, which pervades education, athletics, business, and popular culture. Americans love a hero, and they love a winner.

hellorana | Student

[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?


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?


krishna-agrawala | Student

Individualism, as I understand it, refers to the belief that freedom of individuals is as important to the welfare of the entire society. Apparently there is a conflict between individual freedom ad common good of the entire society. In a situation of a conflict like this, where the individuals desires kind of freedom that impinges upon the freedom of other in the society, there is no justification for practice of individualism within the society. However, if an individual wants to practice individualism in an isolated environment, away from the society, no one should have any objection.

But when we consider that an individual with free choice would choose what is in his or he best interest, the compromise of cooperation within the society, is a better choice than, unrestricted freedom outside devoid of the support of social system. This is because the isolated existence outside the society offers no real choices to exercise the freedom of choice. When viewed in this way, there appears to be no conflict between individualism and common good.