Individualism   /   Spring 2002   /    Articles

Individualism—Within History

Amitai Etzioni

INDIVIDUALISM—THE “-ISM” INDICATES A DOCTRINAIRE, dogmatic, overboard commitment—has been so soundly and repeatedly defeated that one must ask: Why is it standing at all? It is a concept so intellectually defective and morally misguided, that one cannot but wonder: Why do people still hold onto this fool’s gold?

Possibly individualism feeds on its being a highly flattering view of human nature, certainly compared to most, if not all, other views. Individualism promises those who believe in it that they are free-standing agents, able to formulate their own conceptions of the good, pursue a life that is guided by reasonable deliberations, and render rational decisions in their self-interest. And, as bearers of inalienable rights, they have a long list of entitlements, but no inherent duties or obligations unless they choose to embrace them.

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