American individualism?

More than most countries   1 vote - 16 %
About the same   1 vote - 16 %
Less   4 votes - 66 %
 
6 Total Votes
American conformism by Alan Crowe (2.00 / 0) #1 Sat May 15, 2010 at 11:38:18 AM EST
The Society for Barefoot Living was founded in American by some-one who took the American creed of rugged individual at face value. On the mailing list it seems clear that American members have an especially difficult time socially. This is a great puzzle to European members, who mostly accept a vague notion of America as the land of the free. It is also a puzzle to American members, who self select for a literal understanding of individualism and find themselves much further outside the mainstream than they expected.

Puzzle solved. The article's surveys prove that America is not an individualistic society.

That creates puzzle 2. America was individualistic and something changed. What? When?

Or it creats puzzle 3. America was never individualistic. How did it get its false reputation?

When it was by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat May 15, 2010 at 11:47:43 AM EST
A society of yeomen farmers and there was a minimal state, before 1830s.  That's when it was individualistic.

[ Parent ]
A bit longer by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat May 15, 2010 at 12:03:31 PM EST
In the West, the state had only marginal reach until nearly the end of the 19th century.  I'd say the true death blows were went the United States started acting like a major power, with "everyone pulling together" to fight overseas wars.

(Though the American Civil War likely started the process...you could run away to Wyoming and ignore that, though.)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
"Individualism" by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #3 Sat May 15, 2010 at 11:56:01 AM EST
Well, I think there are multiple answers...one answer is that the survey is perhaps not ideal...I suspect if you picked other measures, America would come out different.  For instance:

"Should a person be allowed to decide how to arm themselves"

or

"Should a small business owner be allowed to decide whether to provide health insurance to his employees"

That said, I think these questions highlight the dirty secret of the "conservative" movement in the US.  Social conservationism in general, and the religious right in particular, are philosophically opposed to real individualism, whether they know it or not.

It is just another instance where certain large anti-intellectual segments of today's American right wing are completely blind, as they wrap themselves in the flag, to how completely "un-American" their own world view is.

I do think that the reputation is historically deserved.  The country was built entirely by the descendants of people who made the decision to reject their homeland for something new.  That itself is an individualistic decision.  The philosophy behind the American Revolution was all individualistic.  Plus, living with a frontier gave historical Americans both an outlet and a draw for the individualistic "making your own fortunate" that was so common here.

(There are, or course, paradoxes like slavery, but remember that the rhetoric of the South in the American Civil War was itself individualistic.)

All that said, individualism in the US has been dying for generations, killed both by the forces of the religious right, but also by the great communal activities from the beginning of the last century.  (Two world wars, etc.)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
The linked survey hurts my head by lm (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat May 15, 2010 at 12:09:04 PM EST
I'm not quite certain how the answers to such questions as "is adultery always wrong?" and "does individual conscience entirely define right and wrong?" are all that informative on the topic of rugged individualism.

I think that questions you bring up regarding individual choices would be a better metric. And even better would be a line of questions regarding entitlements such as ``does the state have the obligation to offer financial assistance to citizens who are unable to work?''

I guess what I'm trying to say is that American style individualism is traditionally more along the lines of ``I can do it myself and don't need your damned help'' than it is along the lines of whether or not we agree with conventional wisdom and morality.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Will read Broken World by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon May 17, 2010 at 05:38:50 AM EST
Just what I'm after: author I haven't read, original idea, relatively intellectual and readable!

The links you've been posting about Greece are bvery interesting. There's so much more to this than an inflated public sector.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Are Americans individualists? by duxup (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri May 21, 2010 at 10:58:35 AM EST
At least as far as the political conservative movement goes that seems like some apt criticism.   What was John McCain's campaign slogan?  America First....  on top of being childish not much room for individualism there.


Although I will say I don't take much stock in American politicians / pundits arguing over what makes up Americans these days.  Politicians say what it takes to get elected without saying as much as possible, and media and political pundits don't do much better IMO.   I suppose they're the loudest folk but I don't believe that means they've a clue what they're talking about.

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