Individualism Individualism and Politics

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Published on 16 Oct 2011
York University
Political Science
POLS 1000
Human rights are not truly human rights because the understanding behind
human rights
The notion of individualism is a recent notion
Anything 18th or 19th C is recent
Its a notion that dates to the 19th C .. Iv seen the date of 1826 as being the
first date as seeing the term individualism for the first time
This means that the ancient greeks did not have a term or word that
designated the term individual or individualism
This is odd
Because it has become almost impossible for us to think about the human
experience without ever having to return to the term individualism
When it comes to thinking about humans the term individual hasnt always
been used and its not a mutual term to designate
To understand this development of individualism
1st point that de Tocqueville will make
Is that there is no way that we can reduce individualism to being selfish
So we cannot equate individualism and selfishness this is false
To support his point de Tocqueville will say individuals cannot be referred to
man being selfish because selfishness has always existed, its existed throughout
history, so there's no need to invent a new word when its already there
Individualism is a recent expression arising from a new idea' pg 110
The new idea that will actually give birth to individualism. That new idea is
**GOOD ESSAY QUESTION** Pg110- individualism is a democratic origin and
it threatens to develop as conditions become equal- quote by De Tocqueville
And so modern society for de Tocqueville is not more selfish by society but it
is conditioned by development of individualism
Because modern society is conditioned we have to look more closely at
individualism and its effects to gain a better understanding of contemporary
For de Toc. Individualism has to do with a "judgement of the mind'; each
person decides to isolate themselves from others by turning to family and
We will turn to family and friends and by doing so we will leave society as a
whole till its settled
He will qualify this judgement of the mind as being erroneous
Through individualism people willingly seek to be independent from others
Others ofc not including their friends and their family
The problem here is that if you turn to friends and family and you leave
society to itself, well u "dry up the sources of public virtue" ; political
participation meaning public virtue
Because of individualism ppl dont concern themselves in the public run and
they dont care about society at large
Instead people concentrate their efforts on the private round [family and
And so we put ourselves at the source of all legitimate populations
As the end of the 18th C the source of legitimacy is me and u whereas before
it could be the king, gods, ancestors, and so we can say that it is a turn towards
the private round
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