Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and to value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism is often defined in contrast to totalitarianism, collectivism and more corporate social forms.
In the English language, the word individualism was first introduced as a pejorative by utopian socialists such as the Owenites in the late 1830s, although it is unclear if they were influenced by Saint-Simonianism or came up with it independently. A more positive use of the term in Britain came to be used with the writings of James Elishama Smith, who was a millenarian and a Christian Israelite. Although an early follower of Robert Owen, he eventually rejected its collective idea of property and found in individualism a "universalism" that allowed for the development of the "original genius". Without individualism, Smith argued that individuals cannot amass property to increase one's happiness. William Maccall, another Unitarian preacher and probably an acquaintance of Smith, came somewhat later, although influenced by John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle and German Romanticism, to the same positive conclusions in his 1847 work Elements of Individualism.
An individual is a person or any specific object in a collection. In the 15th century and earlier, and also today within the fields of statistics and metaphysics, individual means "indivisible", typically describing any numerically singular thing, but sometimes meaning "a person" as in "The problem of proper names". From the 17th century on, individual indicates separateness, as in individualism. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individuated being; a person separated from everything with unique character by possessing their own needs, goals, and desires in comparison to other persons.
The principle of individuation, or principium individuationis, describes the manner in which a thing is identified as distinguished from other things. For Carl Jung, individuation is a process of transformation, whereby the personal and collective unconscious is brought into consciousness (by means of dreams, active imagination or free association to take examples) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche to take place. Jung considered individuation to be the central process of human development. In L'individuation psychique et collective, Gilbert Simondon developed a theory of individual and collective individuation in which the individual subject is considered as an effect of individuation rather than a cause. Thus, the individual atom is replaced by a never-ending ontological process of individuation. Individuation is an always incomplete process, always leaving a "pre-individual" left-over, itself making possible future individuations. The philosophy of Bernard Stiegler draws upon and modifies the work of Gilbert Simondon on individuation and also upon similar ideas in Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. For Stiegler, "the I, as a psychic individual, can only be thought in relationship to we, which is a collective individual. The I is constituted in adopting a collective tradition, which it inherits and in which a plurality of I's acknowledge each other's existence."
Individualism versus collectivism is a common dichotomy in cross-cultural research. Global comparative studies have found that the world's cultures vary in the degree to which they emphasize individual autonomy, freedom and initiative (individualistic traits), respectively conformity to group norms, maintaining traditions and obedience to in-group authority (collectivistic traits). Cultural differences between individualism and collectivism are differences in degrees, not in kind. Cultural individualism is strongly correlated with GDP per capita. The cultures of economically developed regions such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, North America and Western Europe are the most individualistic in the world. Middle income regions such as Eastern Europe, South America and mainland East Asia have cultures which are neither very individualistic nor very collectivistic. The most collectivistic cultures in the world are from economically developing regions such as the Middle East and Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia, Central Asia and Central America.
Individualism is often contrasted either with totalitarianism or with collectivism, but there is a spectrum of behaviors at the societal level ranging from highly individualistic societies through mixed societies to collectivist.
According to an Oxford Dictionary, "competitive individualism" in sociology is "the view that achievement and non-achievement should depend on merit. Effort and ability are regarded as prerequisites of success. Competition is seen as an acceptable means of distributing limited resources and rewards.
Methodological individualism is the view that phenomena can only be understood by examining how they result from the motivations and actions of individual agents. In economics, people's behavior is explained in terms of rational choices, as constrained by prices and incomes. The economist accepts individuals' preferences as givens. Becker and Stigler provide a forceful statement of this view:
Individualists are chiefly concerned with protecting individual autonomy against obligations imposed by social institutions (such as the state or religious morality). For L. Susan Brown, "Liberalism and anarchism are two political philosophies that are fundamentally concerned with individual freedom yet differ from one another in very distinct ways. Anarchism shares with liberalism a radical commitment to individual freedom while rejecting liberalism's competitive property relations."
Civil libertarianism is a strain of political thought that supports civil liberties, or which emphasizes the supremacy of individual rights and personal freedoms over and against any kind of authority (such as a state, a corporation and social norms imposed through peer pressure, among others). Civil libertarianism is not a complete ideology; rather, it is a collection of views on the specific issues of civil liberties and civil rights. Because of this, a civil libertarian outlook is compatible with many other political philosophies, and civil libertarianism is found on both the right and left in modern politics. For scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood, "there are doctrines of individualism that are opposed to Lockean individualism [...] and non-Lockean individualism may encompass socialism".
In 1793, William Godwin, who has often been cited as the first anarchist, wrote Political Justice, which some consider to be the first expression of anarchism. Godwin, a philosophical anarchist, from a rationalist and utilitarian basis opposed revolutionary action and saw a minimal state as a present "necessary evil" that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge. Godwin advocated individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labour be eliminated on the premise that this would be most conducive with the general good.
From these early influences, anarchism and especially individualist anarchism was related to the issues of love and sex. In different countries, this attracted a small but diverse following of bohemian artists and intellectuals, free love and birth control advocates, individualist naturists nudists as in anarcho-naturism, freethought and anti-clerical activists as well as young anarchist outlaws in what came to be known as illegalism and individual reclamation, especially within European individualist anarchism and individualist anarchism in France. These authors and activists included Oscar Wilde, Émile Armand, Han Ryner, Henri Zisly, Renzo Novatore, Miguel Giménez Igualada, Adolf Brand and Lev Chernyi among others. In his important essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism from 1891, Wilde defended socialism as the way to guarantee individualism and so he saw that "[w]ith the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all". For anarchist historian George Woodcock, "Wilde's aim in The Soul of Man Under Socialism is to seek the society most favorable to the artist. [...] for Wilde art is the supreme end, containing within itself enlightenment and regeneration, to which all else in society must be subordinated. [...] Wilde represents the anarchist as aesthete". Woodcock finds that "[t]he most ambitious contribution to literary anarchism during the 1890s was undoubtedly Oscar Wilde The Soul of Man Under Socialism" and finds that it is influenced mainly by the thought of William Godwin.
Autarchism promotes the principles of individualism, the moral ideology of individual liberty and self-reliance whilst rejecting compulsory government and supporting the elimination of government in favor of ruling oneself to the exclusion of rule by others. Robert LeFevre, recognized as an autarchist by anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard, distinguished autarchism from anarchy, whose economics he felt entailed interventions contrary to freedom in contrast to his own laissez-faire economics of the Austrian School. 2b1af7f3a8