Individuality vs. Community

i vs c

I have spoken to a couple of different people about these two concepts and have found some pretty interesting schools of thought. Some people believe that these two concepts can coexist. To an extent, I agree. In my opinion, it seems that we can still be individuals while simultaneously engaging within a community setting. For example, living in countries that promote freedom like Canada, the United States, or Holland, you have the choice to be whoever you want to be. You choose your lifestyle and the people you have around you. What do these countries have in common? They are all democratic which means people vote on what they think is right and for the benefit of their country/community. Even in this sense there seems to be underlying individualism going on because you vote on the way YOU think. Then based on the number of votes that is what the community does. We as a community are made up as individuals with different backgrounds, different thoughts and we all want what is best for our community for the most part but, to me, it seems odd to have these ideas as opposing views. Maybe I am misunderstanding the argument.

However, there does seem to be a connection with the two. I feel like you cannot have one without the other. In a way, individuality and community have to be perfectly balanced. When it comes to the political thought throughout history there is a mixed tradition. I would even make the argument that Emerson had to have some sort community concept to be able to be an individual. He says to be true to yourself but there are always going to be people that assimilate to the society norm. This does not take anything away from being an individual. It just means that, as an individual, you subscribe to and share certain thoughts and things that other people do as well.

I found myself asking this question: If everyone was an individual and freely expressing themselves and staying true to who they are, would there be similarities?  If so, would the bonding over these similarities blend into communities of people? My argument is that there would have to be. That is why American political thought has to be a mixed tradition because it seems impossible to have one or the other. When analyzing the things that we have read in class I can always find hints and notions of either community or individualism. There does not seem to be a line drawn in the sand. One concept always seem exists when the other is present. When it comes to political thought, I believe that the only way to look at it is through a mixed perspective. It cannot be comprehended or defined as either Individualistic or Community.

When looking through a mixed lens, there are two different arguments: Socialism and Nativism. I find myself favoring the socialist side of the of the mixed lens but I can see that Nativism shares some similarities. When you look closely at the two opposing sides (socialism and nativism) there is the similarity of class and racism. There are groups of people who are treated as second class citizens and usually race has a lot to do with that. This is where I see the connection with the two. So in summary, I believe that these should not be two separate arguments, but rather one school of thought with minor differences.

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3 Responses to Individuality vs. Community

  1. ennausa says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your opinion. I find it very interesting that you interviewed people around you to get their opinion on this issue. I agree with you when you say that the two concepts – individualism and collectivism – can coexist. The example that you use is very representative of this thought. Indeed, if we take a group of friends, we observe that this group is composed of individuals different from each other. Nevertheless, they have things in common and each individual brings something new to the group. This example could also illustrate the fact that these two concepts can coexist. I also agree with you when you say that “American political thought must be a mixed tradition”. Indeed, each concept is different, but each has something interesting to bring to our society. Nevertheless, does this perfect mixture of the two concepts not refer to a perfect society and is therefore “utopian”?

    • Bohumila Klajblová says:

      You were asking whether “if everyone was an individual and freely expressing themselves and staying true to who they are, would there be similarities, and if so, whether would the bonding over these similarities blend into communities of people?” My answer is the following. In today’s world people usually don’t know what they want or think, what is their style and how they would like to behave or what they would like to do before they see someone else doing it, someone they would like to follow in either of the cases. That’s what Emerson criticises. The similarities therefore have to exist and so have to the communities. As Emerson writes: “Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in few particulars, authors of few lies, but false in all particulars.”

      To a certain extent I agree that American political thought seems to be mixed tradition but we should pay attention also to the relation between individualism and community (or civic republicanism) in this sense. I have a feeling from several readings that individualism is what Americans were born with and being communitarian is status they can and should reach. As even representatives of civic republican approach openly admit that US citizens were taught to be individualists; it seems that sense of community, commitment and cooperation are states we have to do something for. We just should be like that.

  2. lachew says:

    I definitely agree that there are significant similarities between the ideology supporting socialism and the ideology combatting nativism. Both speak to an “us” versus “them” division. Socialism seeks to eliminate class divisions, while critics of nativism seek to integrate native- and foreign-born communities. However, I disagree that these are only minor differences. Socialism essentially proposes that the distinction between the rich and the poor lies in their money alone, suggesting that redistribution of wealth would eliminate these class differences and result in a unified society. Frankly, I believe that that is a wholly naîve outlook. What the critics of nativism understand (that socialists do not) is that the division between white and non-white Americans is a separation that cannot be changed (at least, not in the course of one generation). It’s not possible to take away a white person’s whiteness and give some of that whiteness to a non-white person. Society does not judge a wealthy black person the same way it judges a white person of any class.

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