Individualism and Community in the World


Since the turn of the century, the role of the USA in the world has changed and has made both people living inside the boundaries of the USA as in the rest of the world asked themselves what is the role that the USA will take in the future and what the appropriate reaction should be from the rest of the nations, “enemies” and “allies” alike. The ideas that we have discussed during this class seem relevant to the discussion of what the future holds for the world as a whole. Particularly, those of civic republicanism and liberal individualism.

There are inherent contradictions between these political perspectives. Civic republicanism compels us to see each and every one of us as members of a society and to see how our role in it is important to keep ourselves, as a community, strong and our rights intact. While an individualist would argue that these rights should be the center of our life that our freedoms (religion, speech, etc.) is what make us find our happiness and our path in life. It is up to the individual to make each of these decisions.

However, while recognizing these contradictions, it still seems to me that the only possible way of living in a global society is by embracing and recognizing both schools of thought. Emerson’s individualism might seem extreme, but there is a clear importance in rebellious individualism that seems necessary to break from the past and generate critical ideas that can only be generated by individuals that alienate themselves temporarily from the critical eyes of society and look deep into themselves to find a clearer understanding of things. Forgetting about political parties, trade partnerships, economic embargoes, and even patriotism to try to find a more honest perception of the world and ourselves.

This seclusion of the mind than should be ended, and our honest opinion be revealed to the larger world. Because it is only in our community where we can expose our ideas and try to change and influence our society to improve it. It is in this judgement and criticism where we discover the strength and flaws of our arguments. Inevitably, this conflicts of ideas generate tensions and hostilities, but they also generate social capital and empathy that can be useful to come to compromises that look for the well-being of the whole society; as a civil republican would support.

While this process could be applied to the local and national community, I believe these ideas can and should be taken to a global level. The way that society has evolved, through economic trade and cultural interchange, makes it hard to not think of the global community. The barn should not be a city or a country, but the whole world.

From the perspective of the American government and its people, it means that critical thinking should be applied to analize the consequences of problems like the Wars on Drugs, the effects of trade in the global population, environmental issues and the complex relationship that the USA has with different governments around the world, but always with the perspective that, in the end, the USA forms part of a larger community, which has the right to apply a similar process of analysis than the one used by the USA and that only a fair discussion can produce fair results. While this is easier to say than to do, the stability and sustainability of the global community is worth the debate.

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6 Responses to Individualism and Community in the World

  1. odessaclugston says:

    Great post! I agree with you – in order to have a flourishing national economy, we must be a participatory member of the global economy and community. In many ways, I view civic republicanism as the counter-argument to American Exceptionalism. American Exceptionalism argues that the United States of America is the superior model of economy, political structure, and ability in the world. Examining this statement through the lens of civic republicanism reveals its limitations. Civic Republicanism argues that a community is stronger when it works together despite differences, not by trying to succeed through individualism. I think through embracing the sentiments you share above, we can remember that the United States is just one part of a much bigger, diverse, and global puzzle.

  2. courtneymonus says:

    I mostly agree with this post. I think that a lot of our problems with other countries are based off the fact that certain individuals view that their country is better than another. If people can take the civic republican approach with the entire world, we could work together to combat major issues and help benefit everyone. The reason why I disagree is that you said that the seclusion of the mind should be ended. I think having people who take a more individualistic standpoint also help because even though they may only be thinking of helping themselves, they still can come up with ideas that will end up helping the entire society.

  3. wardog88 says:

    While I can see where this posts claims are valid in terms of globalization, I don’t agree with the notion of going global is the ultimate solution, for it doesn’t benefit everyone to put our problems on another society, since going global is what this is about in the end, Emerson had a point of individualism we are a sovereign nation to begin with, if civic republicanism is what we ideally want than you need to accept any consequences that can happen with such notions. We were individuals fighting for freedom before we were a nation with an identity recognized by the world, in the beginning.

  4. landonsabori says:

    First of all I want to start by saying great post and I enjoyed how thought out it was. I would have to agree with you on a majority of what you said. I think that its important to notice a change in how things are now compared to how they were. When you said “The way that society has evolved, through economic trade and cultural interchange, makes it hard to not think of the global community”. This really stuck out because we do have to realize that we are always evolving and and changing. You spoke about Emerson and his individualism and how it could possibly work without it being as extreme I would also have to agree with you on that as well.

  5. bohumilak says:

    You mentioned that it is only in our community where we can try to change and influence our society to improve it. Individualists may, however, say that we can change the society only by changing our own approach. Society can be good only if individuals, it consists of, are good.

    Apart from that I strongly disagree with the statement saying that the US is aware of forming part of a larger community. United States historically expressed that there is and would never be anything above. From an American perspective the US is destined to be the world leader and the American nation alone has “sufficient moral force” (as Woodrow Wilson said), or “moral standing”. Even the US’s multilateralism in reality meant building institutions and frameworks of cooperation, designed to promote an international system framed in the interests of the US.

  6. samiomais says:

    I find your proposed synthesis of individualism and civic republicanism to be very interesting. However, I wonder if maybe you have it backwards? Maybe one should first go out into the world, engage with the existing traditions, ideas, and debates, and then, having understood them properly, retreat into seclusion and reflect upon them. Then from this, one may develop original thoughts.

    I also wonder what other syntheses can be attempted in the world of political ideologies. Can there be a common ground, say, between a political liberal and a social conservative? Between a civic libertarian and an economic socialist? How real are the divisions we take for granted in our political discussions? How much do we construct due to our tendency as human beings to form tribal mentalities? I suspect that the politically vocal have more in common than they realize.

    Finally, I like how you encourage us to take it to the global level, and not retain our sense of civic republican duty to our own country alone. That may have worked 200 years ago when identities and lives were more localized. In this day and age, with the transportation and communication advancements that have turned our vast world into a small village, I feel that if we are to thrive as a species, we must not (if I may borrow your metaphorical language) mistaken our town or state or country for the barn.

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