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The theory of Individualism
The principle of Individualism appeared during 19th century. It is also known as laissez faire in French language which means leave the individual alone. It is a political, social and philosophical idea that places great stress on the freedom of an individual and generally includes the self-directed, self-contained and comparatively unrestrained individual or ego. In this context this article deals with types of individualism and its characteristics.
The principle of Individualism appeared during 19th century. It is also known as laissez faire in French language which means leave the individual alone. It is a political, social and philosophical idea that places great stress on the freedom of an individual and generally includes the self-directed, self-contained and comparatively unrestrained individual or ego. Individualism is a part of liberalism and was started by John Staut Mill.It considers state a necessary evil but it wants to keep the state for providing protection, law and order. Hence it gives primacy to the individual against the state and favors maximum freedom to an individuals. C.E.M Joad- Individualism was a product of social and political theory propagated in 19th century. The Individualistic theory may be briefly stated in proportion that the sole duty of government is to protect the individual from violence and fraud. It was the first theory which have paid so much attention on the development of individual's freedom.
Types of individualism
Individualism major crux is that it promotes freedom of an individual along with limited state's function of protection. The long history of individualism can be divided into three different parts in its time line. The three types of Individualism are as follows-
- Classical individualism-classical individualism is a phase which marks the beginning of individualism. The various features of classical individualism are as follows-It promotes negative individualism as it talks about unrestrained freedom. It talks about religious freedom and man should be given religious freedom. It promoted free competitions in the economic world without state interference. Adam Smith given the concept of laissez faire which means leave alone, lets free. There must be no distinction on the basis of sex, gender and caste. All must be treated equally and given freedom to each sphere of his life. State is responsible for providing happiness to each and every individual.
- Traditional individualism-In this concept focus was on Individual. It is called the positive individualism as it promoted restrained freedom. John Stuart mill on his famous essay on liberty says that the only purpose for which power can be executed over any member of a society against his will is to prevent harms to others over himself, his body and mind individual is sovereign. This freedom cannot be enjoyed in insulation. Traditional individualism is divided into self- regarding and other’s regarding. Under self regarding an individual is absolutely free to do whatever he wants to do until it does not harming anyone or affecting anyone and if his act id harming anyone or affecting then this sphere is said to be other's regarding and he must be restrained from doing such acts.
- Modern individualism-In this focus shift from an individual to a groups and associations in 20th century. It was different from traditional individualism because it talks about groups and association and considers state an association like others. According to it power should be decentralized and the state should not be more than a federation of group or groups of communities and association having their own personality and own group interests which should be protected. Hence they want to place limitation on power of state.
Major exponent of modern individualism
The major exponent of modern individualism whose contribution led the foundation of modern individualism are as follows-
- Graham Walls-Graham Walls was psychologist. In his book "great society" he explains a distrust of power of our development of state. According to him centralized state with parliament composed on the basis of territorial representation is hardly an effective organ for expression of popular will. He says man is very selfish he always wants his own good. Man is self -seeking, pleasure being. Further he says do not give state enough power else state hegemony will be created and it will misuse its power. But state interference is necessary where one man interest clashes with other man and it become cause of pain for him. State will resolve matter hence the concept of plurality developed where focus shifted from individual to groups.
- M.P.Follet-According to her state is not more important than an individual. State should be associated with limited power and it’s just like an other groups and association in a society. There should be presence of pressure groups in the society who will responsible to pressurize the government for the welfare of the common people.
- Norman Angels-Norman have strongly opposed the strong power of the state, articulating his view in his book "great division". According to him every individual have two fields-impulsive and rational. Sometimes our rational behavior dominates our impulsive and sometimes our impulsive behavior dominates the rational feelings. At this time group will control our actions. They will give us good feeling and satisfactions. According to him group behavior is always different from an individual behavior. In a group difference of opinion exists but it leads to co-operational rational working and the welfare of the whole society is achieved. hence groups and society will leads to greater society.
Arguments in favor of Individualism
- Social-ethical argument-The ethical arguments was developed by writes like Hume, Rousseau, Kant and Mill. They maintains that development of an individual is only possible when government interference exists. State is always there to provide right action and thought to an individual and hence state function is limited to welfare of the people.
- Biological argument-Biological argument was propounded by Herbert Spencer. According to him there is no use of compulsory education, help to poor, chancing law of natural development. These all are useless efforts. He said that let the weak eliminate only, the fit will survive “survival of the fittest”. Incapable and feeble person will be automatically perish and strong will survives and if all the best will survive then only can country develops and its is people will be happy.
- Economic argument-Adam smith was the supporter of the economic argument. He was of the view that government should not interfere in the economic sphere of man's life. According to him there is no control of government over the market. The trade and industries will flourish best if left in the hands of private sectors. Non- interference of government will encourage open competition which will invest more and labour will work more to earn more.
- Political basis-This theory clashes with john Locke theory of social contract. He said that there are certain natural born right of a man and the duty of the state is to protect that rights. These right to life they gave concept of lazier fare. According to them state is means that ends. Therefore state is essential for welfare of the people. State function should be limited to solving disputes in man and to promote good life to its citizens.
Criticism of individualism
Individualism have long impact on man's life but its prone to some of the criticism . The various criticism of individualism are as follows-
- Lazier fare theory was criticized because it will lead to cut-throat competition and progress can be only due to unity and co-operation. Competition cannot be the reason behind progress.
- Biological theory ought to be rejected as it promotes anti-democratic theory. The concept of survival of the fittest is based on injustice to weak person.
- Ethical individualism have been criticized as in society we cannot be self-regarding. We are not 100 percent free in self-regarding. Further we cannot divide self -regarding and other’s regarding section in water tight compartment.
- individualism even promoted utilitarianism in which person's seeking pleasure is justified until it harms other, which is not good for the whole society in the long run.
- Modern individualism was criticized because, according to this theory new associations will be found, delegated power will be given to them which will lead to competition and fights between two or more groups. Hence state will spend more time on resolving disputes rather than paying attention on more important issues related to development.
- Group theory was given by the three different thinkers in three different ways which will finally lead to great confusion.
- The concept of pluralism was criticized because it will convert into anarchy. People will do everything according to their will, leading to fights, war and riots which will distract state from doing important works for development.
- Individualism is incoherent theory. It is important to have law and discipline, no individual can develop without proper application of laws and control in his life.
In-spite of above criticism, this fact cannot be denied that individualism has its own importance. It is the first theory which promoted the freedom of man's will and action. The justification of individualism can be traced from its stress on state's function for the welfare of its subjects. Hence it promoted the concept of welfare state which is most desirable for both the individual and states’ development. State is an important institution and it shouldn't claim any special allegiance and individualism. Individuals having freedom of his will consequently lead to innovation and development of new culture, society and overall development. In contrast if state is provided with individualism it will misuses its power to great extent and hegemony will be created over people which is against the development of any state. The Individualistic theory may be briefly stated in proportion that the sole duty of government is to protect the individual from violence and fraud. So on these ground individualism was justified. In words of J.S.Mill-It is not by wearing down into uniformity all that is individualism in themselves, but by cultivating it and calling it forth, within the limits imposed by the rights and interest of others, that human being become noble and beautiful objects of contemplation.
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