Individualism, as a concept, beyond the reality that individuals exist within a group or community, has, in part, found its origins in the protestant privilege to be one’s own conduit to god. This comment is made in a value neutral context, that is to say, individualism was given a forum due to the empowerment of the individual in protestant worship modalities, relative to the centralized modality of Catholicism and other religions. The concept of an individual as an ideal also found support in the enlightenment movement, where it was fashionable to construct one’s own map of reality away from the church and traditional norms. To an extent, Stoicism, as a byproduct of the need of be free of human want, in this case the needing of typical social interactions, has served to shore the other contributing factors to becoming an individual.
With the advent of mass media a homogenization of society began to occur, the individual at once gained access to a larger volume of information to feed individualism, however, the communization of the general societal narrative resulted in the perception of the Individual being distilled down to perhaps a dozen stereotypes – a circumstance that had “character type” and “Individual” becoming synonymous. Individualism incurred a challenge with the escalation of media influence; in much the same way that the homogenization of theology had done in earlier times.
Individualism tends to be challenged in the general discourse of humanity, as Individuals become challenged they seek support from others, from there a collective within a given society begins to from. As the collective coalesces around an imperative or common desire, organization begins to demand a degree of uniformity – and so, uniformity and Individualism are inversely proportionate or at least inverse to one another – proportionality is affected by what drove the coalescence at the outset. Oft times, as the coalescence of individuals to a collective takes place in the face of extreme human conditions, where the group is highly dependent or a unified front, hazing mechanisms are utilized “break down” the individual, to effect a state of merged egos or perhaps a “common ego”. The individual is then wholly defined by their association with a group.
It may be said in general terms, a commonage derived of like minded individuals, who have coalesced in common interest or cause finds a generally healthier state of being, than, a commonage formed of conscription and hazing. The commonage of free accumulation finds common action by responding to environmental realities from a core set of beliefs; the commonage that forms from conscription finds common action at the behest of a central power entity. The commonage of fee accumulation is very difficult to corrupt, as ideals inform action, and the association began in a healthier place, in a place of intellectual commonality. By contrast, centralized power, absent support of the individual expression is inherently corrupting – as the core of the centralize power always works to its self-interest, as those subordinated seek to further their lot through acquiring favor from the central power and work around the central power for selfish and practical reasons.
It is important to note, conscription takes many forms in the creation of a commonage, the indoctrination of children to a given belief structure is a form of conscription. Conditioning is a form of conscription. Our very existence is conscription, by way of example, we are all conscripts of the human race.
Individualism, or the act of developing one’s sense of oneself as an independent entity, and the societal act of provisioning the discovery process to build an individual, in no way impairs collective action, it serves to diversify the informing of collective action. There is a common misperception that Individualism and Collectivism are resident at opposite ends of a continuum; the fact is however, they are mandatory companions existing as an entity. The question is, under what conditions has the collective coalesced and by what means it is being maintained – how these questions are answered determines the health of a collective. A collective that permits individual expression and functions under a premise of common ideas results in a reverse hierarchy, a collective that emerges out of conscription of one type or another results a hierarchy that leads to a central power.
When the individual is co-opted by the collective, thought that panders to leadership emerges – often effecting “group think” and disastrous tangents in the human enterprise. When the individual within a collective is nurtured, critical thought governs individual action, and by extension, thought governs the collective – inherent in this reality is a diversification of power.
“The natural effort of every individual to better “their” own condition is so powerful that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations” Adam Smith