Individualism: A Reader
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Individualism is one of most criticized and least understood ideas in social and political thought. Is individualism the ability to act independently amidst a web of social forces? A vital element of personal liberty and a shield against conformity? Does it lead to or away from unifying individuals with communities?
Individualism: A Reader provides a wealth of illuminating essays from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. In 26 selections from 25 writers individualism is explained and defended, often from unusual perspectives. This anthology includes not only selections from well-known writers, but also many lesser-known pieces--reprinted here for the first time--by philosophers, social theorists, and economists who have been overlooked in standard accounts of individualism.
The depth and complexity of ideas about individualism are reflected in the six sections in this collection. The first examines individuality generally, with the following five detailing social, moral, political, religious, and economic individualism. Throughout, individualism is analyzed and defended through the lenses of classical liberalism, free-market libertarianism, individual anarchism, voluntary socialism, religious individualism, abolitionism, free thought, and radical feminism.
Both richly historical and sharply contemporary, Individualism: A Reader provides a multitude of perspectives and insights on personal liberty and the history of freedom.
About the Author
George H. Smith writes a weekly column for Libertarianism.org. His fourth book, The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism, was published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press.
Marilyn Moore has a PhD in English literature and works as a freelance editor.
The editor of the Libertarianism.org Readers series is Aaron Powell, research fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of Libertarianism.org.
Most helpful customer reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful.
By Amazon Customer
This is a valuable historical Reader, in that it vividly shows the relatively short history of the concept of individualism -- the last few hundred years. To see entries by Wilhelm Humboldt and Roger Ingersoll (to name two of great interest to me) shows the use of this compilation. The editors do even "sneak" in a short item by St. Augustine to show one prominent example of an ancient reference to the conception, even if the concept itself wasn't discussed.
I just wish the Reader had the greater ambition of including modern writers -- but the stated limitation of the editors was to only use public domain writings -- though they bring up Ayn Rand in passing in their introduction. A more complete Reader, with, for example, an essay by Rand, our era's strongest advocate of the morality of individualism, would be a welcome companion to allow direct comparison against these early attempts to identify and explain this fundamental idea of a person's relation to the world and to those around him in society.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
A Decent Collection
By Colin Michael
Rather than going into great detail, let me give the general gist. This collection of public domain essays and outtakes covers arguments for individualism and its brothers libertarianism, voluntaryism, and other minimalist forms of government that support the rights of the individual to live peacefully while pursuing happiness in the world. The texts are ancient and modern (18th to 20th centuries), with authors from many walks of life. It well supports the fact that self-determination is not a recent idea, nor is it a thought based in greed or spite for our fellow men. Contrarily, it is the most moral code available in this world of imperfect people.
The only weakness I would suggest exists is a lack of discussion of the pieces, aside from a bit of historical introduction. And that may be good or bad. Perhaps the editors felt it best to let the articles stand on their own, or that discussion would naturally ensue between readers.
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
You'll love this book
Love this book. A great primer on Individualism thought. I appreciate the wide selection of writers and perspectives.