Individualism vs. Collectivism

  • Robert C. KoonsEmail author

The conflict between individualism and collectivism has played a central role in Western political thought since the French Revolution. However, the relationship between this distinction and other distinctions (e.g., liberal vs. integralist, right vs. left, capitalist vs. socialist, conservative vs. progressive) is fraught with complexity. There have been liberal collectivists and authoritarian individualists, as well as right-wing collectivists, left-wing individualists, socialists who are self-described individualists and others who are collectivists, and so too for capitalists, conservatives, and progressives. Some key thinkers have been embraced by both sides, including Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Burke, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and John Stuart Mill. Is there a simple, coherent distinction here, or merely random noise, useful only for unprincipled rhetoric?

The term “individual” first appears in the grammarians of late antiquity—in Porphyry’s Isagoge...

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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