Conclusion: Community and Transcendence

  • Sue Wright


In a book published posthumously in 1998, Ernest Gellner compared the two major competing visions of society in modern thought:

On the one hand there is atomistic individualism which sees the individual building his cognitive world (and indeed any other) by orderly, step by step, individual effort, possibly maintaining cooperative relationships with others similarly engaged, but without this fundamentally affecting the nature of the enterprise, which in the end is solitary.…

On the other hand, there is romantic organism, which sees the community or the ongoing tradition as the real unit, transcending the individual, who only finds the possibility of fulfilment and creativity and thought, even or especially of identity itself, within that community. (Gellner 1998: 181)

Each of these visions of society takes a very distinctive view of the nature of humanity. People are either individualists accepting membership of a community in a contractual spirit, but reserving the right to choose what they want from their society and to exit from it if it suits them to do so, or they are social animals who can only find fulfilment through participating in and belonging to their distinctive culture. To leave the group would attract censure from other members and would be seen as contrary to the individual’s own interest.


Language Policy Primary Group Minority Language National Language Language Planning 
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Copyright information

© Sue Wright 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PortsmouthUK

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