Individualism and the West

Individuality consists in the inner feelings and essential subjectivity of the human condition. Individualism on the other hand is a politico-economic doctrine instating rights and privileges of persons. The former is empirical fact; the latter, a cornerstone of anglo-american political theory and cultural heritage. The concept of the radical individual is a new historical phenomenon, unique to the modern age. Ties of loyalty and love connect human hearts as always, but beneath it lies awareness that we do so as individuals with the freedom and liberty to decide otherwise. Diverse cultures and divergent stages in history have seen types of humans conscious of themselves only as members of one collective, one party, one corporation, one tribe, one army, one race, one civilization, a single species. Our notion of the individual as an entity separate from the collectivity is the product of an evolutionary process that contributes in part to the roots of  Western civilization. North America and Western Europe have placed an increasingly weighty emphasis on the individual. Human names are not an empirical fact, and yet to disregard a person’s name and instead address her or him according to their function is culturally rude. Perhaps this is universally true. Alternatively, it goes against the individualistic agenda of aggrandizing the importance of the personal identity. A complicated and persistent program with roots traceable to the 12th century can be seen consolidating itself in cultural attitudes towards death, the writing of novels, the painting of portraits, and the crafting of sculptures. Religion follows suit. The development of the confessional in Catholicism and salvation through faith alone in protestant Christianity have brought the hegemony of churches into the consciences of individuals, recasting religiosity in the mold of economically advantageous policies, controlling industrial productivity and entrepreneurial innovation through the soul of the fundamental protagonist.