Sociology Index


Individualism is a value system, central to classical liberalism and capitalism, and upholds choice, personal freedom, and self-orientation. Communitarianism is contrasted to individualism or libertarianism. Unlike individualism which refers to an individualistic values system, individuation refers to the process by which individualism is accomplished, the breaking down of obligatory ties and responsibilities to other people or to institutions so that the individual is freed from social bond. Such a process must also lead to the adoption of the value of individualism.

Ten Modes of Individualism - None of Which Works - And Their Alternatives
Individualism comes in at least ten modes: ontological, logical, semantic, epistemological, methodological individualism, axiological, praxiological, ethical, historical, and political. These modes are bound together. For example, ontological individualism motivates the thesis that relations are n-tuples of individuals, as well as radical reductionism and libertarianism. It is argued that systemism has all the virtues and none of the defects of individualism and holism. One such virtue is the ability to recognize that individualism is a system rather than an unstructured bag of opinions, which raises the question whether thorough and consistent individualism is at all possible. - Mario Bunge, McGill University, Montreal.

Radical Individualism vs. Institutionalism

The Division of Institutionalists into 'Humanists' and 'Behaviorists' - Paul D. Bush. Abstract: David Seckler has filled an important gap in the methodological literature of economics by providing a "radical individualist" critique of American institutionalism. Seckler argues that institutionalists have been unable to develop a coherent methodology because of their ambivalence on the issue of "free will versus determinism." Thorstein Veblen, he says, entertained both "humanistic" and "behavioristic" hypotheses in his explanations of human behavior and, consequently, descended into obscurantism.

The institutionalist literature in general reflects these contradictory methodological tendencies; for example, John R. Commons believed in humanism, whereas Clarence Ayres was a "behaviorist." He fails to recognize the difficulties inherent in the philosophical dualisms posited by "radical individualism," and he employs them credulously in his critique of institutionalism. 

Talcott Parsons’s Sociology of Religion and the Expressive Revolution 
The Problem of Western Individualism
 - Bryan S. Turner.

Immanuel Kant distinguished between religion as cult in which people seek favours from God through prayer and offerings to bring healing and wealth, and religion as moral action that commands human beings to change their lives. The Kantian distinction was fundamental to Max Weber’s view of the relationship between asceticism and capitalism.

Parsons followed Durkheim in studying individualism as a major transformation of society. There is, however, a contradiction between individualism as either the legacy of Protestant pietism or the product of modern consumer culture. Parsons’s sociology of religion remains distinctive because he did not subscribe to the secularization thesis, but instead saw American liberalism as the fulfilment of Protestant individualism. The paper concludes with a critical assessment of the differences between the values of the expressive revolution and the legacy of Kantian individualism.


Where democracy exists, there will be individualism. The historical record shows that democracy inevitably engenders individualism. This proposition will be challenged by those who think either that individualism can obtain in nondemocratic cultures or that democracy can exist without engendering individualism. Each person is more than any single role, function, or place in society.

Individualism consists in that idea. Only democracy inspires it. It is also true that democracy, in reaction, produces antidemocratic individualism. The greatest students of democratic individualism are Plato and Tocqueville, and they are also its profoundest critics.

Cultural Differences in Individualism? Just Artifact. - Spencer Kagan, G. Lawrence Zahn. Previous research has provided discrepant findings with regard to the presence or absence of a cultural difference in strength of individualistic motivation among Mexican American and Anglo American children.

Individualism - Collectivism: Concept and Measure - John A Wagner, Michael K. Moch. This article draws attention to the distinction between individualism and collectivism, indicates its importance for organizational scientists, and develops a questionnaire measure of individualism-collectivism.

Reconciling Group Selection and Methodological Individualism - TODD J. ZYWICKI. Abstract: Methodological individualism underpins economic analysis. In his paper in this volume, however, Douglas Glen Whitman demonstrates that group selection can be reconciled with methodological individualism.

Institutional individualism and institutional change: the search for a middle way mode of explanation - Fernando Toboso.

Abstract: After noting the lack of enthusiasm of several well-known scholars concerning the adoption of both methodological holism and methodological individualism in its several versions, this paper shows that institutional individualism is a different mode of explanation from both of these and also that it is not the same thing as the so-called Popperian programme of situational analysis.

Institutional individualism is a mode of explanation that yields non-systemic and non-reductionist explanations at the same time as it allows for the incorporation into economic theories and models of the many formal and informal institutional aspects surrounding all human interactions, whether these interactions take place within stable structures of legal rules and social norms or whether they attempt to change the said rules and norms.

Wide content individualism - DM Walsh.

Wide content and individualist approaches to the individuation of thoughts appear to be incompatible; I think they are not. I propose a criterion for the classification of thoughts which captures both. Thoughts, I claim, should be individuated by their teleological functions.

Where teleological function is construed in the standard way - according to the aetiological theory - individuating thoughts by their function cannot produce a classification which is both individualistic and consistent with the principle that sameness of wide content is sufficient for sameness of psychological state. There is an alternative approach to function, the relational theory, which is preferable on independent grounds. A taxonomy of thoughts based on these functions reconciles wide content with individualism.

Utilitarian Individualism and Panel Nonresponse - Geert Loosveldt and Ann Carton.

In models of survey participation, utilitarian individualism can be considered as a relevant social psychological characteristic. Data from a panel survey are used to evaluate the effect of utilitarian individualism on the nonresponse of the second wave of a panel. The results show that after controlling for gender, education, political interest, and two indicators of respondent's behavior, people characterized by a high degree of utilitarian individualism are less willing to participate in the interview of the second wave of a panel. The consequences of this selective nonresponse for the measurement of utilitarian individualism are discussed.

Perception of individualism and collectivism in Dutch society: A developmental approach - Louis Oppenheimer. Within Triandis’s (1994) theoretical framework, two studies are reported that deal with the developmental course for subjective perceptions of cultural dimensions in Dutch society (i.e., vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism). While perceptions of society are always subjectively determined, the perceived dimensions that are prevalent in society do not necessarily have to parallel subjective evaluations of the self in terms of the same dimension.

Individualism and the Formation of Values - Solon T. Kimball. The assumption by educators, theologians, jurists, or others that right behavior can be achieved by the implantation of values in the individual fails to take account of the dynamics of value formation and change and of their relation to the social environment.