On “Individualism”

eliasIn The Society of Individuals, Norbert Elias writes,

At present words such as “individual,” “society,” “personality,” “collective,” being ideological weapons in the power struggle of various parties and states, are so permeated with emotive content that it is difficult to extricate their factual core from the desires and fears of those involved in the struggles. Just as, earlier, magical formulae were used to heal sicknesses that could not yet be adequately diagnosed, today people often use magic doctrines as means of solving human and social problems …. And in such doctrines words like “individual” and “society” play a considerable role as symbols and passwords. (84)

I might bicker about whether or not there is a “factual core” in there—as opposed to seeing the use of such terms as constituting facts—but overall I quite like the sentiment.


About Craig Martin

I am an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
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