Individualism In American Society

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America has had a tumultuous existence, replete with war, progress, and ideologies. The most formidable of the latter is individualism: the shift of society’s focus from the group to the individual along with a growing emphasis on this individual’s personal needs and desires. Despite wide criticism, it has become the societal norm, spanning all generations, genders, races, and walks of life. Indeed, it is nearly inseparable from the country’s history, rising and falling over the decades as the United States shifts and evolves. Individualism is undeniably a constant factor within the fluctuation of America and has been since its very dawn (Gans 1).
The individual, his preferences, and his habits are naturally the primary focus of individualism.
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While they did indeed band together as a group under a common cause, their fight for the ideals of personal liberty was an individualistic one. This individualism thrived during the Revolutionary War as the Americans created their own democratic nation in response to a monarchy that would not allow them to govern themselves (Bellah et al. 142). Individualism fueled the American dream of bettering one’s life using one’s own grit. It was the defining ideology that led pioneers out west to start afresh. Up until the 1950s, however, its obvious manifestations in the culture were shunned or ignored (Gans 14). This changed drastically after World War…show more content…
American sociologist Robert Bellah remarked that individualism promotes the “rich private life” that is necessary for a rewarding public life (163). Ulrich Beck terms it liberating (202). Even Tocqueville himself, despite his misgivings, referred to it as “reflective and peaceable” (482). Herbert Gans decries its critics as being privy to chronological snobbery, overly nostalgic in their efforts to decry what is simply a fuller manifestation of an ideology that has been present in America since its beginning (Gans
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