Indian Political Science Association

INDIVIDUALISM: ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION Author(s): Mohd. AKHTAR KHAN Source: The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 48, No. 1 (January - March 1987), pp. 126132 Published by: Indian Political Science Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/01/2014 11:12
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2yetas a systematic is the gift of the The term nineteenth 'individualism' was first used in France century. theyrejectedthe former 'individuality.' .March. in a The French romanticistsalso used the term individualism sense. society and self-sufficient treatedas self-contained entity. Thus. 1.1 Though the elementsof individualism may be traced as far back as classical antiquity.each of thembeing society. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . ofPolitical Journal This content downloaded from 5. and the aristocratic known as commonly political economic liberalismand Romantic individualism respectiliberalism.155 on Tue.5 Conservative thinkers because theyperceivedin it the tendency towards precisely contempt of the individualas a threatto the stability of social and an exaltation accentuatedthe anti-individugreatly political order.INDIVIDUALISM: ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION Mohd. alistic attitude speciallyof thoseknown as the identified 'individualism' Saint Simonians: Saint Simon himself with 'anarchy' and 'egotism'. Vol. 1987.13. The termwas incorporated also used thetermin thisderogatory in FrenchDictionaryin 1836.No.This is based on the assumptionthat each individual is the best conviction and that his act of makingchoicescontributes of his own interests judge as well as to the welfareof the to the development of his personality a is collection of individuals.4 These thinkers of the Frenchthinkers. of thisperiod¿greetedthisconcept with vely. therights oftheindividual. Afterthe death of Saint Simon.January TheIndian Science.laissez in atleastthreesensesdesignating faire cult of individuality.169.48. AKHTAR KHAN of the human Individualism signifiesa conviction in the dignity individualwhomit regardsas the basic unitof society: the individual is the generating force for all social and politicalinstitutions. his disciples sense.5 between 'individualism' and Sharplydistinguishing disparaging whileexaltingthelater: Balzac.

especiallythe nationor the State. The fundamentals of individualismthathad been not only heterogeneousbut also wide apart were and conjoined byJacob Burckhardt. The appreciationbegan 8 wherein America was withthe appearance of PoliticalEncyclopaedia as the home of an energetic 'individualism. This progression of the of to nation or the that the occured State in the viduality person ideas of numerousthinkers of the nineteenthcentury.ANDEVOLUTION : ORIGIN INDIVIDUALISM 127 while despairing the loss of individuality in modernFrance.individuality forwas also ascribedto supra-personal fromthe indices. Yet. one may say. The changein the meaningof 'individualism' froma term charto one denotingthe interests acterisinga society dominatedby selfish ideals of a freeindividualseeking for thedevelopment the opportunities of his personalitytook place in Germany. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . called 'individualism'the mosthorribleof all evils. In fact. whileappreciatingthe term. it had its supportersamong some socialists and liberals. notable amongst themare Fichte.Schellingand Hegel. social and religious institutionsto radical criticism and preacheda completeemancipationof the individual that amounted to a formnot onlyof anarchismbut also.despiteall theirefforts. Prominent among the liberalswho acclaimed the concept were Renan and Ferron.9 Besides. however. in 1860.10 was transported to America by thoseEuropean Althoughthe term who had used it in a pejorative sense.169. pleaded forsome amendments witha view to achievingbetter social cohesion to those radicals who identified'individualism' with 'socialism': to the formercategory belonged Louis Blanc and to the latterJeanJouresand Proudhon.13. the fact remains that thesehandfuladvocates of could not contain the hardened individualism.8 The socialistsranged fromthosemoderateswho. This excessive individualism was best expressedin the writings of Max Stirner who emphasisedthat egoism was the onlylogical way of life. yettheAmericanmind thinkers This content downloaded from 5. Frenchbias of interpreting the termin a pejorativesense. does not mean that 'individualism'was altogether a forlorn doctrinein France.'yet. ultimately put together a value to it forits general acceptance: by 1860 indiso as to attribute vidualismwas comingof age.155 on Tue. This. 'individuaportrayed lism' touched its heights whenthe youngHegelians began subjecting political. to a formof nihilism.

18 conclusively history. democracy.the termbecame a symbolic catch-word of immense conceptualsignifitimes been impliedin the all that had at different cance. and enlightenedself-interest restedon the that both free institutions of indithe individualism. tion True. yet a perusal of the various Americanuses of the termrevealsa quite distinctiverange of connotations. the termwas widelyaccepted in America.169. Emersonattributed 1839. pleaded for a competitive societywheretheindividualwas freeto unfoldhis potentialities. notwithstanding the Americanswereinclinedto treatthe conceptwith of individualism. acquired a harsher meaning. in the of modernhistory. vigourof American to America: as vidualism changed completely with its transportation establishedand a beliefin the soon as politicaldemocracywas securely of rootedin the Amethe was nations interests of the properly harmony its meaningand its relevanceto social rican mind. The Americansbelieved that thereexisteda naturalorderat the international leveljust as therewas one withina society.155 on Tue. Already. progressive with social justice.128 OF POLITICAL THE INDIAN SCIENCE JOURNAL the was not reconciledto thismeaninggivento the concept. forces reconciling liberty such as William Graham Sumner. expressing in in the theory of the of ideal of natural rights. on the of on than more the mark dictionaries left its pages description StatesMagazineand Demomindsof men. it the Whitman incarnated to Walt social development.From thisbelief sprouted a theory of private enterpriseand laissez-faire . with the of assertion that opportunity private postulating equality This content downloaded from 5.13.11 SuccraticReview a similar favourablemeaningto in 1846.1' value-content Thus.questionsregarding orderbecame predominant. This faithwas closely of comassociated withthe assumption that the productivefunctions moreclosely so as to guarantee mercecould bringthe nationstogether ofwar and destructo the world against the horrors peace and security . Review individualism as a progresfavour:the Boston Quarterly regarded asserted another of movement sive reviewer. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . For Emerson. the term hands of social Darwinists. As a result.moreover. philosophy limited governmentand in the concept of internationalism. Also. the term had moral and religious the rootsof JohnWilliam Drapper saw in individualism significance. Sumner.the United had used the conceptin an appreciativemanner. For a growing numberof Americansthe answerwas found in the concept of individualism. Alexis de Tocqueville's criticism the concept.

It laid emthe worldwithphasis on the capacity of human reasonto comprehend to reference of One the greatest forces out any supernatural power.H. but only to regain its resonance to become the most cherishedideal for the Americanpeople. Though the termsuffered a temporary eclipse duringthe Depressionand the New Deal. eitheralone or in combination with his fellowbeings. private education. Prominent Herbert among Spencerand Auberon Herbert: Spencer preached the generalcourse of social evolution by the imminent drifttowardsa formof society in which private arresting of everykind were to be replaced by public activities while activities Auberon Herbert advocated voluntary taxation. in 1859. open market and free trade. the Britishmind was not receptive to give a positive meaningto it. In India.13. Hobhouse who favoured positive political action for the promotion of liberal ideas: to Green. Besides. ofindividualproclaimeda new way of lifedominatedby the principles ism.the utilitarians proclaimedthat the general welfare was leftfreeto pursue his happiif individual each was possibleonly nessin his own way. The Renaissance was taken to mean the acceptance of the principleof reason in every walk of lifeand the emancipation of the of authority individualfromthe tyranny in all its forms. p-17 This content downloaded from 5. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .155 on Tue. appeared Selfhelpof Samuel Smiles whereinhe vigorouslyadvocated the ideals of freedom and firmly assertedthat individualism "produces the most powerful effectsupon the life and action of othersand really constitutesthe best practical education". To the latter group belonged T. Green and L.169. individualismimplied a fundamental principleof human nature and an essentialfactor forthe and to Hobhouse it signified of the society. Gradually.: ORIGIN INDIVIDUALISM ANDEVOLUTION 129 accumulation would lead to public welfare.T. the term came to be used by the whole of Englishliberals ranging from those advocating the most spectrum to thosepleading forquite extensive extreme State intervenlaissez-faire the former were tion. individuifreedom wellbeing and equality which could be secured only underthe reign of social control.15 Subsequently. its use in pejorativesensecontinueduntil William Mc Call resultantly. 14 When the term'individualism'first appeared in England in 1840. the spread of the Western educationaroused a new spirit ofinquiryamong theintelligentsia and prepared the ground(or Renaissance.

while social Yet. Great leaders like Rama Krishna Paramhamsa and his disciple religious Swami Vivekananda. As a firm believerin the dignity of the individual.18 Althoughthe Indian Renaissance owes much to the European liberalism. yet. who laid stress on the recovery of old spiritual This content downloaded from 5. real freedom.caste-system. Like Green. Gokhale insists on the incorporation of the principles of democracyin the administration of the country. enrichedtheconcepGopal Krishna Gokhalefurther Successively. Ranade goes to the extent of allowingthe use of forceby theState.130 OF POLITICAL SCIENCE THE INDIAN JOURNAL that contributed to the makingof RenaiscentIndia was the Brahmo Samaj movement whichoriginatedin Bengal. in his desireto restore freedom to the individual.16 In theWestern coast it was Mahadeva Govinda Ranade whoundertook the workinitiated by Rammohun Roy in Bengal. He conceivesthe individualas a repository of rights and not as a creaturedrivenby cosmicforces. Rammohun Roy was of this movement. he directshis offensive against untouchabithe vices such as the Sati system.13. freedom fromall externalism. He founded the Indian Social Conference to instilin the minds of the Indians a visionof social reform.155 on Tue. also consists in being forced to findout the right 1T path and to walk and political reconstruction and attemptto the realmof religion Rammohun opposes priesthood the it so can a rational basis that it necessarystimulus provide supply to an allroundprogress. accordingto him. in political matters. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .etc. Followingliberaltrends. polygamy. Gokhale raises the banner of equality and pleads forfemale education. as well as social and political mattersand pleads authority of the society. but one possessing the power to shape his own is not devoid of its own spiritual heritage. The conferenceworkedon the comprehensive without theprior assumptionthatthere could be no social progress of the Ranade also evils individual. uplift attacking favoursState intervention forthesake of justice and humanity. he upholds thecause of Swaraj implying lity.169. tual legacy of Ranade. in social matters. He protests against the tyrannyof the founder in religious.In forthe theological.he believes that the State can use forceto controlthe overt behaviourof the individual witha view to making him realise his real freedom.

Macmillan.fortheybelievethat a reform meansforeliminating imposed of the is with sanction the State legal punishment likelyto steal by away the vçrypurposeof thereform. it signifies it impliesthe realisarule.19 These individuspiritualconnotation of the individual in the larger alists.R.. "Individualism". Mill.In political matters. p. The political connotation is derivedfrom Westernliberals. recognition Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru representthe tradition Thinkers Jike of humanist liberalism. times. the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the wide spread of socialistideals produced a leaven in the Indian mind.169.Chicago. that theydetest legislation as a practices theseevils. 162. 676. Pennock. p. Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences . Bipin Chandra Pal. Rabindranath Tagore.individualism: origin and evolution 131 role in shapingthe ideas values in all splendour. Roy gives up his unqualifiedfaithin Marxismand brandshis own ideologyas 'radical humanism'. Yet. spiritually. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .1962.D.Jan-March.13. Gandhi links it with Dharma whileNehru. M..S. Journalof theHistory This content downloaded from 5.20 Gandhi's theory some solace in the outright rejectionof Marx's critiqueof religionfinds of the Marxism in of M. both rejectthe of class-waras a tenetoftheirconceptof socialism. To them. p. They attribute divinity as the freedom on ultimate the end of the and lay emphasis spiritual is onlya means to the individual. 3. William Behton.. Lindsay.theyadvocateevolutionary conceptof social change broughtabout by progressiveeducation and growing enlightenment. 2. writings advocacy Roy. In fact. Encyclopaedia Vol.N. "Individualism*'. Vol. the forces Besides. ofIdeas. and. played an important of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Newyork.refuse betweenthe powersof theindividualand and believe that the interplay of thesociety is to the mutual advantage of both. REFERENCES 1.associatesit with the Marxian ideology. yet this advocacy losesits base when. 12. "Individualism in the Mid-XIX Century".social or politicalfreedom of thishigherend.N. VII. Koenroad. emancipationfromforeign tion of moral freedom. Britannica J. 1966.thoughopposed to the merger to ignorethe social aspect of individualism social aggregation.155 on Tue. to the individual Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. A. such as Edmund Burke and J. while its is based on ancientVedantism. they uphold the cause of Swaraj with its double connotation:politically.1962.later. 77. Though opposed to such customsand attainment underminehuman dignity.

132 OF POLITICAL SCIENCE THE INDIAN JOURNAL 4. in Italy was 10. 21 Jan 2014 11:12:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1956. Buch.. 7. Godkin. op. Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography . B. immigrants.. 1922. 12. 132. Arieli. pp. Ibid. cit. A. 17. Ganesh. Arieli. p. The Germanpeople were universally acknowledgedfor their love forfreedom and fortheir of characterstic non-conformism.. 13. Josephde Maistrecondemned and favoured authority liberty while Victomede Bonald and Lamennaiswere criticalof the rightsof man. 1964. Ibid. ed. 200-1. M. Individualism . F. 89. 209. 15. Tilak. p. published in American andNationalism 11. 1938. It may furtherbe pointed out that the Englishindividualists.Y. 216-17. Koenroad. such as PierseLeroux and Alexisde Tocqueville. 276-80. 14. This content downloaded from 5. andSpeeches 19. Baroda. formulated Thinkers. somesocialistsand liberals. Rise andGrowth ofIndian Liberalism. New York.13. Macmillan. Edited by Karl Von Rotteckand Karl Welcker. E. 83. expressed Romantic cult of individuality. S.G. individuality 6.the editorof The Nation. Writings (3rd.169. Admittedly. pp. pp. Jacob Burckhardt'sCivilisation ofthe Renaissance in 1860. p. were opposed to it. Ideology 191-2.such as William McCall and John Stuart theirideas largelyunderthe influence of the German Mill.. p. 9. Elements of Individualism and Outlines ofIndividualism appeared in 1847 and 1853 respectively.. Moraes. 5. pp. 16.op.). Lamartine and Victor Hugo displayed their reluctancein adopting 'individualism' as an appropriate term for their ideal of and originality. were German 'individualism'.W. William McCairs famous works.. some of the firstthinkers glorifying such as Francis Lieber and Carl Schurz.Madras. HenryReeve's translationof Alexis de Tocqueville's De la ' Democratic en Ame rique appeared in England in 1840.. 8. 20. cit..155 on Tue. theUnited States also.Atmaram. 18.These characteristics fromtheirancestorswho were successful theyinherited crusadersagainstRoman domination.L. Their love forfreedom further firstin the ProtestantReformationand laterin the itself.

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