Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Individualism is a term that dates from the early nineteenth century, when it was coined as a reaction to Enlightenment and democratic ideas. One of the first and most influential uses of individualism was by Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), who, in Democracy in America , invoked it to refer to the preference among people in the United States for private life over public engagement—a preference he associated with democracy. Tocqueville's use reflected the pejorative connotation that individualism carried in the early nineteenth century, referring generally to a social condition that tends toward disorder or chaos due to a primacy of the individual and the individual's private desires over respect for traditional institutions or for the interests of the community as a whole. Today, however, individualism has lost much of its pejorative sense, at least for some theorists and social scientists, and one can identify two main versions: methodological individualism and ...