Individualism Old and New
Individualism Old and New is a politically and socially progressive book by John Dewey, an American philosopher, written in 1930. Written at the beginning of the Great Depression, the book argues that the emergence of a new kind of American individualism necessitates political and cultural reform to achieve the true liberation of the individual in a world where the individual has become submerged.
Dewey argues that America has become a socially corporate materialistic society which has been consumed by a culture of private pecuniary gain. Yet he also sees a simultaneous contradiction, for Americans do not outwardly value private gain in and of itself. Thus the individual is lost in a world of multiple and nearly meaningless associations; and until the individual and his groups are harmonized as one, the individual will remain submerged. However, the problem remains undiagnosed and unseen, for intellectuals are held back by their belief in an "older" individualism that refuses to acknowledge the corporate nature of American society.
Dewey writes that "as long as this conception possesses our minds, the ideal of harmonizing our thought and desire with the realities of our present social conditions will be interpreted to mean accommodation and surrender."
He thus argues for some kind of "socialism" where industry is controlled by democratic forms in the same way that they run our governments. He argues that fixing the problem with culture is the same with that of liberating the individual: by abolishing culture driven by private pecuniary gain and reaffirming the importance of community and industrial cooperative control, Dewey argues that the individual will be harmonized with his communities and liberated to achieve true progress.
1. The House Divided Against Itself: Ironically, this references Abraham Lincoln's nomination acceptance speech, but Dewey is claiming that the new division is in the American mind. American's still claim that people should act morally, not act solely out of selfish desire for profit, yet in all practical matters, they pursue and reward behavior that is selfish and profit driven.
2. "America"--By Formula: American capitalism is not completely bad because it has brought people in the world together in some senses. However, American culture is flawed because it is materialistic and has become characterized by three things, quantification, mechanization, and standardization. As a result in America,the human soul is impersonalized and its spiritual growth is stunted.
3. The United States, Incorporated:
4. The Lost Individual:
5. Toward a New Individualism:
6. Capitalistic or Public Socialism?:
7. The Crisis in Culture: The American pecuniary culture hinders the growth of reason and the social nature of man in three ways: mentally, because of the formative effect of turning people into mindless parts of a machine in their work; Materially, because of inadequate distribution of wealth; and by corrupting education, because education too often directed only towards obtaining a job and not learning for the sake of learning.
8. Individuality in Our Day: Man needs to reexamine his old beliefs such as science and religion being ends in themselves. Man should then realize that all things need to be directed towards social ends, not selfish ends such as profit. He closes with a metaphor that new individualism is each cultivating his own garden without a fence, because the garden is the world and how he participates in its being. This can be better understood in light of the Hegelian understanding of the End of History.