: The Critique of Individualism

Alan Ryan

in The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262948
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734762 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

: The Critique of Individualism

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This chapter focuses on the thought that ‘rational, economic man’ may be a useful figment of the economists’ imagination but is not a useful figment of the social and political theorist’s. After some remarks about the strength of individualism in British political thought, the chapter discusses the post-1945 debate over the virtues of ‘methodological individualism’ and its supposed political implications. The argument then begins in earnest with the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Idealist critique of the ‘narrow individualism’ that Idealists believed underlay utilitarianism and earlier forms of liberalism. The discussion also cites some British contributions to the Marxist critique of rational economic man, and ends with a very short discussion of communitarianism.

Keywords: economic man; individualism; British politics; methodological individualism; Marxist; communitarianism

Chapter.  11964 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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