Individualism embraces diverse meanings. It is widely used by those who criticise and by those who praise Western societies and their culture, by historians and literary scholars in search of the emergence of 'the individual', by anthropologists claiming that there are different, culturally shaped conceptions of the individual or 'person', by philosophers debating what form social science explanations should take and by political theorists defending liberal principles.
In this classic text, Steven Lukes discusses what 'individualism' has meant in various national traditions and across different provinces of thought, analysing it into its component unit-ideas and doctrines. He argues that it now plays a malign ideological role, for it has come to evoke a socially constructed body of ideas whose illusory unity is deployed to suggest that redistributive policies are neither feasible nor desirable and to deny that there are institutional alternatives to the market.
Steven Lukes is Professor of Sociology at New York University. Hehas previously held posts at Balliol College, Oxford, the European University Institute in Florence, the University of Siena and the London School of Economics. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and an editor of the European Journal of Sociology. His many published works include Émile Durkheim: His Life and Work; Power: A Radical View (of which a second, much expanded edition was published in 2004); Rationality and Relativism (edited with Martin Hollis); Marxism and Morality; Moral Conflict and Politics; Liberals and Cannibals: TheImplications of Diversity; and The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat: AComedy of Ideas.