Wild to Civilized
Individualism underpins industrial society. Increasingly, individuals move without regard to family, village, church, or other local groups, creating a "free" work force for factories and bureaucracies.
From small nomadic packs
in the African wilderness . . .
. . . to megacities linked in
a global industrial civilization
The basis of civilization
The term individualism refers to both an ideology and a reality. As an ideology, it stands for the philosophical primacy of the individual over any kind of group affiliation, for the source of truth to be found in the individual, not in or through any group. As a reality, it refers to the movements of individuals to go anywhere they please, without confining their movements to within a particular territory or social group. In this sense of free movement, individualism is closely related to the idea of freedom.
The origin of individualism is intimately connected with the growth of towns and cities. As various medieval villages turned into towns and eventually into cities, the trade in goods acquired far away steadily grew and, with it, knowledge of the customs and ideas of other cultures. The period in Europe from the 14th century to the 17th century is called the Renaissance, or “rebirth,” and refers specifically to the rediscovery of ancient texts telling of the government, arts, and intellectual life of ancient Greece and Rome, from the period known as “classical” Greece from 500 to 300 B.C., to Rome from 800 B.C. to 500 A.D. when Rome arose as a kingdom (the town or city of Rome, owned by a king), developed into a republic (Rome as a city with surrounding territory, considered a public operation governed by elected representatives), and became an empire – the single governing city of Rome, with far-flung territories and local governing outposts encircling the Mediterranean Sea and extending to the British Isles.
Once language was invented and became filled with a large vocabulary, a culture and an ideology developed that fits with its division of labor. For the industrial division of labor in modern, well-developed societies, that cultural premise is individualism. We believe in individualism, however subconsciously, and we operate largely under its assumptions. Our commitment to family or any other group in society has become less important to us today than our commitment to ourselves as individuals: our education, our income, our careers, our rights and freedoms, our personal health and self-realization. Individualism grows as ties to family, village, church, and other local groups loosen. As they loosen, we become responsible for our own welfare, for deciding who we are in a society with many choices, many often confusing and contradictory choices. We all achieve a kind of freedom, but what replaces those old-time local ties is often unclear. Some achieve success and happiness in work, but they are relatively few in number. For others, happiness remains elusive. Others live trapped in boring jobs they can’t escape. Still others wander endlessly, with little or no meaning to life. Individualism is a very mixed bag, but absolutely essential to an industrial division of labor.
Individualism and equality
(here or elsewhere – start of industrial DOL)
Begins in Renaissance, Luther and Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the isolated individual moving freely through a crowd,
Whether individualism started industrialization or vice versa, we cannot say; all we know is that they happened nearly simultaneously.
Equality goes hand in hand with individualism. Destroys, or aims to destroy, the ranking system of previous societies, but replaces it with a faceless central gov’t.
Origins of freedom
Tracing the story of freedom goes all the way back to our prehistoric hunting-and-gathering days in the African wilderness and continues in the path of male warrior bands that developed with the economic foundations of pastoralism (herding), fishing, and the first nomadic form, hunting and gathering. [Ref: Cantor, The English, 1967, pp. 43-45]
Freedom did not develop with agriculture, which became the economic foundation of sedentary villages, towns, and cities, all under centralized control. In the earliest stages of centralized control, a captive labor force in the form of serfs tied to fixed fields of land was essential to achieve steady work on the demanding task of growing food over long seasons.
The claim of freedom, instead, grew up among the more nomadic economic foundations not tied to specific plots of land: herding sheep from pasture to pasture, hunting and gathering wherever the food sources happen to be, and fishing, which may be tied to specific long-term settlements along coastal waters, but can easily move to new locations if necessary.
Rebellions, Magna Carta, etc….
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