Individuality in Democracy

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Over the course of this term the focus of class has dealt predominately on the question of the roll of the individual in society. Through the abundance of contrasting readings, the class has come to a series of differing conclusions regarding the various opinions that are expressed in the reader. Ellison, Emerson, de Tocqueville, and Stanton all comment on individualism and the relationship between the individual and the community within in a democracy. Through all of these readings and class discussions, one contention has been made evident: in order to have a functioning, prosperous democracy, the individual is a necessary component in society. Although all of the previously stated authors make strong arguments in their essays, some of their larger interpretations are flawed. An excessive emphasis on individualism in a society serves merely to bring detrimental effects to the society as a whole; while at the same time, a lack of stress on individualism can have equally damaging effects. Foremost, in order to contextualize individualism in the realm of society, it is pertinent to appositely define individualism. The term ‘individualism’ refers to the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence, in addition to the ability to rely on one’s inner beliefs to discriminate between right and wrong. The genuine definition of individualism, however, is not the issue of debate. Instead, it is the level of importance placed upon individuality and the roll that individualism should assume in society. Various opinions have been presented on this topic over the course of the term. The weakness of Emerson’s argument is that in his essay, “Self-Reliance”, is that he stresses the role of the individualism to an unreasonable degree. Emerson takes the stance that in order to live life to the fullest, one should reject the rules forced upon the individual by

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