Vad är individualism?

Uppdatering 2017-09-25: ”Några tidiga tankar om moralisk individualism”.

Jag har fått kommentarer på hur jag använder begreppet ”individualism”. Kanske kommer jag skriva om det i framtiden i samband med några texter om metodologisk individualism inom vetenskapsteorin. Tills vidare låter jag andra tala i frågan:

individualism The view that the single person is the basic unit of political analysis, with social wholes being merely logical constructions, or ways of talking about numbers of such individuals and the relations among them. The consequence for the study of social facts is that they must be approached through the actions and intentions of individuals (methodological individualism). […] In liberal individualism the individual is the primary possessor of rights, with the activities of the state confined to the protection of those rights.

– Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, (Oxford University Press, 2008)

This doctrine was introduced as a methodological precept for the social sciences by Max Weber, most importantly in the first chapter of Economy and Society. It amounts to the claim that social phenomena must be explained by showing how they result from individual actions, which in turn must be explained through reference to the intentional states that motivate the individual actors.

– Joseph Heath, ”Methodological Individualism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (dagens datum)

No political term has suffered worse in this respect than ”individualism.” It not only has been distorted by its opponents into an unrecognizable caricature—and we should always remember that the political concepts which are today out of fashion are known to most of our contemporaries only through the picture drawn of them by their enemies—but has been used to describe several attitudes toward society which have as little in common among themselves as they have with those traditionally regarded as their opposites. […] What, then, are the essential characteristics of true individualism? The first thing that should be said is that it is primarily a theory of society, an attempt to understand the forces which determine the social life of man, and only in the second instance a set of political maxims derived from this view of society. This fact should by itself be sufficient to refute the silliest of the common misunderstandings: the belief that individualism postulates (or bases its arguments on the assumption of) the existence of isolated or self-contained individuals, instead of starting from men whose whole nature and character is determined by their existence in society.

– Friedrich A. Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order, p. 3 & 6, (The University of Chicago Press, 1948)

Nobody ventures to deny that nations, states, municipalities, parties, religious communities, are real factors determining the course of human events. Methodological individualism, far from contesting the significance of such collective wholes, considers it as one of its main tasks to describe and to analyze their becoming and their disappearing, their changing structures, and their operation. And it chooses the only method fitted to solve this problem satisfactorily.

– Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p. 42, (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2008)