Friday, April 15, 2016

Individuality is not the opposite of belonging to social groups

I was rather pleased with my post "Why Twitter doesn't work, Labour won't win and the Lib Dems are irrationally cheerful."

But I was aware there was what looked like a weak point in its argument:
[Brooks] goes on to say we should "scale back the culture of autonomy," which makes my liberal hackles rise and suggests Brooks too is in danger of wanting the state to eclipse every other social authority. 
As a liberal I believe in individuality, and we express our individuality through the groups we choose to join. There must be a liberal route to the revival of social bonds.
What I had in mind there is something that turns out to have been written in 2004, the first year of this blog's existence.

There I said:
I am increasingly aware that what I value is not so much individualism as individuality - the flourishing of different sorts of people and different ways of life. (I believe I came across this distinction in Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin. It is a useful one.) 
It is a concept that has something to do with the old schoolmaster's ideal of "character" and I suspect that the development of individuality requires strong institutions, such as schools that are not under central control. Teenage culture does suggest that individualism does not always produce individuality; and it is undeniable that one of the clearest ways we choose to express our individuality is through he groups we decide to join.
I should record that when I later flicked through Ignatieff's book I could not find any such passage. But whoever thought of it - it may even have been me - this is a useful distinction.

Last year I posted the video above, where the social psychologist Alex Haslam argues that you are the groups you belong to.

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