Toward a Genealogy of Individualism

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1992 - Social Science - 158 pages
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This engaging interdisciplinary study examines the emergence, rise, and decline of individualism as a central feature of the Western world view. Building on research into the concept of self, Daniel Shanahan argues that the seeds of individualism - "that system of beliefs in which the individual becomes the final arbiter of truth" - were sown in ancient civilizations where subjective consciousness first became apparent. He then traces the evolution of the Western self-concept through its various historical representations: the "analog self" of the Greeks and Hebrews; the "authorized self" of Augustine and the Christian era; and the "empowered self" of modernity.
In Shanahan's view, the current collapse of individualism reflects growing skepticism about the capacity of the self alone to determine truth. These doubts can be attributed in part to the inherent tensions of a self-referential epistemology and in part to the increasing alienation of the individual from modern society.
In a final chapter, Shanahan draws on cross-cultural and anthropological studies of non-Western cultures to show that alternatives to the individualistic paradigm not only exist, but may already signal the advent of a new world view based on the recognition of human interdependence.

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Toward a Redefinition of Individualism
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Reformation
The Age of Individualism
From Individualism to Authenticity
Escaping the Labyrinth of the Self
Beyond Individualism

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About the author (1992)

Dan Shanahan is professor of communication at the Humanities Faculty of Charles University in Prague. He was twice Senior Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies, and has served on faculties in Paris and the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. His first book was "Towards a Genealogy of Individualism", and his work on philosophy and language has appeared in such journals as "Partisan Review", the "Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language Annals", and "Acta Analytica", as well as in the "International Herald Tribune" and the "Los Angeles Times.

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