Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.

University President & Professor of Political Science




NOTE 1: Quoted in John V.A. Fine, The Ancient Greeks--A Critical History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 412.

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NOTE 2: Marcus Wilson Jernegan, The American Colonies, 1492-1750--A Study of Their Political, Economic, and Social Development (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, 1929), p. 168.

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NOTE 3: A major contributor to individualist political theory was John Locke, the seventeenth-century English political philosopher who wrote Second Treatise of Civil Government (written in 1681; published in 1690) to provide the rationale, or justification, for the English Revolution as well as for emergence of institutions of constitutional, representative government. In Second Treatise, Locke defined the political community, or political society, as a voluntary political association of individuals formed by themselves or their ancestors for their own convenience.

According to Locke's political analysis in Second Treatise, all individual human beings originally lived in a state of nature and possessed important rights under natural law. In the state of nature and under the laws of nature, each individual person possessed inviolable, or inalienable, "natural rights"--rights given to him and all other humans by God, the creator of nature and its laws. At some point in time, the individual persons dwelling in a particular territorial area (e.g., England) decided to leave the state of nature and enter into political society in order to create an earthly, or secular, authority higher than each individual person--an authority that would protect and safeguard the natural rights of individuals against interference or deprivation by others and would perform this function far more effectively than could each individual himself, acting individually outside of politically organized society and in the state of nature. In leaving the state of nature, the individuals (1) voluntarily bound themselves together in a single political entity--a political society, or political community, (2) created a common civil government with political authority over the entire society, or community, and (3) established, as the primary obligation and function of that government, protection of the rights which individual human beings possessed under the laws of nature and carried with them into political society, these inalienable, natural rights including, most importantly, the rights to life, liberty, and honestly-acquired property. While a society's system of government exists mainly to protect the basic, natural rights of the individual members of the society, it also exists to perform any other functions and duties which the majority of the society's members might decide, for the safety and convenience of all members, to constitutionally assign to the offices and organs of the government.

According to Locke and other political individualists, a stable political society is, in essence, a free society--a society in which the government recognizes, respects, and safequards the freedom and self-determination of the individual citizen. The only solid foundation on which a stable society and governmental system can be built is the individual person, with his interests, his ambitions, his aspirations for personal success and happiness, and, most importantly his capacity to act in a reasonable and intelligent manner. Instead of being treated as means to an end, the individual members of the society must be treated as ends in themselves. Political society is made for the individual, not the individual for the society. The state (i.e., the governmental system) exists for the individual citizen, not the individual citizen for the state. In a genuinely free and stable society, its Constitution and laws allow the individual member of the society the greatest amount of freedom that is consistent with the enjoyment of the same amount of freedom by all the other members of that society.

Individualism's core proposition--the proposition that the state exists for the individual, not the individual for state--is in contrast to a major tenet of Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism: The individual citizen exists to serve the state; the individual Italian is of worth and importance only in so far as he contributes to the greater glory and strength of the Italian state.

"Individual freedom," a key concept in individualist political theory, is in contrast to Adolf Hitler's idea of German "national freedom," a major tenet of Nazi ideology. Hitler's "national freedom" did not mean personal freedom for each individual member of German society. Instead, it meant complete freedom for a collectivity, the Third Reich, to do as it pleased, both inside and outside Germany's territorial borders. In demanding German "national freedom," Hitler did not have in mind the enhancement or preservation of the rights and liberties of individual German citizens, but meant instead the right of the Nazi regime, free from all interference and restraints (internal and external), to ride roughshod not only over the rights and interests of individuals dwelling within Germany's borders, but also over the rights and interests of the peoples of neighboring political societies, e.g., Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

Individualism is in contrast to the various bodies of political, economic, and social theory referred to as "collectivism." Collectivism provides ideological justification for political regimes and economic systems that emphasize collective, or common, rights and interests--rather than individual rights and interests. Collectivism places the highest value on the concerns and well-being of the collectivity. The primary emphasis is on the rights, interests, advancement, and independent action of the party, the socioeconomic class, the cause, the movement, the tribe, the race, the nation, the society, or some other collective entity. Examples of bodies of collectivist political, economic, and social thought include Nazism, Fascism, Marxism-Leninism (Communism), other brands of Marxist ideology, various brands of racist ideology, and most brands of nationalist ideology. In collectivist ideology, the most important consideration is the organizational unit as a whole, not the individual member of the organization.

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