I appreciate all of the responses to my post just below.  In order to avoid comment confusion, I am moving my response to a new post.  It appears the subject of the “rugged individual” or the “self made man” has certainly touched off a significant response from the Porch.  Unfortunately, the response has been, for the most part, of exactly the sort I feared it would be, providing at least some evidence in favor of a suspicion I have that has been growing—a suspicion that the overall tenor of the Porch, at least in its cyber-existence as a faux “community,” trends towards a kind of collectivist mindset that abhors “boot strapism” and demands a sublimated self (and often an accompanying imperial personality) in order to achieve an a priori conception of the common good. 

I can’t respond to all of the comments below, some of which are very thoughtful, and the lack of reply on my part isn’t intended as a slight.  I want to limit my response to the overwhelming majority of commenters who say nothing much more than: “There is no such thing as a self made man because everyone depends on others at some level” (John M.’s crack about language takes this point to its logical extreme). 

Frankly, I was surprised to see this response repeated many times over with such earnestness, especially after I gave an extended explanation of what I was after, because it demonstrates a complete lack of seriousness or curiosity to understand our peculiar historical political moment (especially coming from those who otherwise hold themselves out to be serious such as John M.).  How?  Because absolutely no one who in any way holds out the peculiar American identity of the “self made man” as an ideal type actually believes that this means that it is possible for a person to achieve anything noteworthy entirely on his own and in a vacuum from society.  This kind of strawman shows on the one hand a lack of charity and interest in another’s experience and political makeup (which at the very least should be of interest in the mode of studying one’s enemies) and on the other hand belies a deeper antipathy (hatred of anyone who is free of their control) that must dress itself up in simplistic denials before going public.

Fredrick Douglass dispatches with this strawman easily: “It must in truth be said though it may not accord well with self-conscious individuality and self-conceit, that no possible native force of character, and no depth or wealth of originality, can lift a man into absolute independence of his fellow-men, and no generation of men can be independent of the preceding generation.”  In the same speech he says: “the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down. …Give the negro fair play and let him alone. If he lives, well. If he dies, equally well. If he cannot stand up, let him fall down. … As a general rule, where circumstances do most for men there man will do least for himself; and where man does least, he himself is least. His doing makes or unmakes him. … My theory of self-made men is, then, simply this; that they are men of work. Whether or not such men have acquired material, moral or intellectual excellence, honest labor faithfully, steadily and persistently pursued, is the best, if not the only, explanation of their success.”

Douglass expresses exactly that view which I suggested below that: “healthy, well-ordered, self-sustaining, decentralized political communities are only possible in, among, and between the fraternity of self-made men—that is, between men of a certain class who are both competent and able to provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families, who come by their own opinions honestly and absent any artiface born of ‘mass culture,’ who as such are beholden to no one, but in most of whom arise a loving affection and bond of the heart that form the ‘ties that bind.’”

But perhaps I am also being uncharitable and this is all a confusion of word choice.  If you dislike the verbiage it may help to consider a list a people (off the top of my head) who I consider to exemplify the qualities of experience I described as forming that ideal American type or identity which has come to us encapsulated in those phrases “self made man” or “rugged individual.” 

Ed Abbey, Sam Adams, Walt Whitman, HD Thoreau, Milton Hershey, George Soros, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, The American Pioneer, The Mad Farmer, Wendell Berry, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Bill Gates, The Mayflower Pilgrims, Bill Travis, Jimi Hendrix, Ben Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Mother Jones, Frederick Douglass, Almost everyone profiled positively in Bill Kauffman’s books, etc., etc….

My most important argument here is twofold:

First, that this form of American experience (whether had primarily through engendering events or secondarily by anemnetic re-enactments or by some combination of the two) is intrinsically valuable and even necessary to the maintenance of a republican form of government;

And secondly, that this form of experience is intrinsically tied to being American, and that to reject it whole-cloth is to be, in some measure, anti-American.  I realize that this accusation is considered bomb-throwing in some quarters, but I do not mean it like that at all.  I mean it in an analytical sense in hopes of furthering my (our) understanding of people’s attitudes and postures toward the kinds of political communities they find themselves in.

I posit that in order to sustain any measure or hope of “success,” every movement or outbreak of localist, decentralist sentiment in our particular political historical geographic moment must not be, in any fundamental way, anti-American, and must venerate, though not necessarily without criticism or caution, the ideal experience of the self made man.

I think a real and necessary debate can be had about this proposition, and it would at the least bring a great deal of clarity to the various efforts being made here, but first people will have to set aside simplistic formulas and deal honestly with root issues.

UPDATE: I am astounded that I cannot find Douglass’s wonderful speech anywhere on the internet in type that I can copy and paste.  As such, I highly recommend reading this passage from which the above is taken: 1, 2, 3.

Also, someone below mentioned Wendell Berry’s essay on rugged individualism.  It is mostly a perfectly valid critique of material consumerism on the right and spiritual consumerism on the left, but it contains this important bit (also nowhere to be found on the internet):

The career of rugged individualism in America has fun mostly to absurdity, tragic or comic.  But it also has done us a certain amount of good.  There was a streak of it in Thoreau, who went alone to jail in protest against the Mexican War.  And that streak has continued in his successors who have suffered penalties for civil disobedience because of their perception that the law and the government were not always or necessarily right.  This is individualism of a kind rugged enough, and it has been authenticated typically by its identification with a communal good.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Mayflower Pilgrims?

    “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.”

    • I suppose it is the good and proper penance of bloggers to be forced to suffer fools. I suppose we deserve it. I am certain my thousand years or more in Purgatory will be spent forced to read comboxes.

  2. What you are ‘apart from’ is nothing, it is what you are ‘apart of’ that makes you something. This is a false choice as you equally mis-characterize as “a kind of collectivist mindset that abhors “boot strapism” and demands a sublimated self” when in fact is it what you are ‘in relation with’ that matters.

    The self is found in relationship to other selfs. We do not exist apart, neither are we confused or ‘sublimated’. We find our identity in our role and the reciprocative role of other members in community. It is said in the east that a priest cannot celebrate Eucharist without the polis, nor the polis without the priest.

    To say that even something as boldly false as the collectivism is anti-American is a dim and narrow view of the experience of so many Americans who were and are collectivists. I suppose you are of the opinion that American citizenship isn’t based on where you were born or what oath you took but whether or not you subscribe to a particular interpretation of certain historical figures and their ideas.

    There was no such unity at the Continental Congress and there is still none. From the beginning people have attempted to co-op certain images, myths and philosophical traditions for the purposes of self-assurance and marketing to the polis on their advantage.

    You appear to be one of those persons.

    I have many illusions, but one of what America is or isn’t which wipes away the local cultural landscape with nationalistic flimflammery isn’t one of them. The self-made man is a myth. It may be a useful one or and ill-used one. That is worth debating, but that it is a myth is trivially true.

    • “I suppose you are of the opinion that American citizenship isn’t based on where you were born or what oath you took but whether or not you subscribe to a particular interpretation of certain historical figures and their ideas.”

      Yeah, that’s me alright. Just trying to wipe away local cultural with nationalistic flimflam, as you can plainly see by reading through my postings on this site.

      Maybe this is purgatory after all.

      • Caleb, you’re trying to control the narrative, just as others do who use these myths for that purpose. That’s why it hurts when I poke you there with my pitchfork.Regardless of your other posts, this post/thread doesn’t stand up. I have many comments on this website. I am sure, despite my intent, that many don’t stand up either. I am a fool and an impulsive one and often ‘out of step’ with the conversation on this website as evidenced by the frequency of my posts evoking silence instead of response.This ain’t personal. Don’t make this about you.

    • “The self is found in relationship to other selfs. We do not exist apart, neither are we confused or ‘sublimated’. We find our identity in our role and the reciprocative role of other members in community. It is said in the east that a priest cannot celebrate Eucharist without the polis, nor the polis without the priest.”

      This is not the east you ninny. This is America. This is where self is/has been allowed to flourish. This is where individualism has accounted for the greatness of the past few centuries. What are we….ants? Okay, you be the dead bug collector. I’m choose to be woody allen in this brave new world. The fact that you think we are one big bee hive doesn’t make it so. Your the perfect example of why socialist pigdogs will never, and can never understand the true individual. It is beyond your comprehension. Perhaps God will judge you by “what you are appart of”, and this body as a whole. But for your sake I hope he does not.

      The one who is awake can not be comprehended by the dreaming asleep. In the words of Teddy Duchamp, whos father stormed the beach at normandy, …….”Didn’t your mother ever have any children that lived?”

      Go get some boots, make sure they have those straps on the side, and then find someone who knows what to do with them. Then crawl back under the table….its dangerous out here!

      The self made man is a myth indeed, to you. But that is probably because you are not a man to begin with. I pity the living dead.

      -J

      • The east is here. It has been here for almost 200 years in the harsh winters of Alaska and working in mining towns in western Pennsylvania and the slums of Chicago. Regardless, I did not intend to suggest that the east “is” American, I used it as an example of the east that is “within” America is dismissed as not the genuine article (just as dozens of other stories within the American novel are dismissed).As for your machismo… If you would like to engage in a contest of strength, or will, or slander for the purposes of proving my mettle you go right ahead. Or is prowess not your interest, rather you delight in childish bravado?You think I cannot man up when the occasion demands, just because I honor my father and mother, my school teachers, or my wife (who deserves more praise than you)?You’re a spoiled child who doesn’t know what has been handed to him on a golden platter, and as such is doomed to live in a perpetual state of self-delusion.

        • I suppose what I find most offensive about you David is the fact you refuse to acknowledge the ability of one to separate from the amoeba, gelatinous, borgeske existence of what you call society, which is what I find disgusting. You have it backwards……people make up the body, not the other way around.

          -J

          • OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

            I clearly do not think that people realize their identity as a part of a body. As I said in my other comment, I believe we realize it “in relationship with” other parts of the body. So a doctor realizes his identity when he understands how he relates to the farmer who pays his fee, or the chemist who makes the medicine.

            There’s nothing there about not being an exceptional doctor (or a crappy one) or that he isn’t unique and an individual, but that his individuality is realized with other individuals within the community. Some doctors might have to make their own medicine. (But that is a trivial example.)

            I am not just David. I am David married to Nancy. Being married is apart of who I am. I am defined, in part, by that relationship. I am not lost because of my marriage, rather, my marriage finds me. If I try to define myself apart from my wife, I am telling a lie. I am making up a mythical me, which does not actually exist.

            This is my contention with the “rugged-individualist”. They are an abstraction, not real. Realization happens within reality where we all live.

            My apologies, if I was not clear on this point. (Or if it is still awkwardly put)

  3. What if true community allows for true the true individual? What if the fragmentation of society in the modern era is not simply the breaking apart of relationships, but of individual selves as well?

    Rhetorical questions aside, the point of this (and the previous post) must be taken seriously for the very reason it seems to be brushed aside. There is no true community without individuals. Obviously a community is more than a collection of individuals, but is also at least that–the notes of a chord are still notes.

    It would be a mistake then to set the “rugged individual” as an antithesis to community.

    Elevating either to the point of ultimate concern results not simply in the loss of other, but also of the loss of the thing elevated.

  4. You can complain that the reply against your position is “just semantics,” but you’re ultimately just whining about your own semantics not being preferred. It’s all well and good that you don’t mean by ‘bootstrap’ the empty-headed Randian/social darwinist foolishness that has co-opted such language but that doesn’t change the fact that the language has been poisoned by these folks. Much better to use more precise language than try to purify these poison pills. You’re simply not going to be understood to mean what you mean.

    • I think most here are not capable of understanding. You are a brood of pups from the tainted bitch, suckling on the poison milk. The dead can hear not but the silence of their own grave.

      -J

      • Junker,

        Regardless of whether or not I agree or disagree with those who write or comment on FPR, one this is certain: FPR readers are generally a cut above the average when it comes to understanding. Understanding does not equal agreement. Hopefully you are bright enough to understand that distinction.

        • Your wrong, one might think they understand what light is, but in the dark, and having always been in the dark, they do not understand. They think they understand what it might be like to see, to view what is around them in a new and amazing way, they claim to understand it…..but, having never experianced being in the light, they can not understand it. Such is the way with many things. Just as it is with many things I do not understand.

          The difference is, a slef made person wont care about controlling others, they just want to be left alone. Those in the dark are infatuated about controlling everything, because they sense they are missing out on something (this is speculation on my part I will admit, but from my perspective, this is what it seems to be). Thus, the self-made must constantly be upkeeping their sand castle borders as the tide tries to destroy them.

          -J

  5. In short, the most helpful critique of the “self-made-man” that I’ve seen was from a series of posts on the blog “The Art of Manliness” exploring different American ideals of masculinity throughout history. It was the contention of the author there that at the founding of the US, the primary ideal of masculinity was the heroic artisan, the man who defines himself through fealty to his craft and whose sense of self comes from his perfection of the same. But post industrial revolution, when craft was no longer valued, men needed another way to gain a sense of self. Enter the self-made man.

    The self-made man ideal, per the series, filled the void that was left by saying, “It may be true that you can no longer define yourself by perfection in craft. Instead, define yourself by how high on the social ladder you can climb and by how much you can make.”

    I think that in that shift, something important was lost.

    The problem with the self made man as an American ideal, then, stems from the idea that my worth comes from something extremely tenuous and circumstance dependent — what I accomplish in the world outside of my home; how high I can climb. It isn’t hard to see the self made man in the traders of wall street chronicled in Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker.

    And this leads me to what I think is the deeper problem with the self made man archtype: what it asks us to acheive is ultimately unsatisfying. And yet it tells us that the dissatisfaction is due to not having climbed high enough. So work the insane hours. Achieve. Make more.

    None of this is to say that parts of rugged individualism/self-made man aren’t good things. Personal responsibility is awesome. Challenging us to explore and do more is distinctly American and in a good way. but there are deep problems in that tradition, too.

    • I suppose I would not equate “self made” with public stature. I equate “Self made” with libertarianism, freedom, determination, resolve and elbow grease. It is to know thy self completely, to know ones own abilities and know ones own challege laid before him. Know thy perilous dance. Though deadly it may be, you dance ahead. Embracing fear and life, not shirking it. Then, whether you fail or succede, you are self made. And that, makes all the difference. Self satisfaction. That is what can not be comprehended by ones who do not have it. I would not have it any other way.

      -J

      • Junker,

        I get what you’re saying (though I could do without the self-aggrandizing “That is what can not be comprehended by ones who do not have it.”) but I don’t think it is a terrible thing to recognize that our ideals have consequences, some intended, some unintended.

        Besides which, in American history, self-made and public stature are closely intertwined. Think the Horatio Alger novels or even Great Expectations. It isn’t just “work hard and know that you’ve given it your all and have embraced life.” It’s “work hard and get what’s coming to you. Work harder and get more.”

        • I don’t hink that it is self-aggrandizing. Some people will never see what others see. That is a fact.

          Regarding self-made v. public stature. The one doesn’t always equal the other, and vice versa. They are often connected, but that can be attributed to those being self-made being more successful than those who are not.

          I’ll defer to Eddie Vetter on this one…..

          “I don’t want to take what you can give
          I would rather starve than eat your breast
          All the things that others want for me
          Cant buy what I want because its free”

          -J

  6. Excellent follow-up, Caleb. Let me see if I have anything interesting to say about your two essential claims:

    First, that this form of American experience (whether had primarily through engendering events or secondarily by anemnetic re-enactments or by some combination of the two) is intrinsically valuable and even necessary to the maintenance of a republican form of government

    If I understand you correctly here (and perhaps I’m not), you are claiming that, outside the particular kind of individualizing experience which American political culture provides (whether through practice of idealized reconstruction or both), an experience in which “work” and “competence” are tied to an independence from culture and movements not of a given person’s authorization, republican government will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to maintain, presumably because of the consequent lack of the appropriate sort of civic virtue. If I am reading you right, then I offer a qualified dissent. Yes, there is a particular, and indeed “intrisincally valuable,” virtue which the American experience has historically offered, through the pioneer, the homesteader, the entrepreneur, the Horatio Alger character who strikes out on their own and by so striking out, learns lessons and finds success which makes them into valuable community members. But I do not think that such is the only “intrinsically valuable” kind of republican virtue out there; I believe there can be, and have been, republican governments which have flourished, supported by their own local communities, without that kind of independence-celebrating historical experience and its attendant virtues in the background of citizens’ minds. (Switzerland comes to mind, for example.) Moreover, I think the kind of virtue you are celebrating, so fundamentally connected to a material and moral independence which one builds with one’s own hands, while certainly powerful, is also dangerous, even immoderate, if preserving republican government is held up as a goal. We have seen again and again how independence, taken too far, can blind people to the fundamentally “republican” or “communitarian” requirement of interdependence and common goods–the very word republican, after all, arises from “res publica,” the “public things.” So no, I don’t think you’re right. Certain the American experience has provided an enormously valuable republican/communitarian model for those of us who care about localism. But I do not believe it is an essential model–and that, in fact, the many modern developments of America life (developments that, in terms of civil rights and egalitarianism, it would appear Frederick Douglass himself would have strongly applauded!), has presented us with other sources of virtue which need into be added to our model, and it may be that the American experience, if interpreted primarily through the prism of “independence” as you do, doesn’t provide sufficient room for those developments and more egalitarian virtues. Which leads me to…

    And secondly, that this form of experience is intrinsically tied to being American, and that to reject it whole-cloth is to be, in some measure, anti-American….I posit that in order to sustain any measure or hope of “success,” every movement or outbreak of localist, decentralist sentiment in our particular political historical geographic moment must not be, in any fundamental way, anti-American, and must venerate, though not necessarily without criticism or caution, the ideal experience of the self made man.

    Here I can reply much more succinctly: I personally both recognize and am willing to admit (though some who agree with me about different matters might insist I am going too far in speaking this way) that my particular kind of communitarianism, the way I think best to work out contexts of local sovereignty and dignity in today’s world, is not particularly “American” (again, at least when the American experience is interpreted in the way you do). As I’ve talked about before on FPR, my vision of conserving localities is much more “European” than, say, Jeffersonian. I would like to think that through the Populists and some others, I can make a claim for my kind of left conservatism/democratic socialism to fit within the American experience, but I, at least, am okay in allowing that it will always probably be a bad fit, and that any successes in putting it in place politically will take a very long time to settle, assuming it ever does.

    So, in short: do I think that republican government and local sovereignty requires the model of American independence? No, I don’t. Do I think my envisioning of republicanism and localism as primarily without a strong reliance upon the trope of independence makes it less, or even anti-, American? Yes, it just possibly might. Does that mean my way of thinking about these things has, in our political context, almost no chance for success? I don’t know if I would agree with that as a matter of principle…but the historical record does seem to suggest you’re more right than wrong.

    • Thanks for these thoughts Russell. You give me hope for the blogosphere as a medium of exchange!

      You are right, of course, to put me in the Jeffersonian camp. Your comments about the Swiss model are very interesting to me, but since I know so little about that model, I can’t form much of an opinion.

      And as we have discussed before, I appreciate very much your attempts to work some of your vision through the populists so as to give it a truly American root. Of course the American experience is not monolithic by any means, and as many on this site and others have done, we can look to various alternative American traditions. Many of my ideal people listed above are within those alternative traditions, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the self made or rugged existential experience is in large part what makes alternative traditions possible. Is there some paradox and tension here? Of course, but denying the fact is no way to resolve the tension.

      But as long as we can root our vision in some kind of authentic American experience, I think there is fertile ground for bearing good fruit. And with our shared love of the prairie populists, even if you are more European than Jeffersonian, we are fellow travellers at the least.

  7. If I knew what a “sublimated self” or an “imperial personality” was, I would probably think they were overly pschycologized inventions of a (post-)Freudian obsession with everything “sub-“. But that might be aside from the point, because your post here is lovely and well-thought-out.

    “Because absolutely no one who in any way holds out the peculiar American identity of the “self made man” as an ideal type actually believes that this means that it is possible for a person to achieve anything noteworthy entirely on his own and in a vacuum from society.”

    I’m not sure of this. Sure, no one *actually* believes that the abstract individual exists, but Austrians and libertarians generally act as though they do (just as no one *actually* believes in objectivism, and yet most academics go ahead and think and write and behave as if they could be objective). And many boot-strappers tend to have such rigid, mechanistic, and structural conceptions of family, society, and human interactions that they may as well do away with them altogether.

    The expectation of Americans today who go out of their way to laud the whole boot-strap ideal tends to be that success and failure are always due to the merits or failures of the successful or failed person. Obviously Douglas above doesn’t subscribe to that point–he knew, of course, that slaves were not slaves because of their unwillingness to enrich themselves or whatever. But today… Anonymous commenter “Junker” in particular suggested that people who dislike boot-strapism do so only out of their own insufficiency. There’s no room in that conception for injustice or for charity. Again, I don’t think you are embodying this caustic view–I only think that the loudest proponents of it tend to.

    If some of us were perhaps too simplistic in our take on the “rugged individual,” I think you go too far in assuming that our denial thereof constitutes some kind of collectivism. The whole individualist-collectivist schtick is a terribly outdated false dichotomy.

    There is a difference between a person and an individual. Namely, the former exists in human reality, the latter only in abstraction. And while the former exists with all his or her uniqueness and volitional agency, the person nevertheless cannot be separated from the realities of family, community, society.

  8. The terminology “self-made man” is misleading to me. I favor the “rugged individual” terminology. In the list of examples of rugged individuals, you include a good many unnamed individuals, e.g., the American pioneer as well as those might be considered to have created “mass culture.” It seems the discussion smears the idea that a dynamic, resourceful, resilient, visionary individual who finds herself in the right set of circumstances can make a strong impact with the idea of dogged self-reliance. I wonder if these are unique to the American experience or a treasure of the human experience?

  9. On the one hand, I see the appeal for continuity with historical American experience as sensible and even necessary for communities and communitarian-minded people; there’s a kind of ugliness in distancing oneself from one’s American predecessors in favor of European or Asian identities. It’s true that the American tradition has always drawn upon European, and to a lesser extent, Asian traditions, and yet I think it’s also true that some comments here have betrayed a sense that other geographic identities are more central than one’s American identity, and perhaps that is not altogether healthy and more effort should be made place oneself within the tradition of where we live. This also applies to the Churchmen as well, as anti-Gnostic, incarnational theological arguments suggest. Perhaps more should be written about that aspect somewhere else.

    On the other hand, there is a question about whether the “American tradition” (which I used without comment above) and “American identity” is too dislocated from region to constitute a source of strength not merely viable but beneficial for the future. I wonder if uncertainty and detachment about the “American” is also part of what is influencing our perspectives.

  10. It bears repeating that the problem here is language and Caleb’s petulance and seeming need for self-aggrandizing drama. The porch has largely reacted against Caleb while agreeing with his basic point (when clarified and stated more clearly). At the same time, the language and tone of these two posts has attracted to their defense a Nietzchean so extreme that I’m not sure whether he’s posting in good faith or is someone dishonestly trying to discredit Caleb through association with the ridiculous and ugly. When your friends balk and your enemies hail your argument, the problem may well be with the way you’ve made it.

  11. The increasing complexity we find in nature tells us nature ultimately selects the needs of the many over those of the few. Human beings adapt to changes in their environment not merely through natural selection but also cultural selection. What the rugged individualist has to offer ultimately only succeeds culturally when selected by the many. If a rugged individualist blocks the attempts of others to respond to changes in their environment the many will seek to block the rugged individualist. This is nature in action.

  12. Caleb,

    I just came across your points and am in overall agreement with you. It’s worth noting that “indvididualism” is commonly used with two distinct meanings (not only at FPR, but also in other political/social discussions). The first meaning of “individualism” is that only persons, as opposed to collectivities, have intrinsic moral worth. That is, we judge all institutions, whether political, economic, educational, etc based on how they affect persons. This is, essentially, the core idea that unites all liberals.
    Other times “individualism” is used is to mean the idea that people should be self-interested rather than altruistic, or that people should create their own values and spurn their communities. This is better called “selfishness,” rather than individualism.
    (I won’t even consider the straw-man version of liberalism/individualism that claims that persons originally existed in isolation from each other, and later decided to form a society. Hobbes and Locke clearly meant this idea of the “state of nature” to be a thought experiment, not a historical claim.)
    The first, “liberal” meaning does not entail anything in the second, and even most philosophers who have called themselves “communitarians” (such as Michael Walzer) agree with it. To reconcile individualism with communitarianism, all we have to say is that it is important for individual persons that they live in community. Community does not matter just for its own sake: it matters because it is good for us as persons.
    As an individualist, I would add that it is important that persons be able to leave their community of birth if they prefer to live somewhere else. This might raise controversy at FPR; however, it is something that it is clearly necessary for a community to be worth preserving.

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