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08 July 2010

Re-thinking individualism

Came across Maxwell Despard's blog Protean Post-Left Nonsense while browsing profiles on Google. Attention zeroed in on the phrase 'altruistic individualism;' listed first among Despard's interests. Further search linked this term to Gandhi. This comes as a refreshing alternative to rugged individualism, regarded as synonymous with capitalism.

I've generally privately thought of myself as an individualist, but with some caveats, and a generally distancing of myself from self-identified individualism. Unlike the people usually associated with individualism, for whom every aspect of the human condition seems to revolve around a grand dichotomy between the private and public sectors (good and evil, respectively), I've recognized the relevant dichotomy as being between individuals (who I understand to be human beings) and institutions, by which I mean government, business, religion, family, culture, etc. Needless to say, I've run into some quandaries fine-tuning this formulation. Do institutions include organizations in general? My general inclination is to grant a sort of exception for organizations dedicated to both the individualist and anticapitalist causes, but is such an organization an example of a non-oppressive institution, or a non-institutional organization?

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