THE COURAGE TO BE
THE RISE OF MODERN INDIVIDUALISM AND THE COURAGE TO BE AS ONESELF
Individualism is the self-affirmation of the individual self as individual self without regard to its participation in its world. As such it is the opposite of collectivism, the self-affirmation of the self as part of a larger whole without regard to its character as an individual self.
Individualism has developed out of the bondage of primitive collectivism and medieval semi-collectivism. It could grow under the protective cover of democratic conformity, and it has come into the open in moderate or radical forms within the Existentialist movement.
Primitive collectivism was undermined by the experience of personal guilt and individual question-asking. Both were effective at the end of the ancient world and led to the radical nonconformism of the cynics and skeptics, to the moderate nonconformism of the Stoics, and to the attempt to reach a transcendent foundation for the courage to be in Stoicism, mysticism, and Christianity.
All these motives were present in medieval semi-collectivism, which came to an end like early collectivism with the experience of personal guilt and the analytic power of radical question-asking.
But it did not immediately lead to individualism. Protestantism, in spite of its emphasis on the individual conscience, was established as a strictly authoritarian and conformist system, similar to that of its adversary, the Roman Church of the Counter-reformation.
There was no individualism in either of the great confessional groups. And there was only hidden individualism outside them, since they had drawn the individualistic trends of the Renaissance into themselves and adapted them to their ecclesiastical conformity.