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Old 05-02-2012, 01:43 PM
Location: Toronto
3,295 posts, read 7,019,938 times
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It's a commonly held statement as anyone knows, that Americans are very individualistic and that the United States is the most fiercely independent and has a self-conception of often being the most individual-valuing nation, and on many ranking scales of individualism in attitudes and surveys, Americans do often come up on top.

As a question for those who have seen/experienced a wide range of many other nations in addition to the US, how true would you say it is?

There can be many definitions/factors and aspects of "individualism" that can span the realms of the political, governmental (eg. legal regulations), religious, social or societal, family, living style, education, lifestyle, cultural/regional, workplace/business, etc. and so across and overall, individualism comes about through many aspects of one's lifestyle.

When all is considered, would you agree or disagree with the commonly held idea that in terms of "individualism", American culture is #1?
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Old 05-02-2012, 02:05 PM
Location: Earth
24,620 posts, read 28,295,951 times
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Absolutely disagree.
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Old 05-02-2012, 02:29 PM
Location: Colorado
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I don't get that impression at all after living here for 17 years! I find American society is extremely skewed toward toeing the "party line", giving into peer pressure and not being different. If you disagree with the mainstream in any way you're excoriated for being anti-patriotic, anti-american, a socialist, etc, etc. I think the majority of Americans are quite conservative (note the small "c") and really don't like any behaviour or thinking that is in the minority. The good old days of civil protest, standing up for your beliefs, disagreeing with the government are long gone. Ironic when you think that's exactly how the country came into being in the first place.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:30 PM
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If by individualism you mean identifying with obssessive 'personalities', brands, logos or mass opinions, well, yes. If you include those adoring monetary achievements without merit beyond achieving fame for gaining monetary superiority - welcome to heaven!

Now, if you are an entrepreneur and are successsful financially, yes you are valued as an individual.
If you center your life on becoming a famous celebrity merely for being bland, daft and attractive and rich, yes you are valued as an individual.
If you say everthing a large majority wants or does not want to hear all for political or financial gain, yes you are an individual.

In other words, America has no love for an individual, a true individual with a vision that goes beyond a spreadsheet or a devoted fan base. America loves the bombastic splendor of basking in the potential loot & fame they could have if they could have it the way crooks, thieves and meager attention hogs have it. That is our modern religion and many a shrine has been built to keep it that way.

There are no pioneers here, only fickle followers always in demand of another perpetual distraction- and the dramatic aims ultimately inherent to the cause of said distraction and how powerful, lucrative and fulfilling that distraction is.

Last edited by Frankums; 05-02-2012 at 10:44 PM..
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:54 AM
Location: Canada
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America is individualistic in much of its ideology. The family, and especially the extended family, is of less importance culturally than in much of the world. For example, multi-generational households are stigmatized and it's encouraged for children to leave their communities to go to college or find work as part of right of passage into adulthood. These traits are common not just in the USA, but also in other culturally related countries, but this makes it no less true.

The USA is also remarkable as a first world country in that there is a lack of social solidarity. America as an organization doesn't really seem like team or a family that looks out for its own. That is, it doesn't have much faith in collective action through government on behalf of Americans. But they do give alot of money to charity and volunteer. They just don't like acting as a group on the kinds of economies of scale government offers, in part because their governments are often dysfunctional (by design), and in part because America lacks a sense of unity.

All this said, the reason people aren't saying that Americans are individualistic is that they don't live the lifestyle of individualistic people. Americans choose their own communities and stick with those they identify as their kind, which often excludes other people in the country of America. This can be a neighbourhood, a church, an ideology, a way of thinking they grew up with etc. And in these social constructs, they can be quite conformist and narrow minded in the sense that they aren't like the free thinker individualist trope. Indeed, America's culture of anti-intellectualism in many of these subcultures opposes this sort of person from emerging. One can contrast this to countries like Poland which really encourage thinking and philosophy and we see where the USA sometimes goes wrong.

In short, the USA produces people who have no problem questioning authority, but who have more problems questioning the ideas and values they've been fed critically. It's human nature to have a hard time to changing your mind, but one must be given the tools and culture before intellectual honesty can really take hold.

Last edited by BIMBAM; 05-03-2012 at 02:04 AM..
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Old 05-03-2012, 04:03 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,087,446 times
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Very good points. In theory America places a lot of emphasis on the 'individual', and individual rights, aspirations and responsibilities, yet kind of like what we see with social networking, people are still creatures with a herd mentality that's why there's still a lot of pressure to conform. Even alternative sub-cultures have their own orthodoxies to conform to. So to answer the question, one would have to define what 'individual' or 'individualistic' means. Americans are individualistic in the sense that they want to be autonomous, but not individualist as a large percentage of the population in terms of general personalities, habits, idiosyncracies: but then by and large, few countries are, because people tend to be fairly similar with a few exceptions.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:54 AM
Location: Victoria TX
42,554 posts, read 87,022,277 times
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No, the opposite it true. The US has the most aggressive mass media of any western industrialized country. Americans have their collective opinions fully-formed and delivered to them by the mass media, which represents the economic interests of huge corporations. There is no diversity in the philosophy of the mass media, and there is never any deviation in the delivered package. Individualism that is "approved" is simply paraded in front of the public with glowing praise, while unapproved individualism is reflected with ridicule.

The news media, in particular, is manipulative. There is a high level of selectivity in which news events are reported, and a high degree of unanimity among news outlets in the slant that is offered. If a news story cannot be used to mold public opinion, it is simply not reported at all.

Corporate advertisers pay the media handsomely to persuasively instill undiscriminating uniformity into the American flock. Individualism, bucking the trend, is portrayed and perceived by American media as eccentric nutcases. People who are dangerously individualistic, like Dennis Kucinich and Julian Assange, are given visibility only if they can be made to appear as buffoons.

Last edited by jtur88; 05-03-2012 at 07:09 AM..
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:32 AM
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The US is individualistic economically, but conformist socially.
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:35 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,087,446 times
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^ The US is conformist maybe compared to a few Western European countries, but most nations in the world are actually even MORE conformist.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:49 AM
Location: Toronto
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Individualism in one aspect of life but conformity in another aspect of life is a point that I've often thought about -- essentially all humans have the need to find a group and conform to it, it's just a matter of which one you conform to.

If you dislike conforming at the level of a national culture, you might like instead conforming to your local culture or subculture, and the peer pressures within it could be just as strong. If you dislike living in a town with extended kin and people who you've seen since childhood, you might find another social circle to move to, but you'll still be conforming to their norms (albeit one you freely chose, which is more individualistic in that sense). You can escape your extended kin who you despite and replace it with a social circle of peers to serve as kinship instead. It's like Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody.

That said, one form of individualism is essentially being able to control your social circle and if you don't like a place, you can "vote with your feet" and move to a different city/region which has peers more in line with your own. That mobility is pretty high in the USA compared to the vast majority of countries.
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