Exploring the Roots of Society

Part I: Individualism vs. Community

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The roots of individualism came when economic power was expanded to everyday citizens, but many fear the rise of individualism leads to a loss of community and collective action.

Read on for moreโ€ฆ

As the pandemic hit, many people began questioning how our societies functioned, how healthy they are, and if there was a better way. The most scrutinized ideal has been individualism.

Individualism is a social and political philosophy that the interests of the individual are or should be paramount.

The history of individualism is hard to pin down, but we know the term arose during the Reformation in Europe in the 16th century. This was at a time when the European public was beginning to see more freedom. With more established social classes, there were greater opportunities for upward mobility.

You can see why individualism was appealing at the time. With greater freedom, everyday citizens had more economic power to advance their position in society and more autonomy in how they used their wealth.

Sounds great on the surface, right?

The downside is with increased individualism, there is a loss of focus on community.

Leading โ€œeach citizen to isolate himself from his fellows and to draw apart with his family and friends,โ€ individualism sapped the โ€œvirtues of public life.โ€ - French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville

Back to the Roots of Community

Humans were not meant to live individually. Since the dawn of humanity, there has been community. The need to work together to solve a collective goal: to live and survive. Archeological sites in Kenya, the birthplace of humanity, have found evidence of large social networks, innovative tools, and trade routes, as early as 320,000 years ago, well before humans migrated to Europe 50,000 years ago.

Native American culture is also a great example of how community-focused principles lead to a robust and healthy society.

Most Native American cultures have a holistic view. Not only is community defined as family, but they view the natural world, all living people, animals, plants, our ancestors, and future generations as an integrated whole.

Native Americans recognize that we are all members of an ecological community and that makes us all responsible to support and protect. We each have a role to play to advance the collective needs.

With that recognition comes the importance of a healthy individual to maintain a healthy society. In individualistic societies, the task of improving your mental health is on you. In contrast, Native communities see group support as the primary way to heal. What an incredibly profound idea in the context of our modern Western societies!

Next Week: The uniquely American ideal of individualism

The Good Knurd:

Nows your chance to join in on the action! Thoughtful ways to influence change within yourself and your local community.

  • ๐Ÿค” Thought Starter: Reflect on your own values. Do you align more with individualism or community-focused?
  • ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Discussion: Talk with your friends & family about their views. What are the downsides to a society that is overly individualistic? Or overly community-based?

Weโ€™d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment to share your perspective.

Next Up

The Stubbornly Rooted Doctrine of Reagan Individualism
๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The Reagan Eraโ€™s rugged individualism shifted the political landscape against the government causing the hollowing out of basic social investments that last to this day. Read on for moreโ€ฆ
๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.