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The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century$
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Jack Hayward, Brian Barry, and Archie Brown

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262948

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262948.001.0001

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: The Critique of Individualism

: The Critique of Individualism

Chapter:
(p.89) 4: The Critique of Individualism
Source:
The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century
Author(s):

Alan Ryan

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197262948.003.0004

This chapter focuses on the thought that ‘rational, economic man’ may be a useful figment of the economists’ imagination but is not a useful figment of the social and political theorist’s. After some remarks about the strength of individualism in British political thought, the chapter discusses the post-1945 debate over the virtues of ‘methodological individualism’ and its supposed political implications. The argument then begins in earnest with the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Idealist critique of the ‘narrow individualism’ that Idealists believed underlay utilitarianism and earlier forms of liberalism. The discussion also cites some British contributions to the Marxist critique of rational economic man, and ends with a very short discussion of communitarianism.

Keywords:   economic man, individualism, British politics, methodological individualism, Marxist, communitarianism

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