Individualism: True and False

Individualism: True and False. (The Twelfth Finlay Lecture, delivered at University College, Dublin, on December 17, 1945.) Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd. 1946; and Oxford: B. H. Blackwell Ltd. 1946, 38 pp.


“To advocate any clear-cut principles of social order today is an almost certain way to incur the stigma of being an unpractical doctrinaire. It has come to be regarded as the sign of the judicious mind that in social matters one does not adhere to fixed principles but decides each question “on its merits”; that one generally is guided by expediency and is ready to compromise between opposed views. Principles, however, have a way of asserting themselves even if they are not explicitly recognized but are only implied in particular decisions, or if they are present only as big ideas of what is or is not being done. Thus it has come about that under the sign of “neither individualism nor socialism” we are in fact rapidly moving from a society of free individuals toward one of a completely collectivist character.

I propose not only to undertake to defend a general principle of social organization but shall also try to show that the aversion to general principles, and the preference for proceeding from particular instance to particular instance, is the product of the movement which with the inevitability of gradual this leads us back from a social order resting on general recognition of certain principles to a system in which order is created by direct commands.”

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