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November 6, 2010

It is from reading Rousseau and many of the other political theorists readings that I have realized that no one can really be an individual anymore. I understand the importance of making laws and regulations according to the greater good of a community, but I feel as though these theorists make it seem like a community and civil society cannot succeed without “communal” decisions. Rousseau states that once a right is actually established, it “is necessary for the individual to apply this right effectively for his best interests and those of the whole.” Why does the individual have to take the communities interest into account the entire time? I believe that it is very important for the individual, in certain circumstances, to make decisions based on their own betterment before considering the betterment for the whole. For instance, one’s earnings are incredible important, and I think I can speak on behalf of the majority that a person’s spending or use of this money will involve specific decisions to better that person’s, or close relatives, lives. Do not misunderstand my point of writing blog as an act to disagree with the idea of taking a society as a whole in certain circumstances, such as societal circumstances. I believe it is incredibly important to make choices to better a civil society in areas such as education and public policies, but I think taking individuality into account is crucial for one to create an identity and provide a successful future for themselves and those close to them. Individuality is a crucial aspect for a society, and it’s future advances. It is from certain people’s greed and arrogance that this country has been able to strive and become a leading power of the world. I am so adamant about supporting one’s exercise of their rights as an individual because in every civil society there is a government holds and exercises their rights over the individual. Therefore, I am not worried about someone over-exercising their rights because there will always be a power to control this right. So in conclusion, I write this blog for the purpose of reminding the readers of these theorists that, yes the whole of a civil society should be taken very seriously and continuously taken in account during decision making, but never should it be forgotten the great importance of the right to make decisions as an individual. These civil actions will undoubtedly act to make a civil society diverse, yet also provide for incredibly content and free individuals.


  1. jwalsky24 permalink
    November 6, 2010 7:51 PM

    Jacob- I’m not sure if you have read any writings by Alexis de Tocqueville, but his concept of “enlightened self-interest” might interest you. He was a French political thinker who traveled to America in the 1830s and was fascinated by how orderly democracy was in such a young nation. When referring to self-interest, he noted that Americans voluntarily join together to form associations to further the interests of that group, thereby furthering their own interests. He seems to find a medium between pure self-interest and altruism, whereas, as you mentioned, many theorists tell you that you should set aside your self-interests in exchange for the good of the whole without giving a pragmatic way how to do so.

  2. Vidya permalink
    November 6, 2010 8:13 PM

    I agree completely with your opinion, but also wanted to add a couple of things. First of all, while the protection of individual rights is ultimately one of the most important functions of the government, it is also the government’s responsibility to serve the common good. The US has been known for being socially advanced in this aspect; people recognize and respect others’ individual rights and decisions while looking out for the good of the community. However, controversy arises when the common good is looked after at the expense of individual rights or vice versa. Sometimes this is a good thing; when there is a quarantine, the freedom of a diseased person can be limited in order protect the community. However, issues aren’t always this black and white. An example is the recent bill passed for free health care in the US. We can see from examples outside of the US that although this is for the benefit of the community (more lives can be saved, more patients can be treated), this policy generally results in a drastic loss in health care quality, due to a higher demand of services along with several other factors. In this case, the quality of the service an individual receives is given up for the greater good. Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is a matter of opinion. The point is that in a way, individual rights are given up for the common good everyday, in any form of government, even in the US.

  3. aaronyan1123 permalink
    November 7, 2010 3:02 PM

    I argee with your opinion on individuals to make their decisions for their best interests and interests of the community. I think the best way to do is that we should not give up any of them to obtain another. We should make our decisions in ratio of contributing in our own interest and those of the community or nation. Democracy currently of the United States is trying to do this in ratio. That is why there are difference on the laws between the different states in the U.S. Some state laws are established by voting from communities interest in some states, like the law of carrying gun in Texas and same-sex marriage licenses in Massachusetts.

  4. jaclburr permalink
    November 7, 2010 4:27 PM

    I agree with your thoughts on the importance of individuality. Sometimes these philosophers tend to ignore such an idea, and act as if we are all the same, mere cattle acting all the same. Yes, of course it is important to consider what is best for the group, but as you point out, our individuality also is crucial to all situations and should be considered as well.

    • dmalks permalink
      November 10, 2010 2:18 AM

      I really like the point you make in that we do not all think the same way and we are not mere cattle acting all the same. Some may find it of high importance to please others through their decision making, but, realistically most people will ultimately do what’s best for themselves.

  5. Trevor Cookler permalink
    November 7, 2010 6:08 PM

    Individuality is key for any society to prosper, however the means of creating rights that everyone can abide by is even more key. We don’t want complete individualism and allow people to run wild supporting their own ideas, because people at the end of the day need to be civil and follow the rules. Your post is insightful, and I think it’s important to note that every individual should always act with the idea in mind that they are part of the community, as well as the idea that they need to do what ever is best for themselves at all times. Where people fall on chart between complete community support vs personal welfare/gains will be pretty diverse, so your ability to represent both sides is great.

  6. britneyrupley permalink
    November 8, 2010 5:45 PM

    I completely agree with what your saying. In the readings we have done in class there always seems to be one element missing: The right of the individual to make a decision for them self. Every reading from Socrates to Rousseau focuses on the need for a “majority rule” type government where everything is done for the “greater good” of society. I feel as though this is a flawed system, because without individuality, I do not believe that society can properly function.

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