Burke: Individualism vs. Institution
Today in discussion we spoke about Burke and his ideas of being part of an institution. With an institution comes beliefs, ideals, and the ideology of the group one chooses to join. Burke argues that institutions are the long term product of traditions and experiences that occur over the years. He feels as if individualism enforces ideas that people have to reason for themselves. Burke does not want people to reason for themselves, but rather be a part of these traditional values that were passed down over the generations.
With this in mind I have a question. Can one display individualism within an institution? Are both terms deemed to be separated or can they bounce off each other? The way I see it is that anyone who joins something is part of that institution. A basketball team, a club, the University of Michigan as a whole, and greek life are all examples of institutions. I think I have a problem with Burke’s claim against individualism in that I see so many people around campus setting out to achieve their individualistic goals as they are among the institution of UM. There comes this idea that institutions are created, and those who join each institution are people who embody the ideas that are set forth by the institution. By doing so does one give up their individualism? If I meet a student here who is an experienced snowboarder I’m going to think they are pretty unique, but the second they join the UM snowboarding club do they give away their individualism in that institution?
A counter argument to Burke is well what if the people joining these institutions are being manipulated? Can institutions constrain you? Can joining certain institutions limit the individualism that you could have had on your own, and where would Burke stand on this idea? I feel as if Burke thinks that there is always room for free thinking and once a person enters their individualism they experience aspects of their life they may not ever known existed.
This idea mentioned in my discussion today in regards to individualism vs. cumulative knowledge can go back and forth. I am part of the greek life system and will use this as an example. I know that Burke would have really appreciated the idea of greek life and how in all sorority and fraternity houses there are several composite pictures showing all the brothers/sisters of the past who lived in that house. Personally, I think that students join greek life chapters that promote the ideas they are looking for, and I also think that once involved in these institutions it shapes your individualism. There are an endless amount of examples for institutions ranging from religious views all the way to the political party you side with.
I suppose what I’m looking to find out from this post is whether or not people think that individualism can exist in institutions, if institutions influence individualism, or if there is no correlation between the two.