Individualism In Habits Of The Heart

2769 words - 11 pages

Habits of The Heart create a vision of the middle class American life with all its good, bad, strengths and weaknesses. Its examines the conflict that exists between individuality and community in this country, as well as how these conflicts effect our ability to form relationships with others, whether it is in a public arena or our own intimate relationships with family and friends. The very word individualism means to look out for number one, it implies a me society that has lost it’s way from the way it use to be. The title “Habits Of The Heart” creates images of love, faith, hope and commitment to others, a sense of belonging to something larger than yourself. Does individualism really exist, or is it that people tend to forget where they came from and how much they really are influenced by family, community and others around them.
In “Habits Of The Heart” Bellah et al write that “they attempt to follow Tocqueville and call it individualism”. This they say is the first language in which Americans tend to think about their lives, values independence and self-reliance above all else (Viii). Americans separate work, family and community, when in fact, these worlds must be combined. We are hiding in such "lifestyle enclaves," our isolated existence limits our ability to relate ourselves to a broader community. The virtue of community interaction lies in its ability to provide meaning to the frustrating mechanisms of politics and combat the "inevitable loneliness of the separate self" (Bellah et. al., 190).
It seems our definition of success is related to our own individuality. Our view of success is rooted in the outcome of competition among individuals. Americans seem quick to claim that we have each succeeded through their own exertions not with assistance from the community. "The metropolitan world is one in which the demand of work, family, and community are sharply separated, and often contradictory, a world of diverse, often hostile groups, interdependent in ways too complex for any individuals to comprehend" (Bellah et. al., P.177). We must lessen our pursuit for self-gratification with our obligation to community. Bellah et, al writes "The self-interest demanded by the individualistic pursuit of success needs to be balanced by voluntary concern for others" (Bellah et. al., P.199).
Bellah write about Utilitarian individualism, which is “the basic economic understanding of human existence (Bellah et. al., 336), utilitarian individualism can include many types of behaviors, the pursuit of work, our callings or chosen professions (careers), Work is done by those whose only motivation is to support themselves and their families. Callings are chosen based on our beliefs and values of self and society. Careers are the pursuits of those seeking material rewards, power, recognition and other offerings of success (Bellah et. al.,P.65-67). Expressive individualism, based on emotion, the need for connectednes into our private lives or...

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