23 January 2017

The individualism myth

In her recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Theresa May blamed individualism for our (allegedly) declining sense of responsibility towards one another.

‘Individualism’ is maligned by both Left and Right. The Church of England attacked it in its 2015 pre-election report.


The Oxford English Dictionary gives this as the primary definition for the word:

independence and self-reliance
I am not aware of any evidence for a correlation between (a) independence/self-reliance and (b) behaving with less consideration. Conceivably, there is a negative correlation.

The Prime Minister should refrain from reinforcing social myths. Perhaps by “individualism” she actually means indifference to family, arising from reliance on the state. If so, she should use a different word.