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Rezension: A stronger claim to that designation (classic) can be made on behalf of Steven Lukes'Individualism, first published in 1973 in a 'Key Concepts in the Social Sciences' series. In his new introduction, he retrospectively detects three aims. Firstly, because of what the original foreword called the terms 'illusory air of unity and coherence', Lukes was seeking to achieve conceptual clarification. By combining the history of ideas with philosophic analysis, he distinguished various types of individualism through their different temporal and national contexts. Secondly, because it was a socially constructed concept, individualism had to be deconstructed into eleven basic constituent ideas to avoid confusion in this compound concept. Thirdly, he treated individualism as an ideological construct by contrast with collectivism and socialism. It was not wholly accidental that this book appeared in the same year as his volume on Emile Durkheim, early opponent of the methodological individualism criticised by Lukes both in the original edition of Individualism and singled out for particular comment in the new introduction. The first part of the book contrasts the use of the term in five countries: France, Germany, Italy, America and England. It was in France that the early nineteenth-century reaction against the French Revolution led to individualism being attacked from both right and left as a dissolvent of social cohesion. As is so frequently the case, it was its enemies that popularised it. Although variously attributed to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, it was accorded a pejorative antisocial connotation. In Germany, a more positive assessment was attributed to individuality by the Romantics, associating it with uniqueness, originality and self-realisation. However, in the works of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, individuality was ascribed to the nation state as self-fulfilment in an organic society, while at the other extreme Max Stirner took individualism to the limits of nihilistic egoism. In contrast to this polarisation between a self-assertive, anarchistic individualism and self-subordinating authoritarian nationalism, Anglo-American individualism was associated with individual rights and limited government, free enterprise and liberal democracy, self-help rather than dependence upon the state. In Part II, Lukes picks out four of the basic ideas, conflated under the individualist appellation, as 'intimately interrelated' norms, which have his unreserved support. This is because 'the idea of human dignity or respect for persons lies at the heart of the idea of equality, while autonomy, privacy and self-development represent the three faces of liberty or freedom' (beginning of chapter 18 in Part III). He has reservations about other aspects of individualism: the focus on individuals in abstraction from their social context, political individualism and economic individualism. Lukes dwells on Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau to the neglect of more recent writers such as Mancur Olson, whose Logic of Collective Action on the free-rider problem had appeared in 1965. After having dealt with ethical individualism's relativistic concentration upon self-interest, religious individualism's preoccupation with spiritual equality and epistemological individualism's tracing of the source of knowledge to the individual, Lukes turns to scrutinise methodological individualism. This chapter is critical rather than expository, drawing heavily upon his 1968 article in the British Journal of Sociology (Lukes, 1968). Lukes quotes with approval Durkheim's assertion that 'every time that a social phenomenon is directly explained by a psychological phenomenon, we may be sure that the explanation is false'. First clearly articulated by Hobbes, methodological individualism as advocated by J. S. Mill, Pareto, Hayek and Popper is dismissed as a prescriptive doctrine excluding institutional and social structures from proper consideration. He returns to the attack at the end of his concluding chapter, proclaiming that sociological and social psychological inquiry is an essential prerequisite of egalitarian and libertarian social change. Hence, a methodology which [in a non-trivial form] simply precludes one from examining the deeper structural and institutional forces which constitute the central obstacles to such change must clearly be rejected as not merely theoretically narrow, but as socially and politically regressive. Lukes affirms his own ideological commitment by declaring 'that the only way to realize the values of individualism is through a humane form of socialism'. In his new introduction, Lukes adopts a less dismissive attitude towards methodological individualism, referring in particular to the chapters by Raymond Boudon and Adam Przeworski in Individualism, Theories and Methods, edited by Pierre Birnbaum and Jean Leca (1990). He now concedes that in their versions of the approach, 'the challenge to provide micro-foundations for social phenomena - has been of considerable value'. By opening up the black boxes of holistic social processes, they have refused to treat individuals as non-autonomous, passive spectators rather than independent actors, explaining macro phenomena by interacting individuals rather than the reverse which is so popular in the socio-centric social sciences. Groups should not be treated as individuals, with an identity and will of their own. Przeworski persuasively argues that 'we do not know when to expect which people to be selfish, when to expect them to be altruistic, and when ideological', so 'the assumption of self-interest is easier to reject than to replace' (Birnbaum and Leca, 1990, p. 72). So, 'a realistic description of society, in which selfish, altruistic, and ideological individuals coexist at any time, may make deductive analysis next to impossible ... To introduce descriptive realism is to cut Samson's hair' (Birnbaum and Leca, 1990, p. 73). However, 'the ontological assumptions of the rational-choice framework - in particular, the assumption of undifferentiated, unchanging, and unrelated "individuals" - are untenable' (Birnbaum and Leca, 1990, pp. 64 - 5). He argues that 'technical difficulties become formidable when the number of strategic actors exceeds two', so the formal deductive analysis upon which the rational choice expression of methodological individualism depends cannot get far until 'game theory crawls out of its mathematical infancy' (Birnbaum and Leca, 1990, p. 90). Jack Hayward, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Hull Political Studies Review Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 45 - 55, January 2007
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