giving a damn: individualism and the shape of democracy
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Book reviewed: The Tyranny of the Moderns Nadia Urbinati (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2015), 217 pp., ISBN: 978-0300182774
In The Tyranny of the Moderns, Nadia Urbinati at once critiques and defends a problematised notion of individualism. She takes aim at what she describes as ‘I don’t give a damn’ individualism (5), seeking to distinguish it, as a type of egoism, from the older and more appealing notion of individualism that constitutes the ‘defining feature’ of democracy (6). This is a revealing approach, highlighting a classic tension within political thought. Enlightenment individualism allowed new venues for challenging previously unquestionable sources of authority in the early modern intellectual landscape, but has since been related to some quite different methodological and ideological associations.
Many contemporary theorists move to reject individualism; others map out the historical progression of the idea to show the decline of one conception and the rise of...