Individualization and the Public Interest
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Individualization has been a popular topic in public debate for a long time. The belief that the freedoms given to citizens have gone too far is remarkably resilient. In the introduction to a current version of Tonnies’ Community and Society we find the remark that ‘(E)very intelligent person knows that the hidden weaknesses of our society, ruled by merchants, are coming to the fore’, and that society is thus collapsing (Sorokin 1957: viii). That this was written more than 50 years ago – and that society in the intervening period has not collapsed – hardly lessens the force of the argument, judging by the regularity with which the complaint returns in the rhetoric of political parties (Duyvendak & Hurenkamp 2004: 9–17). The underlying fear is that people no longer think they need each other. Have individual freedoms been stretched to the point that communities are disintegrating? What keeps citizens united in an increasingly individualistic society? Again, the familiar response is ‘more citizenship’ – of strengthening the ties between individuals and society.
KeywordsCivil Society Public Interest Asylum Seeker Civic Engagement Active Citizen
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