Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dr. Anne Wortham - Liberalism and Individualism

Professor Anne Wortham is Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University and continuing Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. She is a member of the American Sociological Association and the American Philosophical Association.

Individualism has many meanings and represents a complex of ideas, values, and doctrines that are associated with classical liberalism. These ideas are addressed in Mises’ Liberalism. They are the cornerstones of his conception and defense of liberalism. Moreover, the method of his defense is itself an exercise in the application of methodological individualism’s theory of society.

Mises’ brand of individualism is known as utilitarian individualism. Although he makes no explicit reference to utilitarianism or individualism in Liberalism, this doctrine is implicit in every aspect of Mises’ argument. Elsewhere he has defined the essence of utilitarianism to be “the cognition that action pursues definite chosen ends and that consequently there can be no other standard for appraising conduct but the desirability or undesirability of its effects . . . By its recognition that social cooperation is for the immense majority a means for attaining all their ends, it dispels the notion that society, the state, the nation, or any other social entity is an ultimate end and that individual men are the slaves of the entity. It rejects the philosophies of universalism, collectivism, and totalitarianism. In this sense it is meaningful to call utilitarianism a philosophy of individualism.” (Theory and History, pp. 5758)

One finds Mises’ utilitarian individualism at work throughout his discussion of the connection between liberalism’s advocacy of private ownership of the means of production and its demand for limited functions of government, and in his analysis of the relation of the state to the individual. But his perspective is most evident in his refutation of the charge by antiliberals that capitalism is a threat to social cooperation.

Read more: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/liberalism-and-individualism#ixzz2thU1NsbV