Archive for December, 2012



The Rugged Individual

A particularly American concept is known as “rugged individualism,” first used to refer to economic independence and non-reliance on government by President Herbert Hoover. The idea comes from the notion that Americans should make their own way in the world like the settlers and cowboys of the American West, and that one should not rely on anybody but oneself for assistance.


“Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses “the moral worth of the idividual”. Individualists promote the exercise of one’s goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing external interference upon one’s own interests by society or institutions such as the government.”



The idea that “ a man (or woman) should stand on his (or her) own two feet” is not unique to Americans, but seems to be felt more strongly among Americans than in other countries where government participation in people’s lives is taken for granted and accepted as natural.


Prepare for the next class by writing your thoughts on this issue (minimum 250 words) in the Leave a Reply section below, considering the following DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:


What examples of “rugged individualism” can you think of in American society – economics, social, philosophical, and so on?


What do you think is the historical or philosophical basis for this idea?


What are the advantages for a society where individualism is a strong social value? What are the disadvantages?


How deeply do Japanese people believe in this idea? How well does an emphasis on the individual fit in with Japanese society?


Has Japan embraced this idea yet? If so, how? If not, what do you think prevents this idea from being accepted?


Is it the government’s obligation to support its citizens, or should the role of government be limited?


What other social, religious, or other institutions either complement or detract from the idea of the “rugged individual”?


Are people these days in either America or Japan become too “self-centered”? What effect would such a situation have on society?


A famous poem by John Donne asserts that “no man is an island.” (see http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/no-man-is-an-island/ ). How true would you say this is? What did Donne mean by this, and how do you think such a view affects the lives of people in a society?


Would you agree or disagree with the famous quote by the fictional “Mr. Spock” from the science fiction movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when, in an act of self-sacrifice, he told his friend and Captain James T. Kirk that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”? Explain.





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