Individualism; One's Position in Society, According to the Founders of Sociology


1 Professor of Sociology, Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran

2 Ph.D. Student of Sociology, Department of Social Sciences, University of Tehran


The concept of individualism in the field of sociology was introduced by the empirical scheme of one's position in society. The growing importance of the attention to this pattern affected by social changes has been rapid and rough. Cultural and social processes of modernization and modern age always create new conditions and stimulus leading to changes and verities in methods of individualization. Whether “individualism” is a distinctive characteristic of modern societies is a usual term among founders of sociology and its revision has not been stopped yet. The present article is to analyze different standpoints of founders of sociology about the relationship between an individual and society and the very concept of individualism. For founders of sociology, the question of individual-society is a completely social issue suggesting modernity along which expresses itself with more severity. All of them wish a real release from individual, but – albeit unevenly - suggest its difficulties and dangers. From Marx’s point of view, under the present alienation, the individual is linked to future, his full realization will only be done by capitalist exploitation at the end of the history. In contrast to this optimism of Marx’s, Weber’s pessimism can be easily observed: the process of rationalization causes one to be imprisoned in his iron cage. Conservatively, Durkheim and Tocqueville are more optimistic. Individualism is particularly specific to individuals, a fact that brings about a new status which cannot be opposed, but must be adjusted. In addition, its dangers towards society and individuals should be analyzed and steps must be taken to compensate. But in between, its extraordinary complexity causes Simmel’s analysis on individuality and individualism to be distinctive. He states most of different features of individualism which are clarified in contrast to previous conditions, and teach them in all classes of individual more than other things.