Chip Taylor Communications

Subject: History

Europe and America in the Modern Age Series

Stanford University Professors James Sheehan and David Kennedy present in-depth lectures on the concept of liberalism as a theoretical framework for examining the interrelationships between the histories of Europe and America. Produced by the Stanford University Channel. Programs available on 20 individual Click for more

19. The Problem of Community

19. The Problem of Community

In this program Professor James Sheehan discusses the relationship between the individual and the community in liberal society. Prior to the 18th century, western political thought stressed the importance of the community, where "individuals were inseparable from their common worlds of villages, guilds, and parishes." However, with the emergence of liberal ideology came a fundamental shift from community to individual, with individuals shaping their own reputations and destinies, and realizing a new sense of personal and family privacy. But liberals realized that society posed serious threats to individualism, in the form of social isolation, pressures to conform, and oppressive bureaucracies. In an effort to mitigate these societal threats, liberal advocates have attempted to construct various bases for commonality and cohesion within liberal populations. These efforts have included experiments with nationalism and class solidarity that were only marginally successful. Liberal society's response to radical movements has been to dismantle oppressive institutions and to reaffirm the role of individuals in the society. Sheehan believes that historically, liberal societies have vacillated between emphasizing the individual or the community, and that this pendular ideological movement suggests an "unavoidable, necessary, and essential tension in modern liberal society between individual and community" upon which depends the sustenance of both. 99/10DE SCA 50 min.

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