The Age of Individualism

Will the millennials come back to community?

Totally agree, and yet all three are a luxury that only few can afford. People move all the time, change job and split their family.

0 2016-10-14 16:09:31 - J Deware

Some religions are evil. Marriage is difficult when the financial future is uncertain. Ideologies involve not seeing the obvious and defending the indefensible; a group united in doing this is both stupid and dangerous. True patriotism involves saving the country from itself when necessary. Strangers, particularly those in authority, are often incompetent or corrupt.

Young people accept the authority of those who question unquestioned authority and undercut it with humor. From The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to South Park, Family Guy and even the Simpsons, authority is no longer automatically granted and must be earned and deserved.

LBJ had a credibility gap on Vietnam. Anyone describing a similar situation in these terms today would be mocked to death. This is progress.

16 2016-10-14 00:47:01 - sdavidc9

The problem with this column is that its main objective is to stereotype the millennials according to tradition "liberal" or "conservative" widgeon holes.

Alas the stereotyping score sheet wont tilt them one side or the other, since they are all over the map.

Maybe they are just the initial stage of an evolving American culture that strives to move America away from the same old political dogmas that end up in creation of tremendous wealth and at the same time even greater poverty and strife.

The "individualism" characteristic that the author seems to be struggling with may be simply the realization by the millennials that the only thing within their power to shape and determine is their individual happiness. To achieve that they can not be beholden to any one ideology.

2 2016-10-09 05:21:20 - Haki

If millennials embrace Individualism, then they certainly didn't get together and decide to become less trusting and more socially liberal. It's more likely that they grew up facing economic and political dysfunction that discouraged trust. Wages are low, assuming they can even find a job. Education is priced out of reach. Government has devolved into a cynical game pitting wild-eyed conservative zealots against whiny, mealy-mouthed liberals. Now that money is speech, it has drowned out other voices.

They're less likely to be religious because they've grown up in the 21st century. There is nothing attractive about the hypocrisy of churches that hide child rape and the fundamentalists that demand willful ignorance of reality as a requirement for membership.

They support gay marriage because gay people are their neighbors, their friends and their families, and because they value love and human feeling more than they value the institutionalized resentment and hatred offered by the empathy-challenged and sanctimonious scolds. A sense of community is a nice thing to have, but not when the community is defined by the people it excludes.

With one brief, prosperous exception, conservatives had the stage during the rise of the millennials. They sent the young to die in dubious wars, sacked our wealth, and created ruinous income disparity, like a moat between themselves and ordinary citizens. It's absurd to blame the victims of conservative ideology for not embracing it.

426 2016-09-20 05:44:02 - gemli

I am a millennial and would like to ask the author why is individualism being equated to a negative outcome with so much certainty?

To understand why people of my generation tend to lean toward individualism, you have to take a closer look at the expected career skills and tools of interaction.

We are compelled to constantly hone our career skills to make them applicable to a variety of organizations. Due to the hire and fire mentality and cut throat competition, are allegiance is toward our skills set so that we can become valuable to a broad range of employers. This is what market dictates and we go along with it to forge a career. This can be perceived as individualism by some.

The social tools (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) start with one promise - "the individual is a product that broadcasts his/her content." The very nature of these tools, again compel us to think and act as content publishers ourselves. Since each individual's name is stamped on photos, blogs, music etc., this again extends the notion of individualism.

The smart one amongst us hopefully do realize that we of course need each other to survive and need to strike a healthy balance between individualism and companionship/collectivism.

Finally, I'd like to reassure the author and other generations that as we move between various stages of life we change behavior and how approach one another.

26 2016-09-19 20:27:41 - Andrew

If Douthat thinks that we can have an ever-widening chasm between the wealthy and poor, while we simultaneously "trust our fellow human beings," he's living in a fantasy world. This is something that's never happened in history. Any ideas why our society will be the first to accomplish this? Next column?

5 2016-09-06 20:51:43 - David Kelland

Eric Hoffer said it 60 years ago.

1 2016-08-29 02:35:56 - Jonathan Katz

Ross Douthat asks: “So the really interesting question about the millennials isn’t whether they’ll all be voting Democratic when Chelsea Clinton runs for president.” I would add nor is it whether they’ll all be voting Republican when George P. Bush runs.

The deeper question is: since this is the first time in recorded history we are able to study, analyze and dissect a generation in the social science ways we now do, will that analysis turn out to be accurate? Or will it be yet another miss on a long list of missed prognostications about the future?

3 2016-08-25 16:49:39 - catpastor

I thought that "rugged individualism" was one of the characteristics that Republicans / Conservatives always bragged about?

8 2016-08-24 11:22:41 - Charles

What choice does anyone have in the U.S. but to accept some aspects of individualism in our lives when we see public institutions and collective, social welfare programs that spared my grandparent poverty and allow my parent to live in comfort (they are generous and currently helping my husband and I financially through a period of unemployment)? I am 51 and feel no kinship with the Boomers. I hate listening to the constant disparaging of the Millennials because they have gotten even less than the short end of the stick. Like them, I have witnessed pointless wars, political corruption and the buying of elections, and more recently an economic meltdown whose perpetrators continue to enrich themselves because our decision makers claim they are too smart and valuable to punish. Meanwhile, our country underfunds education, our public infrastructure and scientific research. They are graduating from university (if they decide to take the risk) with bone crushing debt - I should know since I returned to school out of necessity and once again find myself burdened with student loans. Still, I find that Millennials do care and are engaged. No, like me they do not find their paths in religion, false patriotism or allegiance to political parties or figures. Why should they after all the lies and false promises? They are instead connecting with like minds over great distances to ask questions and solve problems. I am honored to join them when I can.

1 2016-08-23 14:50:03 - Karen

Selfish, the one percenter's choice,
And Facebook is the Selfie voice,
Narcissism's sad
But Greed is real bad,
When Repubs depart, we'll rejoice.

29 2016-08-19 07:09:52 - Larry Eisenberg

In this column, Douthat blows a lot of smoke to conceal two truths: Conservatives are anti-community, espousing an "every man for himself" social darwinist ethos. They are also authoritarians, determined to use government to enforce their social and religious beliefs on the rest of us.

35 2016-08-14 09:58:26 - Mary Moore

In the end true individualism never works and never has for the human ape. The first individual to fall was Freud's primal father, killed and eaten by his abused sons. The sons soon realized that it would be far easier and safer to clan or club with each other than suffer their father's wretched fate. In other words, to form a social group, the dialectical opposite of the individual. Hence, the domination of the father was substituted for the domination of the sons, i.e., human civilization's first social birth bang. In other words, individualism was tossed over the side. Now the cycle of "domination-rebellion-domination will weave its way through history. Currently we are "privileged" to be in the corporate phase of the domination cycle. But I digress.

Without the immanent safety of the social group the individual would have the life expectancy of a fruit fly. Now the "Crazy Ape" has all kinds of egotistical fantasies about his specialness in the world, but that is all that they are fantasies, broadcasting out into the ether. The "Crazy Ape" is a social animal, and neurotic to its core. Facebook, selfies or Fox News cannot change this fact.

2 2016-08-04 09:28:42 - Prometheus

The only thing missing from your opening paragraph is the implied conclusion "and it is all the fault of liberals".

Conservatives such as Douthat bemoan the loss of control by traditional organizations such as political parties and organized religion. Why should millennials or any of us for that matter trust them. They have proven to be untrustworthy.

With the internet and cellphone communication possibilities people in increasing numbers have access to a wealth of information both bad and good, true and false and the price we pay is our anonymity. Sometimes it is difficult to sift through what we read or see and make a reasoned choice but their is no greater risk in that than in being led by the nose by a particular ideology of a political party or religious group. It is not so much an age of "Individualism" as an age of "Choice" and as hard as it seems for some conservatives to accept Pandora is out of the box and your attempts at turning back the clock will fail.

11 2016-07-28 16:15:22 - Steve Hunter

The online world is a very poor substitute for the real and the communities built there are ephemeral and transitory. Having said that, our climate of distrust has been manufactured to a large extent by the inane stupidity of our politicians and media. Fifteen years of non stop rhetoric about the vastly overblown "terrorist threat" is bound to have had some effect on impressionable young minds.

1 2016-07-23 22:25:54 - Richard Smith

You forgot to mention "Unions" together with church, guilds and clan.

5 2016-07-19 11:16:23 - Lise Mielsen

In those days, there was no king in Israel and each man did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg. 21:25). As the history of Judges, Samuel and Kings attest, this was not a formula for success as a nation. Individualism is maximized when its creativity and energy is harnessed to something bigger than itself. On our own as individuals, we are too puny to have the means to confront the big challenges that face humankind in the next 50 years. Uncoupled from a larger story to orient life's journey, individuals deny themselves significant meaning and purpose and satisfaction and even pleasure in life.

0 2016-07-17 17:58:40 - Jack McHenry

All true. Just look at how quickly people quit organizations when one thing with which they disagree goes into effect.

0 2016-07-14 19:33:53 - Egert

When liberals call for greater social and cultural rights, conservatives cry, "too much individualism," and raise the spectre of "individualism," and social anomie. But when liberals call for limits on economic rights, then conservatives cry, "not enough individualism."

Douthat's column is part of this very effective one-two punch.

First the poor liberal reels under the libertarian jabs (higher taxes hurt growth, redistribution creates dependency, too much equality destroys liberty, beware collectivism and socialism!)

Then he is sent to the canvas with Douthat's communitarian haymaker (nihilistic pluralism and do-as-you-please diversity are corroding the cement of shared values which hold the very fabric of society together!)

7 2016-07-12 20:06:20 - John

You might have mentioned "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer. A book that was published in 1951 before Nisbet's "Quest for Community."
It also foreshadowed the allure of the occult and mass movement by individuals seeking a place to belong.
I read it in the 1960's and have found no reason throughout these years to trade in my individualism for a laid out plan of conformity.

0 2016-07-08 18:44:49 - Hendrik E. Sadi

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