Sociological Theory 33 (2):173-199 (2015)

This paper reconceptualizes “individualism” as a discursive strategy of action through which everyday Americans attempt to manage the cultural dilemma of engaging in externally imposed social obligations within a broader individualistic culture. While classic formulations have treated individualism as a strong cultural force directing actors toward voluntaristic and privatized lives, my analysis—grounded in an inductive analysis of 17 qualitative studies of religious Americans—finds individualism working primarily as a discursive strategy, through which actors frame their participation in activities influenced by external authority and communal obligation in ways that emphasize their own agency and autonomy. This revised conceptualization suggests that American individualism may not be as “deep” or powerful as is often assumed. More generally, it offers a novel approach for conceptualizing and further studying the dynamic relationship between broadly “national” and more local and communal cultures.
Keywords individualism
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DOI 10.1177/0735275115588353
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References found in this work BETA

Religion in the Public Sphere.Jurgen Habermas - 2006 - European Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):1–25.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Max Weber.C. D. Burns - 1930 - International Journal of Ethics 41 (1):119-120.
Religion in Public Action.Paul Lichterman - 2012 - Sociological Theory 30 (1):15-36.

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