Recovery of the lost individual: a Deweyan examination of individuality and community

Authors
Nakia Pope
University of Virginia (PhD)
Abstract
In 1929 - 1930, John Dewey wrote a series of essays which became the work "Individualism Old and New.'' In this work, he describes a type of individual which he terms "lost.'' The lost individual is disconnected, disoriented, and disassociated. It can find no sense of identity, place, or purchase in a culture which is rapidly changing from an agrarian, frontier culture into an industrial, corporate one. Dewey discusses the plight of the lost individual, the cultural forces that create it, and some possible methods of recovery of the lost individual in "Individualism Old and New.'' In this paper, I will demonstrate that Dewey's diagnosis of the lost individual holds as true for our turn-of-the-millenium culture as it did for Dewey's 1930 America. This will be accomplished by situating the problem of the lost individual within a larger context of Dewey's philosophy. What it means to be an individual will be examined in order to determine how such individuals come to be lost. For Dewey, individuality is derived from experience within a social context. To this end, when an individual's social context is disrupted or not conducive to forming integral relationships and transactions with experience, the individual is lost. For recovery to occur, integral associations must be formed. Such associations are not the ones offered by the corporate associations that dominate our society today. Rather, assured individuality is the result of an individual participating in a community. The recovery of the lost individual is only possible through its integration into a community
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