Individualism espouses four basic ideas: (1) the intrinsic value, or dignity, of the individual human being; (2) individual autonomy or self-direction; (3) privacy, or the freedom to be left alone from outside interference; and (4) the right and duty of self-development (pertinent to most conceptualizations of individualism). The normative conceptualization of individualism includes, at a minimum, these four elements, whereas the methodological definition (equally important but not the main focus of this entry) has a different emphasis. Methodological individualism refers to the idea that individuals—rather than some collective—constitute the ultimate unit of analysis in the social sciences. In other words, based loosely on definitions provided by Friedrich Hayek and George Homans, there is no other way to understand social phenomena but through our understanding ...

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