Front Page Titles (by Subject) Individualism & Interdependence - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1
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Individualism & Interdependence - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Individualism & Interdependence
“Individualism and Interdependence.” American Psychologist 36(1981): 762–783.
The value system of individualism which underlies many contemporary psychological theories has been criticized on the grounds that it is antithetical to social interdependence and cooperation. Critics have developed a philosophical analysis that links individualism to unscrupulous competition, atomistic self-containment, and alienation. The author argues that, on the contrary, the principles espoused by the proponents of individualism in psychology are derived from a philosophical orientation defined by eudaimonism (self-realization), freedom of choice, personal responsibility, and ethical universality involving respect for the integrity of others.
In psychology, individualistic concepts are embodied in the work of many major personality theorists: (a) Erik Erikson—a sense of personal identity including the goals, values, and beliefs to which one has made an unequivocal commitment, (b) Abraham Maslow—self-actualization involving efforts directed toward the fulfillment of the person's greatest potentialities, (c) Julian Rotter—an internal “locus of control,” the perception that important outcomes in one's life are a function of personal action rather than the result of fate, chance, or the activities of powerful others, (d) Nathaniel Branden—self-esteem including feelings of personal efficacy stemming from one's abilities and personal worth associated with the holding of values worthy of respect, and (e) Lawrence Kohlberg—principled (postconventional) moral reasoning, the judgment of moral action in terms of universalizable principles of justice.
Where the critics of individualism make a dialectical dichotomy between individual and social interests, its proponents offer the potential for transcending this dichotomy through the recognition that the ethical pursuit of self-interest can simultaneously provide benefits to others. Waterman hypothesized that the holding of individualistic values, as shown by the presence of the five psychological qualities listed above, would facilitate, not inhibit, helping, cooperation, and other prosocial behaviors. A review of the research literature provides extensive evidence for the anticipated benefits of individualistic functioning. The author cites additional evidence that if constraints on freedom are imposed in an attempt to produce cooperation or helping, the resulting feelings of psychological “reactance” will actually reduce the probability of prosocial behavior.
In light of this research, the author proposes a synergistic social ideal which, in line with individualistic values, entails the compatible incorporation of individual and social interests. Efforts to promote social interdependence and cooperation within this context may appropriately include such techniques as education, persuasion, and negotiation. However, the use of political force to compel cooperation represents the abandonment of the synergistic ideal.