The human individual whom the representatives of the middle-class revolution have consecrated as the ultimate unity and the end of society bore in him values in stark contrast with those which took hold of the society of today. If one tried to gather a single concept the different religious, political and economic currents that forged the notion of the individual in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, one could define this individual as the subject of a certain number of norms and standards. values on which no external authority should have control. These norms and values related to the most appropriate forms of social and personal life for the full development of human capacities and faculties.
As a result, they constituted the “truth” of his individual and social existence. It was considered that every individual, as a rational being, was able to discover these forms of life by his own thought and that once this freedom of thought he was able to direct his action in view of their actualization. The task devolved on society was then to guarantee these freedoms to the individual and to remove the obstacles to his rational action.
The principle of individualism, the pursuit of individual interests, was implied by the idea that individual interests were rational, that is, that they were the result of autonomous thought, that they were guided and controlled by it. This rational individual interest did not coincide with the immediate interest of the individual who depended on the norms and demands of the social order in force, which order did not find its origin in autonomous thought and consciousness. but in the external authority. In the context of radical Puritanism, the principle of individualism placed the individual in opposition to society.
Men had to shatter the system of ideas and norms received in order to find and seize those that conformed to their rational interest. They had to live in a state of constant vigilance, anxiety and criticism in order to reject the false and the irrational. In a society still irrational and based on false principles, such an attitude of a free man criticizing the established order, seeking to discover the truth and to put it into effect, constituted in itself a principle of agitation and opposition. This theme has never been so well illustrated as in this image of Milton “(…) a race of deceivers, who (…) took the virgin Truth, trimmed her beauty into a thousand pieces, and dispersed them to the four winds. Ever since that time the grieving friends of the Truth, at least those who dared to show themselves, imitating this careful search of Isis to find the mutilated body of Osiris, went and came gathering one limb after another according as they found them .
John Milton, Areopagitica, in Political Writings, Paris, … Such was the principle of individual rationality.
The concrete realization of individualism presupposed an appropriate economic and social context, that is to say an environment suited to individuals whose work would be largely responsible for their social success. It has been held that liberal society is such a framework for individualism. In the sphere of free competition, the tangible achievements of the individual, which has made its products and its action ( performancePart of the very needs of society were the mark of his individuality. Over time, however, the process of producing goods has come to undermine the economic bases upon which individual rationality was built. Mechanization and rationalization have forced the weakest competitors under the domination of giant mechanized enterprises which, by realizing the domination of nature by man, have abolished the free economic subject .