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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Which comes first, the individual or the group?  What makes which?  Does the individual make the group or the group make the individual?  This seems like a pretty simple answer to me.  Beyond just the basic logic that multiple actors are usually more powerful than one single actor, it still is worth discussing given today's focus on the individual as primary.  First and foremost, groups have history, and society – as a group – is THE history (not referring to the written record of it, but all of it as it existed and became today).  An individual is born one day and does not exist prior to that moment.  Yet in examining society we mostly break a study of it down to the individual, reducing our frame of reference to singular actors and their interaction within the group.  But these actors do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in social and physical settings that existed long before them as individuals and will remain to exist long after them.  Individuals, as we like to believe them to be, do not exist as such.  The are formed by and largely reducible to the group with which they identify with.

Obviously there is an argument for which came first, the individual or the group.  It would be simple to say the individual was first and then they came to be in groups as they expanded.  A christian type religious view could support this.  Yet an evolutionary view would look at the slow evolution of entities into conscious beings that found themselves acting in groups.  Honestly, I don't see the point of this type of debate, who's basic point is trying to figure out how or why we are here – or what will happen upon the end of our time here.  I find it far more productive to focus upon now.  The time that we can see and act both upon and within.  So my point is that society exists prior to the individual.  Individual's can act upon groups, but individuals gain the ability and methods of action through socializing in groups, and thus are beholden to groups.

This being said, what does this mean about/for us as humans?  If we understand that we basically live in both groups, and one immense group, then it is in fact these groups that we must change – not the individuals within these groups – for the individuals will then change upon variations from within the group.  It is the system, the group, that creates and molds us that must be looked at and changed.  We are all but products of this system and our moment in time.

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