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Posted on May 1st, 2014, by

This paper is meant to discuss Habits of the Heart written by Robert Bellah. The discussion will be based the textbook American Politics in Peril by William Hudson. William Hudson holds that Americans, in becoming more preoccupied with own personal rights and interests, have forgotten how significant societal structures and relations are in preserving and enhancing a democracy of, by, and for the human beings. He asserts radical individualism is not merely present in the society, but is severely harmful to it. Robert Bellah in his book Habits of the Heart agrees, and suggests insight into how to smoothly soften American hearts back towards appreciation of and participation in public living.

First of all, it is crucial to describe US individualism, and note what its general merits are. Individualism is a traditional liberal notion, which places the individual at the core of the political social order. Hudson acknowledges that American individualism has great worth, and immigrants may attest to the benefits of living in a society in which person may lead to success regardless of social or caste status. Also, individualism results in freedom for human beings to express themselves, leading to the creative and also dynamic society (Hudson, 111). Nevertheless, Hudson treats the USA moving in the direction of becoming a society of isolated individuals, who do not value or take accountability for the social structures, which serve and support them, but care only for own interests. This radical individualism may corrode society greatly (Hudson, 108). Hudson presents suburbanization as the main ground for the rise of individualism.

Hudson thinks the failure of Americans to contribute effectively and meaningfully in public living is highly due to the preoccupation with own rights. Political debate centers around rights talk, and chief public troubles remain unresolved. Rights talk usually goes nowhere, as rights may be claimed for any attitude. In the case of abortion, the right of the fetus to existence and the right of the female presents 2 logically incompatible rights (Hudson, 130). If people talked less about rights, and more about public policies to relieve females from the burden associated with child-bearing, abortion would be not so serious issue. One more trouble with the population’s desire for rights is the American lack of desire to take any social accountability. People see rights as an individual possession, which has nothing to do with the social order or their own political participation. For instance, Americans enjoy the right to trial but jury, but no one wishes to serve as jurors (Hudson, 129).

The radical individualism of Americans has only been harmful to society in the USA. Even politics is influenced: politicians have to respond to self-interested demands or else they will lose any support. Politicians no longer get any advantage out of attempting to obtain the public good: the radical individualism of the USA causes journalists to see just selfish political ambitions rousing politicians in the actions (Hudson, 129). This journalism increases the distrust individualistic people have towards administration, as politicians are treated as competitors. All in all, together with distrust of administration, populace feels alienation from the government. They fail to see how larger structures influence their microsocial lives (Hudson, 116).

Robert Bellah agrees that radical individualism has become a profoundly widespread attitude, but that it must be altered. Bellah asserts people have to link interests with a notion of the general good. With a more clear acknowledgement of what we possess in common and the aims we seek to obtain together, the dissimilarities between us that remain would be not so threatening (Bellah, 287). This alteration in attitude, he believes, only appears through increased political discourse in society, most likely through a stronger party system. Hudson would most likely agree with Robert Bellah concerning strengthening the political parties to provoke discourse and stronger societal bonds.

Bellah advocates far more radical reform to decrease radical individualism. He thinks people have to reduce the punishments of failure and the rewards of success (Bellah, 287). He carries on further to assert that lessening the excessive rewards of ambition and the excessive fears of finishing up as losers would suggest the chance of a great alteration in the meaning of work in the social order and all that would go with such an alteration (Bellah, 287). Work would be redefined as input to the rest of society, and profession would not longer be about one’s personal success. Nevertheless, Bellah admits that resolving the issue of radical individualism will not be easy. A multitude of institutional, educational, and motivational alterations will have to be made over a long period of time (Bellah, 289). I agree with Hudson and Bellah that radical individualism is on a rise, and that population does need to demonstrate more accountability for administration, and become more rational about the rights they want.

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