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Individualism is generally defined as the belief that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the state or social group. The term has also been used to describe individual initiative in general.

Individualism is often contrasted with Totalitarianism (with somewhat of a negative connotation) and Collectivism (with relatively neutral tone).

In addition, based on post-structuralism, and postmodernism, some suggest that disintegration of the individual to sub-individual components is either desirably more liberating and/or inevitable.

This belief, closely associated with some variants of the ideals of capitalism, libertarianism and classical liberalism, relies typically on the notion that individuals know best and that public authority[?] or society has the right to interfere in the person's decision-making process only when a very compelling need to do so arises (and maybe not even in those circumstances). This type of argument is often observed in relation to policy debates regarding regulation of industries.

Some framers of the U.S. Constitution (the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans) believed that the government should enumerate these rights in the constitution itself; this idea later led to the Bill of Rights, which was a strong stand for the individual in society.

Individualism has very strong negative connotations in certain societies and environments where it is associated with selfishness. For example, individualism is highly frowned upon in the military. In these places, the needs of the community rank higher than the needs of amy one individual.

Capitalism and Individualism

One might point out that capitalism is not based on individuals but largely based on institutions[?], and individuals' roles in those institutions are largely determined by institutions. When compared to socialist states, many of which have either collapsed or started to convert to capitalism during the late 1980s and early 1990s, capitalism is considered still individualistic. In capitalism, individuals have choices with regard to institutional affiliation (for which institution s/he works), whereas in many socialist economies workplaces, as well as place of residence, spending, and artistic and political expression, are heavily regulated or determined by the state authority.

See: self purpose, tragedy of the commons,

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