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The History of Individualism – an evening lecture with Dr Steve Davies

Libertarian Home is hosting an evening lecture next week with Dr Steve Davies called ‘the History of Individualism’ in London.

Most libertarians would agree that to build a free society “we wouldn’t start from here”, but we here we are. Dr Davies will put the present rise of libertarian politics into context and show how the progress of liberty, and the words used to describe it, have changed through the ages. Dr Steve Davies is a historian, a PhD, and Education Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

This inaugural lecture takes place in the Griffin Room above the Counting House pub, a first class meeting space in The City.

The event will be catered for with a buffet of pub fare sponsored by the Pro Liberty Party.

Formality begins at 8 and will be concluded by 9. Please RSVP.

7:00 pm, Monday June 17th
The Counting House
50 Cornhill, London EC3V 3PD (map)

This event is highly recommended if you are in the London area. Several Samizdatistas will be there to hear the lecture.

11 comments to The History of Individualism – an evening lecture with Dr Steve Davies

  • Thanks Perry. Much obliged, though I fear by Samizdatista standards “first class” may have been an exaggeration.

  • Alex Delarge

    Hmm, that does look interesting! Might even drag the trouble-n-strife along with me!

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps (as people have been pointing out for a long time) “voluntarism” would be a better word than “individualism”. After all it is one of the classic LIES of the left that pro liberty peoople are “atomistic individualists” – whereas we are in fact pro voluntary cooperation (both commercial and noncommercial) and against “cooperation” based on the threat of force.

    However, there is the point of “methodolgical individualism” – i.e. that all theories of worth about human affairs (not just economics) must start with flesh and blood individuals (not collective abstractions).

  • Midwesterner


    Every word can be turned into a pejorative. Rather than fighting word wars on successive hilltops, I prefer to select a word with good roots and provenance that best captures the most essential element and then defend it.

    “Individualism” is that word. When well meaning people have swallowed the whole “atomistic” thing without thought, a bit of logic can sway some of them. If we individualists are in fact “atomistic” then they have absolutely nothing to fear from us because we are incapable of conspiring to do anything. On the other hand, if they are afraid of us, they are tacitly acknowledging that we are not “atomistic” but are in fact prone to cooperate. The difference between us and, say social democrats, is that we reject the use of force to compel ‘cooperation’. Often that will lead to a discussion of the merits and consequences of giving political systems/politicians the authority to use force.

    If whoever you are debating is particularly neuron deprived, just keep reminding them that we reject using force and point them at some competing corporatist villain who is eying their turf with intent to use force. When internecine (current usage) collectivist strife turns internecine in the original sense, our job is to stay out of the way and try not to be collateral damage. Something about praying for a meteor.

  • Paul Marks

    Mid – you make a lot of good points.

    However, I still believe that (apart from methodological individualism) the terms “individualism” and “individualist” are just not very descriptive for people whose basic belief is voluntary cooperation (both commercial and noncommercial).

    After all there is nothing automatically unlibertarian about churches, clubs, commercial companies, and so on – as long as they are voluntary.

  • Midwesterner

    “Voluntary” is only continuously available when the individual is the highest level of being. While it is possible to voluntarily abandon ones status as an individual, it is not possible to voluntarily abandon ones status as a part of a collective. The collective must consent for you to return to being an individual.

    At root, the deep dichotomy is “what is the highest level of being, the individual or the collective?”

    “Voluntary” only describes how one get to their desired level of being, not what that desired level is. As the warden in Prince Caspian said: “Many fall down, and few return to the sunlit lands.”

    Putting the discussion and the terminology used into the context of the deepest dichotomy avoids conflating means (voluntary v. compulsion) with ends (free individuals v. collectives).

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Here is another term for you; Co-Autonomy. The motto should be ‘Share Power’. Centralists want to hoard power so they can then ‘share’ money around, even though money would then be valueless in a centralised society- so let’s get to the real issue, and share power to all citizens! I think we should have time-share government, i.e. if you choose to be a citizen of your local county/canton, then you take turns in the local militia or other volunteer brigades (firefighting, community services?) for eleven months of a year, and this would give you the right to be in government for one month of each year. Co-autonomy grants us all the same power to rule ourselves, individually and collectively.

  • Mid, as someone who shares your semantic discomfort with the term ‘capitalism’, can you give me a semantic justification for your choice of alternative terms – i.e. ‘philosophical’/’civil’ anarchism?

  • Oops, wrong thread – will repost at the correct one. Mea maxima culpa:-O

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I think that ‘Free Anarchist’ should be the term of choice for some libertarians. They are free from communal rule (many anarchists are really communists), and the ‘free’ part also points to Free enterprize.