Individual and Society

Topics: Culture, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Individualism Pages: 4 (1232 words) Published: February 16, 2013
Essay 1
Is involvement or interaction with one’s society necessary for the growth of the individual? This is a difficult ongoing social issue, one addressed by both Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Self-Reliance” and Ruth Benedict in “The Individual and the Pattern of Culture” They both think that the society and the individual are inseparable, but they have two sharply different approaches. Compared to Emerson, Benedict emphasizes individuals and their interaction with their local culture, while Emerson stresses nonconformity. The social authority is the creation of the individual, fabricated through collective and shared values in order to protect one’s rights to life, liberty, and property. The function of the social authority is to maintain the aforementioned value, which is how it influences future individuals via laws and cultures that repress that differing values from the norm. Benedict combines cultural influences towards the individual and considered culture differences. Also, she brought in individual psychology and social construction. On the other hand, Emerson raised an important idea: self-reliance. He thinking every one of us is a genius and that we only need to trust ourselves. The points in Emerson’s and Benedict’s essays seems to contrast against each other, but in fact they have a strong connection and Benedict’s essay can actually help us understand Emerson’s point. Benedict combines the social situation so that she can makes Emerson’s point clearer because she said we do not have to conform to society, but if we are unhappy, we can stand out, as Emerson advises. But even Emerson’s rejection of society reveals that he has been influenced by it, since it has always stressed individuality. Both authors have differing views about the role of the individual’s interaction with society. As Emerson mentioned in his essay: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men—that is genius” (259-260)....

References: Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance." A World of Ideas: Essential
Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2002. 255-69. Print.
Jacobus, Lee A. "Benedict, Ruth. The Individual and the Pattern of Culture." A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2002.
301-23. Print.
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