Beyond Individualism: Reconstituting the Liberal Self

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Jack Crittenden examines the debate in political theory about the true conception of human nature. On the one hand is the concept of the liberal self which is self-contained, atomistic, even selfish; on the other hand is the notion of the communitarian self which is socially situated and defined in part by one's community. Crittenden argues that neither view is acceptable and draws on recent psychological research to develop a theory of 'compound individuality'. The compound individual retains the liberal emphasis on personal autonomy, without the association of autonomy with self-sufficiency. Crittenden concludes by reflecting on what kinds of political institutions will invite commitment and reflection from 'compound individuals'.