Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture
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Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture

What it Means to Take Japan Seriously

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker

Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture brings together Ronald Dore’s key writings for the first time, making his work accessible across a wide range of social science disciplines. It produces a distinctive perspective with four interlinking themes – technology-driven social evolution, late development, culture and polemics. These are highly topical in the current context of rapid technological innovation and socio-economic change, globalization and accompanying policy choices.
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Chapter 14: Individualism: its growth and future*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


In my last lecture I spoke of a market-as-second-best view typically held by British social democrats - the view that on most of [the issues discussed] the community option was in principle to be preferred to the individualistic one, but the price … - in bureaucracy and inefficiency - was just too high. I distinguished between that and what I called the Thatcherite position which is that on most of these issues the individualistic option is intrinsically preferable. THE ECONOMIC DETERMINISM STORY But the point I wish to make here is that on all the issues I have listed we do, in our modern societies, see ourselves as having real choices, often painful choices, between individualistic and collectivistic solutions. They are issues we can get passionate about, and they are issues on which elections can be won or lost. But there is a view that, although we may seem to have a free choice, the outcomes of all these debates are in fact determined; the level of individualism in a society, the level of self-seeking, emotional ungroupishness, self-reliance or antiauthoritarianism - to use the sub-categories of individualism which I introduced in my previous lecture - are in fact given by history. The argument is a little more specific than the general philosophical arguments for determinism and the nature of the illusion of free will. That argument is about sequential causation - the thesis that every event has a set of ascertainable causes preceding it in time. The historians’ argument about the...

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