What Is an Individualistic Political Culture?

An individualistic political culture is one where individual liberties and the right to pursue personal happiness are the dominant concerns and primary political virtues. Philosophically, these values are perhaps best represented by the position known as libertarianism.

In libertarianism, the moral, political, legal and economic autonomy of the individual is paramount. Notions of the right to private property, generating wealth, self-reliance and the privilege of political participation are equally sacred. As such, individualistic political cultures celebrate democracy and liberal values above all and view expansive government intervention and regulatory controls with distrust. Consequently, the political system in an individualistic political culture is as small and unobtrusive as possible, and it exists solely to protect those rights enshrining the individual, such as rights to free speech, assembly, religion, press, property and self-determination. Additionally, such a political culture supplies little to no intervention in economic domains.

The opposite of an individualistic political culture would be one that emphasizes the importance of the group or community over that of the individual. Historically, strong examples exist in various communist or socialist experiments, for example, in 20th century China or the Soviet Union. In these cases, notions of private property and libertarianism were forfeited in favor of policies that ostensibly offered distributive justice, the elevation of poor and working classes to parity with the wealthy, and growth agendas that stressed the political, social and economic homogeneity of the nation.