Louis Dumont's Essays on Individualism is an ambitious attempt to place the modern ideology of individualism in a broad anthropological perspective. The result of twenty years of scholarship and inquiry, the interrelated essays gathered here not only trace the genesis and growth of individualism as the dominant force in Western philosophy, but also analyze the differences between this modern system of thought and those of other, nonmodern cultures. The collection represents an important contribution to Western society's understanding of itself and its place in the world.
In this comparative anthropological analysis, Louis Dumont illuminates German and French ideology, European culture, and cultural interaction. His analysis of texts by Troeltsch, Thomas Mann, Goethe, and others, against the background of previously gathered evidence and of French common notions, specify the differences—otherwise frequently but vaguely alluded to—between French and German cultures.
Anyone interested in the fate of national ideology and the concept of the individual will benefit from this radical reinterpretation of modern values and the place of modernity in history.
"What François Furet did for French history, Dumont did for anthropology, turning it away from engaged politics and towards the sober study of the modern age." —Mark Lilla, London Review of Books
"There are many fine things in Dumont's study. Beyond any doubt, his cultural anthropology of the modern spirit highlights some of the key energies of the of the last two centuries. . . . [An] impressive . . . detailed analysis." —Martin Swales, Times Higher Education Supplement
Louis Dumont's modern classic, here presented in an enlarged, revised, and corrected second edition, simultaneously supplies that reader with the most cogent statement on the Indian caste system and its organizing principles and a provocative advance in the comparison of societies on the basis of their underlying ideologies. Dumont moves gracefully from the ethnographic data to the level of the hierarchical ideology encrusted in ancient religious texts which are revealed as the governing conception of the contemporary caste structure. On yet another plane of analysis, homo hierarchicus is contrasted with his modern Western antithesis, homo aequalis.
This edition includes a lengthy new Preface in which Dumont reviews the academic discussion inspired by Homo Hierarchicus and answers his critics. A new Postface, which sketches the theoretical and comparative aspects of the concept of hierarchy, and three significant Appendixes previously omitted from the English translation complete this innovative and influential work.