AN EVEN BRIEFER LOOK AT MODERNITY
Individualism is a recent expression born of a new idea. Our fathers knew only egoism. Egoism is an exaggerated and passionate love of the self, which causes a man to relate to nothing but himself, to prefer himself above everything else. Individualism is a peaceful, reflective sentiment, which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his peers and to take himself aside with his family and friends; in this way, after having created for himself a small society suitable to his own needs, he willingly leaves the larger society to its own devices.
ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
Democracy in America
The sky is no longer falling on our heads, but the continents are drifting.
Never before has a society offered itself up so willingly as an object of study, or nourished more commentaries about itself. Modern society positively welcomes investigation; it loves to be kept under constant surveillance. As a result, a whole new class of individuals has sprung up who will not rest, it seems, until every last one of them has commented on something or other before a live audience that will laud their perspicacity and intelligence -- an audience that is more disposed than ever to listen to such self-analysis in the hope of learning everything there is to know about modern life. It's an easy hypothesis to make, but a defensible