The idea of the independent, self-determining individual has been central to the defence of diversity and difference, but it has also been used to defend the established order. There are three overlapping fields of discourse. Moral individualism is a view of how people should be treated, based on independence, rights, personal liberty and moral responsibility. Methodological individualism is a way of understanding the world, either considering people as individuals, or in its stronger versions denying other, collective forms of analysis. The most important approaches are based either on average individuals or on the model of a rational, self-interested individual. Substantive individualism is a view that there are only individuals, and there is no such thing as society. These three discourses overlap, but they are separable; there is no necessary reason why someone who accepts individualist concepts in one respect should adopt the others.
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