The Protestant Reformation: The Development of Individualism and Americanism
Individualism is one of the premier features of Western culture, especially in the United States, where individualism has been taken to extremes by Tea Party and Libertarian philosophies with their emphasis on the individual at the expense of communal ways of thinking. A key factor in the development of individualism was the Protestant Reformation, but this has not been sufficiently stressed in most discussions of individualism. The purpose of this paper is to rectify this inadequacy by explaining how key factors during the Protestant Reformation, such as the Protestant doctrine of the “Priesthood of all Believers” and the notion that every individual should read the biblical text, were essential for the development of individualism. Martin Luther ignited a revolution that undermined the institutional foundations of the Catholic Church and fostered entirely new ways of thinking about individual rights and responsibilities. These ideas have had a profound influence on shaping the Western, notably, American character.
Thesis Supervisor: Prof. Allison Coudert