Under the banner of “I’ve got my rights” Americans have forged a government and established a way of life unparalleled in history. The “American Way” celebrates the supremacy of individual rights over the idea of community. But does this promote selfishness and a breakdown of society? Can individual choice and freedom coexist with duty and loyalty to others?
Generations of writers have grappled with the relation between individualism and community. By reading their observations and reflecting on their conclusions, we can gain a better understanding of our present-day political thought and can make judgments on where we want to go from here.
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
- The Republic by Plato
- Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
- The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The humanities scholar’s essay was written in 1984 by Allan Bloom. Dr. Bloom is Professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and specializes in the study of political philosophy.
Download the scholar’s essay, annotated book list, and supplementary texts (PDF). Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.
How-To Discussion Programming Guides
Developed to aid participants in “The Millennium Project for Public Libraries,” this how-to guide (PDF) provides basic information about developing and promoting book discussion programs.
When planning a “Let’s Talk About It” program, you may wish to consult the planner’s manual (PDF) for general how-to information about program format, selecting a scholar, promoting your series, evaluation, and more.