Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The ethos of Individualism

"Pre-industrial societies have little notion of a person as a separate entity. A Nigerian psychiatrist told me that, when a psychiatric clinic was first set up in a rural district of Nigeria to treat the mentally ill, the family invariably accompanied the sufferer and insisted upon being present at the patient's interview with the psychiatrist. The idea that the patient might exist as an individual apart from the family, or that he might have personal problems which he did not want to share with them, did not occur to Nigerians who were still living a traditional village life.

In his book Social Anthropology, Sir Edmund Leach refers to "the ethos of individualism which is central to the contemporary Western society but which is notably absent from most of the societies which social anthropologists study."

Page 78, 'The Significance of the Individual', from 'Solitude', Anthony Storr

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