Perhaps, it was the pursuit of the American Dream that encouraged the rise of American individualism. Like in other societies during and after the industrial revolution, many American families were able to afford better living and luxurious lifestyles. However, another trend emerged that laid the foundation for the individualism witnessed today; access to job opportunities in urban centers severed extended family ties, which led to the preference of nuclear family units.
The genesis of American individualism can be traced to this period, because it encouraged a trend whereby individuals sought their own independence and happiness (Caldwell 172). Consequently, more and more people led separate lives often living far away from other members of their families. Education also played a big role in encouraging American individualism as evidenced by Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. It empowered individuals by opening up better career opportunities and making them financially independent. As a result, they became more and more disconnected from the traditional family set up that encouraged family life and religious values. Knowledge was responsible for watering down people’s faith in religion.
For instance, scientific discoveries encouraged a pragmatic and rational approach to life, whereby reason and empirical evidence replaced religion and superstitious beliefs. Society became more secularized, and people depended on their own power to solve life’s problems through scientific research and logical reasoning (Goldblatt 44). This formed the basis for the emergence of self-made individualism. In the American society today, self-made individualism is evident in popular cultures like music and film industries. The film industry produces movies that portray self-made individuals who rely on their own power to survive and succeed. Fiction thriller movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger portray this sense of self-made individualism, whereby an individual singlehandedly changes his destiny.
Similarly, current prominent political figures such as President Barrack Obama are living examples of self-made individualism. Obama’s rise to the American presidency portrays an individual who did not rely on religion or society, but on his own skills to overcome challenges and succeed in life. Like Benjamin Franklin, he rose from a position of disadvantage and poverty by overcoming the challenges of being a black person in a dominantly white society. His success is a shining testimony of self-made individualism at its height.