This essay examines social relations and cultural values in the United States, paying special attention to recent characterizations of Americans as increasingly isolated, disconnected, and dangerously individualistic. In this essay, I refute such claims. And building on earlier work (Cerulo, 2002), I show that U.S. social relations and cultural values are more multifaceted than such "new individualism" arguments suggest. Indeed, as Robin M. Williams Jr. discovered 50 years ago, when studied in a systematic way, U.S. values and beliefs present us with a multiplex system - a system in which individualism plays only a supporting role. This is true, I suggest, because Americans' "value focus" - that is, the prioritization of one value over another - shifts in concert with certain social events and structural conditions. In this way, we can think of U.S. values as part of a "cultural toolkit," with actors selecting or foregrounding the values needed to support certain strategies of action.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- American society
- Robin M. Williams Jr.
- Social relations