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“Feminism and Modern Friendship” by Marilyn Friedman Essay


The author Marilyn Friedman in the book “Feminism and Modern Friendship” provides a critique for the concept of individualism. In other words, individualism revolves around the argument that human beings are products of individual social atoms. Individualism denies that the identity and nature of human beings as individuals is a product of the roles of communities as well as social relationships. The theory of Individualism provides that human beings form communities that have no social bond. These communities exist because of competition and conflicts among the members. Some have considered liberalism as a vehicle used in politics to ensure preservation of human rights as well as promote the freedom of choice to individuals. Friedman in her book supports the theory of social self.

Main Body

The theory of social self revolves around the idea that social relationships as well as human communities have a fundamental role relative to their social identity. The theory of social self opposes the theory of individualism. It argues that the concept of competition and conflict are not the basis of creation of any human relationship. In fact, these concepts do not exist in the social self-theory. Other visions of human foundation such as mutual interests have replaced them. In her book, “Feminism and Modern Friendship”, Freidman associates the argument of social self with the mother child relationship. She argues that the mother child relationship is the core of the human society. She supports her argument by stating that the moral theory emerges from such a relationship. Here, we will look at the arguments made by Friedman relative to human relationships and compare them with arguments from other scholars in the same field. Among the scholars will be Thomas Nagel.

Marilyn Freidman in her book “Feminism and Modern Friendship” argues that individualism as the cornerstone of liberalization underlies some fundamental versions of liberal political theory. Scholars like Thomas Nagel do not agree to this statement. Nagel is a philosopher who supports the idea of individualism and has associated the idea with politics. In other words, relative to political matters the idea of individualism connects with liberalism. Liberalists have common political values. From this political values intellectual foundations come to existence. The political values include the rights and freedoms of an individual. The aspect of individualism comes in, as liberalists believe in atomism. Thomas Nagel in his book “Concealment and Exposure,” argues against to Friedman’s social self-theory. Nagel argues on the need for a boundary between private matters and public matters.

Nagel claims that if civilized interpersonal relationships combined with free inner life there is need for such boundaries. For example, Nagel links such circumstance with what is happening in America. Disruptive information by journalists as well as popular culture overburdens the country. The information is of private nature and therefore scrutiny as well as commentary from the public disrupts the rights and freedoms of privacy. The solution according to Nagel is the preservation of traditional liberalism. It involves the notion that public bodies as well as public political culture should refrain from interfering with opinions, private thoughts, and individual citizen preferences. According to Nagel, interference comes as regulation, promotion, and intrusion of such freedoms.

Marilyn Friedman in her book “Feminism and Modern Friendship,” points out that individualism views the aspect of humanity to be void from its social realities. In other words, human nature or identity does not exist because of their attachments, obligations, or social contexts. Philosopher Charles Taylor comes in to support Freidman. He argues that the societal influence has the capability of dictating the course human nature. Philosopher Michael Sandel suggests that individualism is a false premise that should not be the basis of any political outlook as well as human ideology. Freidman suggests several reasons on why the notion of individualism is not a suitable human ideology.

Friedman suggests that an individual’s identity may come about because of some social as well as communal attachment. For instance, when a child is undergoing its cognitive development, psychology does not view the child as his own independent contractor relative to his or her development. Research determines that cognitive development has a close link to social prescribed routines as well as social attachments.

Nagel and other philosophers who support the notion of individualism agree that individuality depends on human aims and values. The reason is that a human’s aims and values are important in determining ones nature and identity. However, Freidman in her book suggests that it is only from a social context that one can understand these aims and values. In supporting Friedman’s view, Taylor suggests that it is not sensible to analyze human beings as abstract entities. In other words, it is impractical to differentiate between the identity of a person and the values of that particular person.

Friedman further supports her theory of social self by suggesting that there exists links that are dynamic between one’s behavior and the social values in existence. However, this view from Friedman may not hold water. The reason is that an individual’s personality is not a representation of societal effects but a representation of his inner self. In a society where competition among individuals and organizations is high, it is impractical to conclude that the society instilled the competitive nature on the people. Competition in this case, comes about as an initiative by each individual to be better.

Friedman in opposing individualism advances an argument relative to its incoherence. She suggests that human beings have capacities. Having capacity entails the ability of a human being to possess rights and freedoms. However, capacity has normative consequences in that its cultivation comes from the society. The cornerstone of individualism is the primacy of rights. In this case, the obligation to be part of a society is as important as the primacy of rights. Friedman points out that asserting of rights may not guarantee an equal obligation by the society. The reason being some of the individual rights involve bringing of expenses to the society. Where such expenses involve the destruction of the society, such capacities do not work. Individuals cannot exercise the capacity in the future. Here, Individual rights that have a devastating effect on the society do not see the light of day.


In conclusion, the arguments of liberals have individualistic assumptions that result in gender biasness. In addition, it is impractical to dissociate a human being with the social realities that tend to surround him. Here, the aspect of individualism lacks a basis of reality. This raises a question regarding the viability of individualism as a source of human ideology and political outlook.

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""Feminism and Modern Friendship" by Marilyn Friedman." IvyPanda, 10 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-and-modern-friendship-by-marilyn-friedman/.

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IvyPanda. ""Feminism and Modern Friendship" by Marilyn Friedman." September 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-and-modern-friendship-by-marilyn-friedman/.


IvyPanda. 2020. ""Feminism and Modern Friendship" by Marilyn Friedman." September 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-and-modern-friendship-by-marilyn-friedman/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"Feminism and Modern Friendship" by Marilyn Friedman'. 10 September.

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