Towards the close of the nineteenth century, traditional individualism became almost dead, and there took place great increase in the activities of the state, and control by it. Though there was some justification for increase in the functions and activities of state, modern individualism raised its voice against excessive control and regulation of individual by state.
There were mainly two factors of the growth of modern individualism.
1. The modern society is highly complex, and this has accounted for big increase in the activities of state. But, despite this, there is also the need of self-regulating, autonomous groups and associations. These groups and associations significantly contribute to the various developments of individuals.
2. Modern individualism is a protest against excessive increase in the powers of the state. The more complex the society, the larger the sphere of activity of state and the more powerful it is. The excess of power-play by state is a curtailment of the liberty and rights of individuals.
Therefore, the proponents of modern individualism support the autonomy of groups and associations and oppose state’s monopoly over power. They are opposed to war and economic plans which, in their view, give more powers to state and reduce and curtail freedoms and rights of individual. They argue that groups and associations have ‘real personality’ and that the power of state to control them should be reduced.
It is argued that the state is only a piece of administrative machinery and that its function is to coordinate activities of groups and associations, and adjust their conflicting claims. It is further argued that state is just one of many associations and it cannot claim monopoly over the allegiance of people.
Norman Angel, Graham Wallas, Ms Follet, and Belloc were the founders of modern individualism. The individual accepts the state because of moral, economic, social and such other considerations.
But his personality experiences healthy growth through coordinated groups and associations. Modern individualism believed that groups and associations can substantially help in finding solution to the problems faced by the individual and expediting social progress.
Classical individualism is no longer acceptable as a theory of sphere of state activity. Prof. Laski argues that classical individualism declined mainly because of what he calls, ‘moral inadequacy.’ He says, “Individualism means poor health, underdeveloped intelligence, miserable homes and work in which broadly speaking the majority can find no source of human interests.”
However, though classical individualism has declined, it has to be recognised that it has enriched political thought by emphasizing the importance of the liberty of the individual.
Individualism will stay because the individual is at its centre. However, some significant changes have taken place in response to the changes which have occurred in the condition of society / state in course of time. Individualism has to adjust to the need of compromise between the interest of individual and social good.