Definition of Individual
(noun) A single human being.
- American English – /in-duh-vIj-uh-wuhl/
- British English – /in-di-vIj-uuhl/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˌɪndəˈvɪdʒ(ə)wəl/
- British English – /ˌɪndᵻˈvɪdʒʊəl/
- Plural: individuals
- “All individuals are embedded in networks of social relations; that is, everybody knows somebody. Social capital focuses attention on differential access to opportunities though social connections. Individual and family social connections mediate access to educational, occupational, and economic opportunity” (McNamee and Miller 2013:77).
- “Although you should be careful not to commit the ecological fallacy, don’t let these warnings lead you into committing what we might call the individualistic fallacy. Some people who approach social research for the first time have trouble reconciling general patterns of attitudes and actions with individual exceptions. But generalizations and probabilistic statements are not invalidated by such exceptions. Your knowing a rich Democrat, for example, doesn’t deny the fact that most rich people vote Republican—as a general pattern. Similarly, if you know someone who has gotten rich without any formal education, that doesn’t deny the general pattern of higher education relating to higher income” (Babbie 2011:108).
- “[A]spects of social life . . . cannot be explained in terms of the biological or mental characteristics of the individual. People experience social facts as external to themselves in the sense that facts have an independent reality and form a part of people’s objective environment” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:13).
- “If, as we have just seen, excessive individualism leads to suicide, insufficient individualism produces the same effects. When man is detached from society, he can easily kill himself, and this is also the case when he is too strongly integrated in society” (Durkheim  2004:77).
- “Social life derives from a dual source, the similarity of consciousness and the social division of labour. In the first case the individual is socialized because, in the absence of any real individuality, he is united with others with whom he shares a common likeness, becoming part of the same collective type; in the second case, because, while having an appearance and personal activity which distinguish him from others, he is dependent on them to the extent that he is distinguished from them, and consequently upon the society which results from this combination” (Durkheim  2004:32).
- “[S]uicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of the social groups to which the individual belongs” (Durkheim  2004:106).
- “The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos into which the individual is born, and which presents itself to him, at least as an individual, as an unalterable order of things in which he must live. It forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the system of market relationships, to conform to capitalistic rules of action. The manufacturer who, in the long run, acts contrary to these norms, will just as inevitably be eliminated from the economic scene as the worker who cannot or will not adapt himself to them will be thrown into the streets without a job” (Weber [1904–5] 1930:19–20).
- “The long history of deliberate discrimination against racial and ethnic groups in America belies the American ideology of individual freedom and equality of opportunity. From the near genocide of Native Americans to the banishment of survivors to reservations, to the importation and enslavement of Africans, to the subsequent Jim Crow legislation that legalized racial segregation and unequal opportunity in the South, to exclusionary acts and discriminatory immigration quotas, to land displacement of Mexican Americans, to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, to current forms of residential, occupational, and educational discrimination against various minorities, the American experience has for many been more of an American Nightmare than an American Dream” (McNamee and Miller 2013:180).
- Role Theory Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “individual” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “The Division of Labour in Society.” Pp. 19–38 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “Suicide.” Pp. 65–83 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Weber, Max. [1904–5] 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by T. Parsons. London: Allen and Unwin.
Note: Page number is from a reprinted edition, Routledge Classics (2001).
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).
Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “individual.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2022 (https://sociologydictionary.org/individual/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
individual. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/individual/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “individual.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed September 29, 2022. https://sociologydictionary.org/individual/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“individual.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 29 Sep. 2022. <https://sociologydictionary.org/individual/>.