Individualism Old and NewAmerican Literary History It was in many ways a distillation of themes he had been developing since , when he read William James's Principles of Psychology, but it was more decisive, more pointed, in its periodization of subjectivity. In a chapter titled "The United States, Incorporated," for example, he outlined his argument as follows:. The pressing intellectual problem was then to posit a form of subjectivity consistent with the "change of social life from an individual to a corporate affair," for "the absence of mentality that is congruent with the new social corporateness that is coming into being" would only deepen and prolong the "crisis in culture" whose characteristic gesture was the embrace of "romantic individualism" by young intellectuals such as Lewis Mumford and Waldo Frank 83, , Dewey understood that the first step toward the necessary reconstruction of subjectivity was an "acceptance" of the new corporate realities. But as Kenneth Burke understood, he was not preaching conformity or promoting acquiescence. The central fact, as he saw it, was of course the profoundly corporate quality of American civilization, yet facing it meant neither sacrificing individualism nor celebrating capitalism.
Dewey tried to reconstruct the association between the individual and society within a democratic framework and he outlined a new individualism that took into account the advent of the corporate society. However, there was no way Dewey could have anticipated in the historical context in which Individualism was to be written, namely the Great Depression of the s. To fully understand what is at stake in Individualism , it is necessary to specify the kind of questions Dewey was addressing and to indicate how the course of history determined the angle that Dewey was to take to achieve his reconstruction of individualism. The first two essays were written independently and were meant to be published in the New Republic to which Dewey had been a regular contributor since At that time, Dewey already showed a very strong record as a liberal deeply committed to democratic values. During the presidential campaign, he had supported the socialist candidate, Norman Thomas. The six essays were published from January to April and were intended as a series.