There's no such thing as society… only individuals and families.

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This famous Margaret Thatcher quote is philosophical twaddle. The same principle then applies to government, corporations, religions, etc. It is based on the unscientific and fallacious claim that individuals are the only valid level of analysis, common to the methodological individualism of Austrian Economics.

Margaret Thatcher meant that she wanted people to take care of themselves privately rather than rely on government. However, many libertarians take this sort of thing literally and simplistically. Both ignore the idea of Social Capital, which is in large part due to government.


Philosophical Individualism (10 links)
Individualism is merely one viewpoint in an enormous hierarchy of viewpoints ranging from Planck length to the universe. Individualism as a tenet of a philosophy transforms that philosophy into a Procrustean bed that cannot model the real world well, because the real world is not based on individuals.
A Dim View of Libertarianism, Part II: The Myth of Social Atomism [More...]
The liberal replies that this denial of the very existence of “society” and “the public” is reductionism, plain and simple – what the Brits call “nothing-buttery.” It is comparable to saying that Hamlet is “nothing but” words, that Beethoven’s music is “nothing but” notes, that the Mona Lisa is “nothing but” pigments on canvas, and that the human brain is “nothing but” cells and electro-chemical events.
Myth: There's no such thing as society… only individuals and families. [More...]
Perhaps the first important thing to note is that these are semantic games. Society is a "collection of individuals," even formally defined... The belief that humans are autonomous individuals leads to a logical error called the "fallacy of composition."
Social Capital (5 links)
"Social capital is a form of economic and cultural capital in which social networks are central, transactions are marked by reciprocity, trust, and cooperation, and market agents produce goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good." (Wikipedia) The answer to Margaret Thatcher's rhetorical "There's no such thing as society… only individuals and families."
What’s the Matter With Libertarianism? [More...]
"Its models of human nature and society are terminally deficient."


[W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
George Orwell, "Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell"
One problem with this (utopian) model is we now have overwhelming evidence that the individualistic, acquisitive, selfish-gene model of human nature is seriously deficient; it is simplistic, one-sided, and in reality, resembles the pathological extremes among the personality traits that we find in our society. The evidence about human evolution indicates that our species evolved in small, close-knit social groups in which cooperation and sharing overrode our individual, competitive self-interests for the sake of the common good. We evolved as intensely interdependent social animals, and our sense of empathy toward others, our sensitivity to reciprocity, our desire for inclusion and our loyalty to the groups we bond with, the intrinsic satisfaction we derive from cooperative activities, and our concern for having the respect and approval of others all evolved in humankind to temper and constrain our individualistic, selfish impulses (as Darwin himself pointed out in The Descent of Man).
Peter Corning, "What’s the Matter With Libertarianism?"
Indeed, libertarians generally have no model of society as an interdependent group with a common purpose and common interests. For instance, the canonized conservative economist Friedrich Hayek posited a stark choice between two alternative models—either a "free market" of atomized individuals rationally pursuing their self-interests in transactional relationships or an authoritarian, coercive "state" that seeks control over us.
Peter Corning, "What’s the Matter With Libertarianism?"