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The Social Science Journal 40 (2003) 269-281




The postmodern state and collective individualism:

a comparative look at Israeli society and western consumer culture

Meira Z. Weiss

Department o f Sociology and Anthropology, The Hebrew University o f Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel


The paradigmatic Western social change from collectivism to individualism is explored in this paper through the discourse of bodily signification in Israeli society. Describing how the concepts of the “collective body” and the “individual body” can be theorized and practiced, the study reconstructs the gradual replacement of the former by the latter in Israeli society as a historical process, which was disrupted by the G ulf War. Israeli society is thus used as a case study illustrating a broader perspective on Western society and questioning the discourse of “individualism” in the postmodern. © 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Inc.

The collective (state, nation, class, factory, family) underpinned the modernist project, while “the individual” is the trademark of post modernity. This statement, which can be heard from both professional sociologists (e.g., Giddens, 1984. 1991) and laypersons alike, has to do with two major processes. First, the gradual crystallization of the individual as a social category, which has been constituted— to mention only a few׳ major influences— through po- litical liberalism (Pizzomo, 1992). capitalism (Abercrombie. Hill, & Turner. 1986) and the philosophical-literary modern tradition (Carrithers, Collins, & Lukes, 1987). Second, if post- modernism is an “order of signification” whose definition is not intrinsic but extrinsic, that is, defined as opposed to something else (namely modernism), then the emphasis on “individua- lism” should be viewed as an antithesis to modernist collectivism. Hassan (1985) “defines” postmodernism as consisting of antiform, play, chance, anarchy, deconstruction, difference, contingency and irony— as opposed to the modernist quest for form, purpose, design, hierar- chy, totalization, significance and truth-values. One should add “collectivism” to the second list and put “individualism” in the first. Things, however, are evidently not so simple. Postmodernism defies monolithic definitions because it is multifaceted. It emphasizes the legitimacy of otherness, while at the same time pathologizing. medicalizing, demonizing and

0362-3319/03/S - see front matter © 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Inc. doi: 10.1016/S0362-3319(03)00008-9


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criminalizing "the different” (e.g., Schweder. 1993). Postmodernism is an era of global commu- nities enmeshed in ethnicity, of dissolving boundaries of space-tim e as well as growing personal anonymity, of secularization and fundamentalism. In short, an era of contradictions. “Postmod- em ist Individualism.” whatever it may stand for, is no exception. Indeed, postmodernism— considered as the culmination of the modernist ideology of the individual— has also been accused of the ”death of the individual” (e.g., Foucault. 1970; more recently Ashley, 1990). As in anything postmodern, a disillusioned sociologist can no longer inspire to perform an all-embracing analysis of the subject at hand; accordingly, this analysis will not venture to encompass the whole gamut of “postmodernist individualism.” but rather to say something of one of its manifestations. My argument in this paper is that postmodernist individualism is to a large extent dominated by collectivism. “Collectivism” is still the dominant frame of reference of the “discourse of civil society” (Alexander, 1992; Alexander & Smith, forthcoming), in which variegated individualistic practices are expressed. Those pseudoindividualistic practices are in fact built on mechanisms of collectivization, repuritanization and social regulation. I call this brand of postmodernist individualism “collective individualism.” This argument is not new to postmodernist sociology. In the first part of the paper, it will be shown to interconnect (consciously or otherwise) sociological studies of various cultural activities which characterize the "individualistic” side of contemporary society. The second part will further explore a particular version of the meaning of “collective individualism” in Israeli society. The third and concluding part will offer to connect the Israeli case, with its particular socio-historical factors, to the global cultural scene.

1. Postmodern practices of collective individualism

In a recent anthology about “the body” (Featherstone. Hep worth, & Turner, 1991), two papers— concerning diet and consumerism— are notable examples of what I call collective individualism. Both deal with social practices, which are both markedly “individualistic” as well as “postmodern.” Dietary practices are part of individual conduct and. furthermore, bear a close relation to the individual’s body. However, when Turner (1991) scrutinizes the discourse of diet, he considers it from a Foucauldian viewpoint, as part of the constitution of the “disci- plined body” in postmodern society. “Religious asceticism and medical diets,” writes Turner (1991, p. 160), “are both governments of the body.” Just as the Church, according to Foucault (1980), provided the believer with a powerful “technology” of subjugation— the confession— so the new government of the body, according to Turner, provides its believers with diet. The “confessional animal” and the “dietary animal” are thus both examples of a “homo docilis” who regards his/her “duties” as an inner demand, and not the effect of an external power, which constrains him. “Diet” is the confession, the punishment and the indulgence, all in one piece. Moreover, both the ideal it strives to reach (the “beautiful body”) and the means of achieving it (the dietetic method) are collectively shared. The “ideal body” is part of the media. Holly- wood, glamorous models and other idols of collective worshiping; the dieting body consists of fixed prescriptions, socially exchanged and collectively obeyed. “The government of the body,” writes Turner (1991, p. 160), “is couched in a series of instructions and command-

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ments. namely the dietary table, the manual of exercise and the food chart. Dietary compendia thus represent an interesting illustration of the rationalization of behavior.” Furthermore, it is the collective nature of the “ideal body’' that explains the popularity of dietary groups. Since the ideal body is a collective symbol, different individuals can “work” together in order to attain it. Dietary management is thus also a collective performance. Collective performance is noticeable in yet another postmodern discipline of the body, namely body “building.” This is also an example of a pseudoindividualistic practice, which in fact conceals a regulative, collective ideal. A French sociologist. Jean-Jacques Courtine (1993.

p. 245), analyzed that practice (which he considers as characteristically A m erican)1as reflecting

what he calls “the narcissist moment of the culture of the body in the U.S

not to a laissez-faire hedonism, but to a regulative discipline, an intensified control. It is a form

which corresponds

of repuritanization. a collective tyranny of the anatomic detail.” Not only bodybuilding, but also its more modest relative, fitness, is conducted as a public and collective ritualized performance (see also Glassner. 1988: Lasch, 1979; Grover, 1989). It is a fast-growing business, with its collective shrines— the “health” clubs— making more than USS 5 billions in 1987 (diet foods, by the way, grossed USS 74 billion that year, see Brand. 1988). Frequently throughout the 1980s. exercise videocassettes have appeared on weekly billboard lists of the 10 top selling home video products (Morse, 1987/1988), and magazines such as American Health. Prevention and Self each report circulation in excess of one million. Barry Glassner. discussing fitness and the postmodern self (Glassner, 1989, p. 183). writes that “even when fitness is pursued privately, in one’s home, the body is commonly experienced by way of conceptual looking glasses— by how it is interpreted in comparison to images of bodies in the media, and how it is commented upon by others. In post modernity, the person experiences his or her own body within the collective context of a media environment of repeating images (see Baudrillard, 1987). “Staying in shape” is not an individualist conviction, but a collective mantra, and its justifications are accordingly taken from the collective sphere: “Staying in shape,” reads the headline of the lead article in Self, November 1987. “can help keep your relationship in shape too.” Another example o f a so-called individualist practice that revolves around the body is, of course, fashion.2׳־' Since Blumer (1969) developed his seminal theory of fashion as “collective selection,” there have been structural changes in the apparel marketplace. These changes can be examined as yet another illustration of the shift from modernist collectivism to postmod- emist “collective individualism.” What do these changes consist of? “The pace of fashion has increased Most fundamentally, the increasingly complex range and nature of simultane- ously “fashionable” styles of clothing and personal appearance point to the possibility that “collective selection” is not as straightforward as it was once. The postmodern cultural con- text allows for (and perhaps demands) a kind of stylistic eclecticism” (Kaiser, Nagasawa. & Hutton. 1991, p. 167). Does this imply that fashion is now an individualist choice? No. “Our cultural, collective relationship with fashion have merely shifted from serial monogamy to serial polygamy.” (Kaiser. Nagasawa. & Hutton 1991. p. 167). Fashion (see also Barthes, 1983: Wilson. 1985) as well as the “fan culture” of pop music and the various body-tending practices are all “channels of desire” (Stuart & Ewen, 1982)— pseudoindividualistic practices collectively performed under the guise of mass images and in pursuit of some shared ideal. Music is my last addition to this short list of “collective


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individualist” practices just mentioned. It is a collective ceremonial among young individuals, complete with its own set of magical compendia (i.e., posters, albums, clothes), ritualized ac- tivities and public worshipping, which constitute “fan culture” (Whiteley. 1992). Furthermore, these practices are all major items on the list of postmodem consumerism. “Mass consumption” obviously denotes the existence of many individuals, who consume a similar line of productions in a shared symbolic marketplace (see Tomlinson, 1992; Shields, 1992). The democratization of the leisure market (which was once a privilege of the upper classes) yielded the spread of advertising, which now constitute the main venue to our collective “channels of desire.” Consumer culture, though focusing on the individual as its primary unit (of consumption), has nevertheless “collectivized” it through the process of commodification and reification (in the neo-Marxist sense, see Lukacs, 1971; Adorno. 1991; for more recent interpretation of the classic neo-M arxist outlook, see Jameson. 1983). In what follows, I turn to the Israeli case to illustrate a different brand of collective individ- ualism. which is not the result of a consumer culture. The above list of consumerist practices will hence be replaced with other practices, while the common theme of collective individu- alism will be taken again in the conclusion, in an attempt to discuss it as an almost inevitable consequence of the rising of the modem state vis-a-vis the crystallization of the individual through the practices of citizenship.

2. The Israeli case: collective individualism in the interrupted system

2.1. Historical background

Sociologists studying Israeli society have suggested that it has gone through a two-stage transition: from collectivism to individualism. The stage of collectivism, characterizing the intensive period of nation building, is argued to have gradually changed, approximately since 1973, to a new ambience of individualism (see Lissak & Hurowitz. 1989; Eisenstadt. 1985). Nineteen hundred and seventy three, with its October War. was the antithesis to the Six Days War (1967); Israel managed to rebut its enemies, but the war had long-lasting effects in terms of devaluing the militaristic ethos and the disappointment with the Labor government (see Kimmerling. 1985). The descent of militarism, one of the cornerstones of Israeli collectivism, was added, after 1973, to the rise of a capitalistic free market and “election economics” em- ployed by the new Likud government since 1977. The abundance of new commodities and the rise in living conditions further took Israeli society into its new phase of “consumer culture” and individualism. Former consensus and univocal elite dominance were replaced by conflicts (regarding the occupied territories, the peace process, etc.) and a plurality of political power bases. While collectivism is connected to nation-building, Zionism, idealism, integration and the “melting pot” doctrine, modernization and the mortification of the flesh, individualism is related to hedonism, anti-ideology, realism, pluralism, postmodernism and body tending. However, these two “ideal types” are interwoven in contemporary Israeli society. Collectivism is still the larger frame of reference in which variegated, and perhaps short-lived, cases of individualism are expressed (see. for parallel arguments from different perspectives. Zerubavel. 1980; Katriel,


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1991; Katz & Gurevitch. 1976). One of the main reasons for IsraeFs collective individualism is that Israeli society has faced a military threat on a daily basis, whether through terrorism, war or Intifada. The stronghold of collectivism thus seems to be the necessary price of a crisis-cum-routine. Israel's relatively small size, the shared heritage and religion of its Jewish population, and the feeling of being besieged by numerically superior enemies— what has been called the “Masada complex” (Schwartz. Zerubavel. & Barnett. 1986)— create the sense that Israel comprises a single, cohesive collectivity. This is further intensified by the "melting pot” ideology, which was dominant in the 1950s and continues to be influential today. This ideology proclaims the relinquishment of particular ethnic identities and the formation of an overall Israeli character, and represents an attempt to convert a heterogeneous conglomerate of separate immigrant subgroups into a homogeneous nation (Etzioni-Halevi & Shapira, 1977). Like any modem collective master-narrative. Zionist ideology sought the formation of a “new person” (see Zerubavel. 1990). For Zionism, this “new person” was embodied in the symbolic type (see Handelman. 1986, 1992) of “the pioneer” (halutz), which was later transformed into “the Sabra” (tscibar). These types, according to Roniger and Feige (1992. p. 280),

Reflect the connection between individuals and their community, a central issue for any society but an especially thorny one for a society such as the Israeli one. which has been grounded on a com munitarian ideology and has faced serious military confrontations. In such a context, the terms used to refer to the com mitm ents and obligations of the individual to a society at large ( ־pioneer', 'S a b ra ') have acquired high symbolic significance and political import, especially as they concern the willingness of individuals to contribute personal resources to their community without the guarantees of substantial return.

The trope of the pioneer, therefore, was cleverly tailored so as to appear individualistic, while in fact being a collective practice. In America, the “pioneer” ethos stressed individuality, daring, go-gettism; in modern Hebrew, “pioneering” is above all service to an abstract idea, to a political movement and to the community (see Elon, 1979, p. 112). Israel’s collectivist ideology in the formative years can be related to the communal utopia of socialist Zionism (Even-Zohar. 1981; Libman & Don-Yehia. 1983; Shapira. 1989). The ongoing cultural hegemony of collectivism since the pre-state years, as well as the more recent “collective individualism,” can be traced back to the continuing military conflict Israel faces. This state of "interrupted system,” according to Kimmerling (1985. p. 3) is

A social system in the rare situation of a sudden but temporary interruption of many social

processes. (In the face of war) the system changes from one faced with many goals that generally conflict with each other— as in every open and m odem society— to a system having only two main goals. Most of the social resources (manpower and material) are mobilized (to the front).

system so that it will be able to return

to its previous state as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

The second

and com plem entary goal is to 'm aintain' the

This constant “phase variation” is caused by the fact that in Israel, “war is perceived as threatening both the physical and socio-political existence of the collectivity as a whole. Defeat in war would not only mean a loss of prestige or territory or a blow to national interests, but the total annihilation of Israeli society” (Kimmerling, 1985. p. 5; see also Kimmerling. 1974).


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Despite the events of the last decade— especially the war in Lebanon— for most Israeli men participation in the army is still considered to be a reward in itself, which defines the extent to which an individual is in the “social-evaluate” system of Israel (Horowitz & Kimmerling. 1974; Gal, 1986; Ben Ari, 1989). The significance of military service as a collective practice is furthermore demonstrated by the fact that Israeli-Arabs do not serve; this is one of the most prominent practices differentiating them from the Jewish collective in Israel. The Israeli army, therefore, is more like a kinship system, around which revolve many aspects of social life in Israel. Perhaps one of the most prominent expressions of individualism in contemporary Israel is the increasing number of cases of conscientious objection to military׳ service in the occupied territories (see Helman, 1993). Objection to military service can be interpreted as an activity through which individuals express their resentment from the acts of governments (Rawls, 1971; see also Lynn. 1989). It can also express the cumulative fatigue of Israeli citizens from their military involvement. While objection to military service is certainly an example of the loosening of the collectivity's hegemony, still it should be stated that the most radical objectionist movement— during the Lebanon War— never went out of the established practice of "critical compliance” (Ben Eliezer, 1991), a practice allowing for criticism but not for defying the collectives goals. ‘,Critical compliance.“ and its manifested expression in the form of conscientious objection to military service, should hence be seen as yet another illustration of collective individualism in Israel.

2.2. Interrupting the system:

the G ulf War

In what follows, I present a brief analysis of body drawings made by students in the last 10 years. The drawings made during the 8 years before the G ulf War (1983-1991) present a relatively unchanging pattern: this cluster is representative of the individualistic stage Israeli society has entered while preserving many of its collectivist features. The pattern is disrupted in the drawings made a few days before the Gulf War. during its course, and some weeks afterwards. The pattern is resumed about 6 months after the war had ended. My argument is that the drawings of the Gulf War period present “collectivist” features— that they will articulate more of the public body than of the private. Overall, the drawings serve as the perfect illustration of the "interrupted system.” They are embodiments of these interruptions. The drawings were collected by me. throughout the 10 years period, from students who took courses and seminars in medical anthropology. These students were asked to produce several drawings of their body: normal, with regards to AIDS, cancer and heart attack, the internal body and (when relevant) with regard to the Gulf War (a more thorough analysis of the drawings is offered elsewhere). After making the drawings in class, students were asked to look at the drawings and reflect on what they see. Unstructured conversations after class with some of the students also accompanied research. A few words should be said here on analyzing drawings, especially drawings of one’s body. The psychological literature on the subject, including the established "tests” like Draw-A-Person or Kinetic Family drawing, is of course abundant (see Klepsch & Logie. 1982). Drawings are interpreted as projections, in which the drawn figure is in a sense the one who drew it. In the same vein. I consider the drawings as “allusions to something not in the picture, but something

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else, or at least something implied but not said (

that presents obliquely what, perhaps, cannot be represented otherwise." (Pandolfo, 1989. p. 7). As the drawings are too numerous to be fully listed here. I will summarize their common features and use only few representative figures for illustration. The list of common features I am

interested in consists of the signs of private/public bodies: these signs can then be compared to the respective list of the symbols of individualism/collectivism. Following is such a comparison. One of the astonishing findings was the overall similarities in the principles underlying the bulk of figure drawings made from 1983 to 1991 and from 1992 to 1993. The drawings made in the period of the Gulf War. in contrast, were altogether different; still intergroup similarities persisted. Thus, figure drawing in the first category was done always from the front: the body was depicted as strong, standing, with closed contours, hair, no gaps or internal organs; gender distinctions were depicted; there were no additional signs of body tending, i.e., lipstick, clothes, long hair, earrings. Older woman drew younger bodies. There was an emphasis on proper proportions: narrow shoulders and waist (in the case of females), wide shoulders in the case of males (see figures 7. 13, 17 and 18). This category. I argue, was drawn during the period of individualism, which is related to hedonism, anti-ideology, realism, pluralism, postmodernism and body tending. These manifest themselves in the drawings mainly through the artistic principles of plural forms, items of body tending, realistic depiction and an attempt to portray one’s “self-identity.” The fact that many drawing present a common “ideal body” is evidence of the collective conception of that bodily ideal which is found behind so many pseudoindividualist practices of body tending. Drawings in the second category, made during the G ulf War, were completely different. Bodies were fragmented, distorted, porous, with internal organs, gaps and opened contours. No faces were portrayed. Sometimes the faces were concealed behind a gas mask, and sometimes they were altogether missing. The body was framed by the contours of the sealed room, which could symbolize a womb (and/or very likely, a tomb; see also Synnott. 1992). Interestingly, these portrayals crossed ethnic borders and characterized both Israeli and lsraeli-Arab populations. This category, drawn during the Gulf War period, is in effect part of a rising collectivism. Symbols of the collective, as I argued before, include nation-building, Zionism, idealism, integration and the “melting pot" doctrine, modernization and mortification of the flesh. These manifest themselves in the drawings mainly through the artistic principles of standardization, sameness of form, faceless features, the body's dependence on external frames and its state of ordeal (see figures 7a. 8a and 39: note that these drawings were made by the same persons, only in different periods). Interestingly, the same “collectivist” pattern of drawing the body which appeared in the context of the Gulf War. has ensued even well after the war has ended. A month’s time after the war, when people reported to me that they now “forgot their fears” and that “Sadam ’s biochemical missiles did not exist,” still they drew the same bodies which accompanied the war. It hence seems that the mode of collectivism, invoked by states of war, is too powerful a conditioning to easily evaporate immediately after the threat is gone. The G ulf War, it should be said, was not a regular war. It did not entail the mobilization of forces, army reserves, etc. but rather the demobilization of Israeli society, which was put into the sealed room and waited there for instructions— a passive situation, unfamiliar to Israeli society before. The Gulf War was later known as the war. which turned "the rear into the front”;


fragmented elements of a figurative script


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meaning that the country itself became the battleground on which Sadam Hussein’s missiles could and did land. Notice also the significant bodily character of that saying, as “rear’' (oref) is literally “the back of the neck."

In an article entitled “reflections on the Gulf War,” a famous Israeli psychiatrist wrote that:

This war has changed everything. Instead of being in the front, we were in the rear. Instead of being conducted somewhere in the front lines, your city and your home become the front.

suddenly you recall experiences

You are stuck in your own home and you must wait, w a

you have long managed to forget, experiences belonging to our personal and collective past in

Europe in the 40’s. (Stern. 1992, p. 53)

Though lacking the dynamics of military mobilization, and perhaps even more so because of it, the Gulf War elicited as much collectivism as any of the other wars that Israel had come through. In a war where no soldier was called to the flag, it was a citizen whose home was demolished by a direct SCUD hit. who put the Israeli flag on top of the wracks. This symbolic

act was televised and shown repeatedly on the news. Consequently, politicians and others called to the people to “wave up their flags.” “Habima,” Tel Aviv’s national theatre, was wrapped with a huge flag, “as if it were a coffin" (Doner, 1991. p. 5).

A similar ambience was conveyed through other practices (for an overview, see Werman.

1993). Ben-David and Lavee (1992) examined the behavior patterns of families in the sealed rooms during SCUD missile attacks, finding that they were quite uniform. Danet. Loshitzky, and Behar-Israeli (1993) describe the association made between the gas masks Israelis had to put on during SCUD attacks and the Holocaust, which served as a powerful trigger of the collective Jewish memory. And yet all citizens had abidingly put on the masks, even after their

value was publicly debated. The masks, as portrayed in the drawings, made everyone wearing them look alike. Collectivity was also evident in the public condemnation of politicians and others (most notably, the mayor of Tel Aviv) with regard to those citizens who “fled” from the city during the war. Indeed, the popular war slogan was “I stayed in Tel Aviv.”4

3. Conclusion: collective individualism and the vicissitudes of postmodernism

In his most recent study. Baudrillard (1992) argued that the Gulf War did not. literally, “take

place” (“« ,a pas eu lieu”). It existed, for its audience as well as its American Generals, on TV screens and through CNN reports. The Gulf War. according to Baudrillard. brought to extreme the substitution of reality by media-projected simulacra (cf. Baudrillard. 1983, 1988). He should have been sealed in a room in Israel at the time of a SCUD attack. Like the rest of the world. Israelis saw the bombs over Baghdad on CNN and "Patriot” missiles intercepting (if successful, which they usually were not) SCUD missiles. But unlike the rest of the world, Israelis were those under the (very real) threat of the missile attack. War was taking place. People died, were injured, and their homes were demolished. The reality of war as well as its complementary simulations in the media interrupted the Israeli system, bringing with it social cohesion and a collective “we-feeling.” Israeli collective individualism, then, can be accounted for by the ongoing military conflict Israel faces. Israel experiences a continuous phase variation between warfare and truce. But the basic framework is provided by war. “Normal living” is framed by the war potential. The

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analysis of the drawings that was presented in this study shows how students expressed this framing in normal time and during the Gulf War. During normal times, the drawings presented the "normal body.” whose shared contours reflected collective individualism. It was during the War that the "body in war” re-emerged along with collectivism. The experience of continuously living under a military threat is not normal neither regular, and Israel’s brand of collectivism or “we-feeling,” which re-emerges in times like the Gulf War. is indeed unique. Yet my analysis shows that Israel's collective individualism, arguably the result of a military crisis-cum-routine, is not unique. Collective individualism exists as a normal part of postmodernism, without any connection to military conflicts. I suggest that “collective individualism" is also, to a large extent, the by-product of postmod- emism. Israeli collective individualism is, therefore, only one brand of postmodern collective individualism. De Tocqueville (1969) was perhaps the first to observe, 150 years ago. one of the central ambiguities in modernist American individualism, namely that it was strangely compatible with conformity:

Americans of all ages, all stations in life and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations. There are not only com mercial and industrial associations in which all take part,

but others o f a thousand different types— religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very

limited, imm ensely large and very m in u

where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the US you are sure to find an association. (1969. p. 523)

In every case, at the head of any new undertaking,

MacIntyre (1981, p. 33) has written on “bureaucratic individualism,” in which we spend

much of our time— navigating

being manipulated by others, while our freedom to make private decisions is bought at the cost of turning over most public decisions to bureaucratic managers and experts. “A bureaucratic individualism in which the consent of the governed, the first demand of modem enlightened individualism, has been abandoned in all but form, illustrates the tendency of individualism to destroy its own conditions,” he writes. That destruction, for Bellah, Madsen. Sullivan. Swidler, and Tipton (1985), is one of postm odernism 's predicaments. "There is a widespread feeling.”

they write in their concluding remarks (1985, p. 277),

through immense bureaucratic structures, manipulating and

That the promise of the modem era is slipping away from us. A movement of enlightenment and liberation that was to have freed us from superstition and tyranny has led us to a world in which ideological fanaticism and political oppression have reached extremes unknown in previous


that would maintain order while individuals pursued their various interests, has become so

overgrown and m ilitarized that it threatens to become a universal policeman.

The modem State and the modem individual were born together, and the bond between them sanctified in the form of modem citizenship. However. State (or collective) and in- dividual are basically different, and this opposition generates a basic paradox in the study of citizenship. On the one hand, theories of citizenship assume that rights and duties are granted to individuals: on the other hand, the institutional criteria and practices granting such rights and duties of “citizenship” are perceived as contributing to a standardization and (ulti- mately) nullification of the individual. This is. indeed, the essential problem of democracy as identified by Benjamin (1969). It is this problematic that drove Turner (1986) to coin the term

In the ־liberal' world, the state which was supposed to be a neutral night-watchman


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“individuation” (see also Alexander. 1987) in order to describe how. through collective prac- tices of the State, individualism becomes an institutional code, constituting the self-awareness of individuals and the social construction of political reality. “Individuation refers to the pro- cess and apparatus which unify individuals while uniquely identifying them (as a political category)” (Turner. 1986. p. 119). As the modem individual is dialectically interwoven with the practice of the modern state, it is bound to be collectively defined and constituted. In cases where state hegemony is necessary for confronting military conflicts, as in Israel, the collectivity is the by-product of external forces. However, it is also the unique postmodernist internal practices of consumption, self-management, lifestyles and mass media which further establish the collective individualism of postmodern society. Israel's declared quest for peace with its neighbors, then, if and when it is achieved, will not have such an all-embracing impact on its social character and structure, as some are willing to imagine. W hether a vicissitude, a predicament or a necessary outcome of State power, collective individualism is here to stay.


1. Interestingly. Courtine has difficulties in translating the term to French (his paper ap- pears in a well known French journal. Communications , in a special edition entitled “Lc7 G ouvem am ent du Corps.” All translations are mine. The activity known in the US as bodybuilding, writes Courtine (1993. p. 245) could not be translated by the French term “culturisme” or “culture physique.” The French term lacks the connotation that it is pos- sible to build (“construire”) one’s corporality, to be the sculpture of one’s body. For Courtine. then, the term “body-building’’ denotes, paradoxically, the sense of American individualism— as opposed to the French “culturisme.” Cultural viewpoints, then, are once more proven to be of critical importance.

2. Fashion is one of the spectacles of postmodern society. “The manufacture of the present, where fashion itself, from clothes to music, has come to a halt, which wants to forget the past and no longer seems to believe in future, is achieved by a ceaseless circularity of information, always returning to the same short list of trivialities” (Debord, 1990. p. 55). Collective recycling (of fashion, music, lifestyles, images) can thus be seen as yet another illustration of the postmodern flight from history.

3. The turn from collectivism to individualism has not left the kibbutzim unaffected. Along

with the shift to family accommodations, the economic crisis and the internal debate with regard to differentiated and privatized budgets, the kibbutz has also come, with the whole of Israeli society, to the borderline of collective individualism (see Cohen. 1983). 4. However, when huge signposts with the collectivist-patriotic text “I stayed in Tel Aviv” were erected in the city, an invisible hand added to it the word “freier,” so that the result looked like: “I (freier) stayed in Tel Aviv” (see Doner, 1991)— which can be taken as yet

another illustration of Roniger & Feige's (1992) thesis.


Abercrombie. N., Hill. S

Adorno, T. (1991). The culture industry. London: Routledge.

& Turner. B. S. (1986). Sovereign individuals o f capitalism. London: Allen & Unwin.

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