Georgetown University Press
Journal of the Soceity of Christian Ethics
Individualism is a popular cultural trope in the United States, often touted for its promotion of industriousness and rejection of laziness. This essay argues that, ironically, America's brand of individualism actually promotes a more fundamental form of the very vice it purports to oppose. To make this case, the essay defines the unique form of individualism in the United States and then retrieves the classical definition of sloth as a vice against charity (not diligence), contrasting Aquinas and Barth with Weber to demonstrate that this peculiarly American individualist impulse undermines civic charity by reaping the benefits of civic relationships while denying any concomitant responsibilities. Identifying this narrative of individualism as a structural vice, the essay proposes structural remedies for reinvigorating civic charity, solidarity, and the common good in the United States.