Personalism and the Social Context

Personalism, a school of philosophy, and usually idealist, asserts the real is the personal, which relates to the basic features of personality; consciousness, free self-determination, directedness toward ends, self-identity through time, and value retentiveness. These qualities make it the pattern of all reality.

The ecological perspective related to personalism asserts that humans are part and parcel to the natural world and to the cosmos at large and thus, the inherent nature of the individual is in fact the inherent nature of the universe. With this idea in mind, we must examine the social and political structures we have created to run our societies to see whether they actually fulfill the needs of the person. It appears to me that those structures often compromise the needs of the person for the needs of the institutions that bind us to unnecessary regulation and management. This perceived need to control individuals to achieve normative behavior and avoid chaos made its appearance in early religious and social philosophies fueled by the notion that humanity was inherently oriented toward self-gratification, greed and competition. Unfortunately, this negative view of humanity has prevailed throughout our more recent history and can be seen as both a cause and effect of our current ecological crisis.

The person is the context or consciousness through which all values, intuitions, thoughts, and creations evolve be they mental or physical manifestations. These attributes are the culmination of evolution’s creativity in allowing our species to achieve such incredible capabilities and evolve to where we are today. This process is ongoing and should continue if we allow it and manage to maintain our presence on this planet and fulfill our evolutionary destiny. The ecological crisis before us could change all this and end our tenure in extinction as well.

What is called for in the name of personalism is a reclaiming of our personhood and a reinvention of our species as a loyal and sustainable organism on this planet. We must reinvent our social and political institutions so our progress as a species begins at the personal level and attends to all of our individual and social needs. Such a new system must transcend the patriarchal values that have enslaved us and create equality among all peoples, regardless of individual differences, lifestyles and philosophies. To accomplish such a project will take considerable thinking, communicating and collaborating on what our institutions should actually do and how they will accomplish their goals. The person should be the architect and manager of all social and political structures and not allow the structures to do the directing of human affairs. This seems to be a major problem with most of our current institutions today.

Another challenge will be to anticipate the needs of our evolving global culture and make necessary adjustments to our lifestyles and philosophies as needed. Nationalism will have to be replaced by global cooperation among all nations and conflict will need to be addressed at a global level as well. We can no longer live as isolationists concerned only with what is in front of us. We now live in a world community that is interconnected and interrelated, just as we are to the natural world.


Person/Planet: The Creative Disintegration of Industrial Society by Theodore Roszak, Anchor Books/Anchor Press, Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1979, pp. 318-321. Accessed 26 June 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: