‘Suitors would be wrong to see this book as just another study of modern-day inequality. It offers far more insight than other books on this topic. Broadly, it is about two related trends: the decline of belief in human qualities and human potential expressed through forms of collective identity and the expansion of rationalisation and scientific knowledge into the domains previously occupied by belief (in education for example). Fevre describes this as the shift from sentimental individualism to cognitive individualism, tracing the origins of the former back to Thomas Paine and Adam Smith and the latter to Herbert Spencer among others. But there is far more to his analysis than this. With the rise of the narratives of globalisation and neoliberalism, Fevre shows how our own sense of self and agency has narrowed from aspirations for social change to anticipation of self-actualisation in the workplace. He describes how employers have embraced neoliberal ideals and increasingly take on responsibility for the welfare and self-development of employees, but then fail to live up to the increased expectations. Drawing on empirical studies, Fevre documents the psychological and other impacts on workers as the neoliberal workplace fails to provide them with the self-determination and self-actualisation it promises. It is concerning to learn how much the ‘cognitive individual’ defers to institutions and organisations to act on their own behalf rather than taking matters into their own hands. Fevre wisely encourages us to look for opportunities to rekindle moral meaning by reviving belief in human qualities rather than in the discourse of neoliberalism.’
– Alex Standish, University College London/Institute of Education, UK
‘With the publication of Individualism and Inequality, Ralph Fevre establishes himself as one of today’s most important figures in social theory and economic and cultural sociology. Building on his past work, his newest book skillfully brings together social theory, history, political philosophy, public policy and normative inquiry to tell a bold, new story about the rise of neoliberalism in the US and in the UK. Fevre produces nuanced genealogies of various forms of individualism and convincingly argues that the rise of neoliberalism is directly connected to the eclipse of sentimental individualism by cognitive individualism. In spite of the formidable social problems, including income inequality, that Fevre’s account vividly depicts, he concludes his book with a ray of hope for a social movement that could bring the revitalization of sentimental individualism.’
– Mark S. Cladis, Brooke Russell Astor Professor of the Humanities, Brown University, US
'This is a wonderful holdall of an interdisciplinary book. We could call its content history, sociology, political economy, economic geography, economics, and social policy: and it is packed full of fascinating detail.'
– Citizens Income