Analysis Of Dorothy Lee's Individual Autonomy And Social Structure

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In her 1959 article “Individual Autonomy and Social Structure”, Dorothy Lee evaluates the relationship between individual autonomy, the freedom to make one’s own choices in life, and social structure, the rules governing social interaction stemming from common cultural values. Lee considers the issues that arise when thinking of these two concepts as mutually exclusive, especially in Western society. While Lee explores these issues through examination of various themes within several societies, the following arguments will focus on her analysis of the distribution of labour in traditional Balinese culture. Namely, Lee argues that social structure ought to facilitate mutual respect, which allows for true individual autonomy. The key social…show more content…
She contends that society cannot emphasise individual autonomy or social structure, and that both are required in a healthy society and ought to be unified. Lee declares that “what often takes the form of permissiveness in our society exists as the freedom to be, and to find actualization; and it is found within a clearly delineated structure” (10). She emphasises that it is important to allow the individual to deduce proper action through their own interpretation of an outlined structure; the individual ought to be able to make mistakes within a guided environment. Therefore, this structure is what offers individuals the methods to seek their own path in life. Creativity and natural differences are not squandered by group responsibility; rather, they are encouraged through the imperative of all working toward a common goal based on a shared culture. Specific to Western culture, Lee emphasises that individual independence ought not to be idealised as the end goal of personal growth. This concept, known as negative freedom, was discussed heavily in lecture and highlighted as unfeasible. It is impossible for an individual to disconnect completely from his or her society and fellow mankind. For example, a lottery winner is not free of society; rather, he or she now controls a large amount of capital to be used in obtaining services from other people. In contrast, true individual autonomy, or positive freedom, derives from working with other individuals within a shared cultural upbringing. This common backdrop allows mutual understanding and respect to flourish, through which true individual autonomy can be

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