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Faculty & Research


Living in the “I” World

Working Paper
This article explores the difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (a distinction originally made by the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies) and suggests there has been a strong shift towards Gesellschaft—a societal model where human associations are governed by rationality and self-interest, and interactions are of a more impersonal nature. With this transition has come a rise in individualism, contributing to the emergence of the “I” society—a social entity that is characterized by conspicuous narcissistic behavior. Characteristics of narcissistic behavior are described. Attention is given to developmental factors that augment people’s insecurities. In addition, it is suggested that social media (in particular, referring to the millennial generation and beyond) have become a virtual surrogate in helping people cope with feelings of insecurity by over-publicizing themselves—a pattern that is contributing to the emergence of the “I” society. Taking an individual, organizational, and societal perspective, recommendations are made on how to prevent this trend to become more prominent.

Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change