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Regular version of the site

Article

The Role of the Individual in History: A Reconsideration

Social Evolution & History. 2010. Vol. 9. No. 2. P. 95-136.

This article is devoted to the significant at all times and sounding anew in every epoch problem of the role of an individual (also
a Hero, Great Man) in history, including such an aspect as the role of an individual in the process of state formation and progress. It is argued that in the age of globalization, when the humankind has found itself at the new developmental turning point, in the epoch when the influence of various individuals could affect dramatically the further development of the whole world, there is an urgent necessity to return to the analysis of this issue. In the first part of this article the history of views on this problem from the antiquity to contemporary counterfactual history is considered. In the second part the author aims at presenting the complex of factors affecting the role of individuals as a conceptual system. He suggests that depending on various conditions and circumstances and with the account of specific features of historical place and time and personal characteristics, the historical role of an individual may fluctuate from the absolutely invisible up to the greatest one. A conclusion is made that the weaker and less stable is a society, the more destroyed are the old structures, the greater may be the personality's impact. In other words, the role of an individual is inversely correlated with society's stability and strength. The paper presents the model which includes four society's state phases: 1) stable society of the monarchic type; 2) social pre-revolutionary crisis; 3) revolution; 4) creation of a new order. It is shown that a personality's greatest influence is observed at the third and fourth stages while at the first stage the influence is usually considerably weaker.