Liberalism is a “disputatious family of doctrines” which share the same core political values. These values are the priority of individual rights and an emphasis on individual freedoms; it can be argued that these values form liberalism’s intellectual foundations. The ‘Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics’ reflects this position and describes Liberalism as, “the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximise freedom of choice.” Professor of Philosophy Will Kymlicka confirms the bedrock of Liberal thought, “…liberals base their theories on notions of individual rights and personal freedom.”
The proposition upon which these values are based on - in other words, the premise for Liberalism’s core political values - is atomism or individualism. Political Philosopher Marilyn Friedman adds that, “…individualism…underlies some important versions of liberal political theory.” 
Individualism is the consideration that individual human beings are social atoms abstracted from their social contexts, attachments and obligations.  In light of this, is individualism a correct premise to base a political outlook or philosophy? Similar questioning is expressed by Political Philosopher Charles Taylor, he states,
“The very idea of starting an argument whose foundation was the rights of the individual would have been strange and puzzling…why do we begin to find it reasonable to start a political theory with an assertion of individual rights and to give thee primacy?...the answer to this question lies in the hold on us of what I have called atomism.” 
If it can be shown that individualism is ontologically false, this should raise fundamental questions about the validity of Liberalism as a suitable ideology for humanity. The argument here is that individualism is a false premise and the reasons for this are many. This view is supported by Philosopher and Professor Michael Sandel who concludes that the problem with individualism is with its faulty foundations . Individualism views, and seeks to understand, the self - in other words the human being - as an abstract entity divorced from its social reality. This is incorrect because:
• There are social and communal attachments which determine the individual . For example, during the cognitive development of a child, developmental psychology has moved away from emphasising the child as the “independent constructor” of his or her own development. According to research cognitive development is not so abstract but is more closely tied to social attachments including socially prescribed routines and tasks.
• Individuality is dependent on aims and values. The human being is a vessel of aims and values. Aims and values must be considered when determining the individual, and aims and values can only be truly understood within a social context. Shlomo Avineri and Avner de-Shalit argue this point, “We cannot analyse their behaviour as if they were abstract entities, as if their values existed somewhere in the distance, ‘outside’, so to speak. This is a critique of the image of the person put forward by the individualists, who tend to distinguish between who one is and the values one has.” 
• There are dynamic links between society’s values and behaviour. Social Constructionist Vivien Burr concludes that key features – or values – of a specific society will affect an individual’s personality, she uses competition as an example, “For example in a capitalist society competition is fundamental; society is structured around individuals and organisation that compete with each other for jobs markets etc…so that where competition is a fundamental feature of social economic life, what you will get is competitive people.” 
• Charles Taylor argues the incoherence of individualism. He contends that human beings have capacities and the affirmation of human capacities, defined as the presence of characteristics and traits of individuals that ensure the possession of rights, has normative consequences in that it cultivates these capacities in a society. Liberalism’s core political value of the primacy of rights, affirms the capacities that were nurtured in a society, therefore the obligation to belong to a society should be as fundamental as the assertion of rights.  However by asserting the primacy of rights, one cannot always claim an equally fundamental obligation because at times the assertion of an individual right is achieved at the expense of the society. To assert the rights to the point of destroying a society, deprives the environment for nurturing the required human capacities as well as prevents future individuals in exercising the same capacity, therefore rights cannot be ensured if individual rights are taken as a priority (primacy) at the expense of society.
It can be concluded that the premise of Liberalism – individualism – is a false one. Its attempt to understand the individual or the self is incorrect as it seeks to dissociate the human being from its social reality, in other words, it argues that the individual is shaped, influenced and developed without any reference to social links. It logically follows that if an entire political outlook is based upon a false premise, its results will also be incorrect.
1. Individualism is the philosophical premise for Liberalism
2. Individualism is ontologically false
3. Therefore Liberalism is false
Some contentions to this argument
Q. Individualism is the only way to protect the rights of the individual and society.
A. This contention presumes an individualist view on society to be true. Upon studying society it can be seen that it is made up of the following:
1. Individuals and
2. Permanent relationships between these individuals.
These relationships are shaped and governed by:
1. Common thoughts,
2. Common emotions and
3. A common system.
According to the individualist view only the first point is considered. So in reality the rights of the individual or society are not protected properly because they are not understood in their true context.
Practical & Social Research Perspective
Non-Cohesive Political Values
Liberalism’s political values of individual freedoms and the primacy of individual rights, based upon the false premise of individualism, are non-cohesive. What is meant by non-cohesive is that these values do not facilitate social cohesion and do not evoke ideas that construct positive behaviours.
Since modern liberal states emphasise and propagate these values within western societies, their effects must be examined. If social breakdown is on the increase and it seems to be a permanent feature of liberal society, then it can be argued that the propagated non-cohesive values have had a role to play. This may seem like a form of ‘guilty by association’, however if the nature of societies are examined and modern social research is investigated it will bring to light the fact that propagated values and ideas in any society actually effects the actions and behaviours of that society.
Social Research: The Link Between Ideas and Society’s Behaviour
So how do societies change due to propagate ideas and values? Why do people in that society conform? Conformity represents a form of social influence in which sources of influence – such as the political and social structures in a society – steer society’s members into a particular way of thinking or behaving.  Society’s thoughts and behaviours, resulting from propagated ideas and values, reflect different kinds of social influence and different kinds of conformity.  Social influence can be active or deliberate, as in persuasive communication and obedience, or passive and non-deliberate, as in social facilitation and conformity. A common feature of all social influence is the concept of the social norm. Social norms are rules that a group or society develops for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.  Social norms are generally adhered to and two major motives for conformity involve the need to be right, known as ‘informational social influence’ and the need to be accepted by others, known as ‘normative social influence’.
Informational Social Influence
Informational social influence (ISI) is a type of conformity based upon the individuals need for certainty. When an individual is in a situation where they are uncertain on how to behave or they are exposed to an ambiguous setting, the individual will conform if other peoples interpretation on how to behave or react is perceived as more certain or less subjective. This perception can be influenced by group size and the type of people the individual is referring to such as an influential figure. This will then lead the individual to comply in public and well as in private because they will genuinely believe that other people’s interpretation is more certain .  The figure below summarises ISI:
Normative Social Influence
Normative Social Influence (NSI) is a type of conformity that leads to an individual’s compliance in order to be liked and accepted by others and society. This compliance seems to occur more strongly if society has the ability to reward or punish individuals that do not adhere to its social norms. This can take many forms including belittlement and praise. An individual will publicly comply but it does not necessarily mean that they will in private.  The figure below summarises NSI:
Since there is an established link between propagated values via a society’s influential structures and its behaviour, then social malaise and social breakdown apparent in contemporary societies is due to these predominant values.
Liberal societies such as the United Kingdom and the United States are experiencing unparalleled and unprecedented social decay. Since these nations are liberal nations, and they propagate liberal political values in their societies, then liberal values have caused the social disasters that they face today.
Practical Perspective: The Negative Effects of Liberal Values
The political values of liberalism have caused the social decay being witnessed today. In February 2009 the Children’s Society  launched ‘A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age’  report and it presented evidence that supports my thesis. The report states,
“Britain and the U.S. have more broken families than other countries, and our families are less cohesive in the way they live and eat together. British children are rougher with each other, and live more riskily in terms of alcohol, drugs and teenage pregnancy. And they are less inclined to stay in education. This comes against a background of much greater income inequality: many more children live in relative poverty in Britain and the U.S.” 
The report also supports this book’s conclusions that social breakdown and decay is due to the premise of liberalism – individualism.
“But we believe there is one common theme that links all these problems: excessive individualism. This was identified as the leading social evil in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s consultation on ‘social evils’.” 
Individualism has affected our societies in an immense way, below are some statistical accounts of social breakdown in the two most liberal nations, the UK and US. There is a plethora of statistics that strongly indicated social decay in these countries however I have specifically chosen child abuse, the treatment of women and crime to bring to light the conclusion that the UK and US are experiencing social fragmentation and social malaise.
The atomistic trends in modern liberal societies have affected the treatment towards the most vulnerable.
• The seventeen months of torture and agony inflicted on ‘Baby P’ is probably one of the worst stories of child abuse in the UK. The baby was found dead after months of torture with broken ribs and a broken back.  In the UK, according to NSPCC research,
• 7% of children experienced serious physical abuse at the hands of their parents or carers during childhood.
• 1% of children experienced sexual abuse by a parent or carer and another 3% by another relative during childhood.
• 11% of children experienced sexual abuse by people known but unrelated to them. 5% of children experienced sexual abuse by an adult stranger or someone they had just met'.
• 6% of children experienced serious absence of care at home during childhood.
• 6% of children experienced frequent and severe emotional maltreatment during childhood. 
• In the US an estimated 3.6 million children were accepted by state and local child protection services as alleged victims of child maltreatment for investigation or assessment. 
• An estimated 905,000 children were substantiated as victims of child abuse.
• 64.1% of substantiated cases were victims of neglect, while approximately 16.0% suffered from physical abuse, and 8.8% were sexually abused.
• An estimated 1,530 children died as a result of child maltreatment, an average four children everyday.
• Children 0-3 years of age accounted for 78% of child fatalities, while children under one year of age accounted for 44.2% of child fatalities.
Treatment of Women
Liberalism’s political values have affected the way UK society treats women. According to Amnesty International (UK),
• 167 women are raped everyday in the UK
• Domestic violence accounts for nearly a quarter of all recorded violent crime in England and Wales - one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime
• One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
• On average, two women per week are killed by a male partner or former partner. Nearly half of all female murder victims are killed by a partner or ex-partner
• 74% of men would report a dog being beaten to the RSPCA or police, but only 53% would report domestic violence to the police
• On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police
• One woman in nine is severely beaten by her male partner each year
• A Home Office report from 2002 found domestic violence to have a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime
• 'Current partners' were responsible for 45% of rapes reported to the British Crime Survey
• In September 2004, Sylvia Walby of the University of Leeds estimated the total cost of domestic violence to services at over £5.7 billion a year
• In 1996 Professor Elizabeth Stanko estimated the cost of providing services to women and children facing domestic violence in one London borough to be about £90 per year per household and the total cost for Greater London to be £276 million per year
The UK is not alone in its maltreatment of women, in the US a woman is raped every 6 minutes and battered every 15 seconds. 
The effect of Liberalism’s non-cohesive values can also be seen in the following U.K. crime figures,
• 2,164,000 violent incidents during 2007/08 against adults in England and Wales 
• Approximately 47,000 rapes occur every year in the U.K. 
• Increase in murder rates. Metropolitan Police reported the most incidents, with 167 murders in 2007/8, up from 158. 
Mr Justice Coleridge, a Family Division judge for England and Wales, comments on social and family breakdown, describing it as a, “…never ending carnival of human misery - a ceaseless river of human distress.” 
The US is also suffering from social breakdown and social decay ,  the US suffers from,
• 16,204 murders a year 
• 9,369 murders with firearms in one year 
• 2,019,234 prisoners and this has increased since 2002 
• 95,136 rapes per year 
• 420,637 robberies per year 
• 11,877,218 total crimes per year 
The late Urie Bronfenbrenner, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and author of ‘The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next’ , highlights the social problems faced by the US,
“The signs of this breakdown are all around us in the ever growing rates of alienation, apathy, rebellion, delinquency and violence among American youth…” 
It can be seen that the UK and US are suffering from social breakdown and social decay. The social collapse of the two most liberal nations is due to their ideological convictions – liberalism. There is a direct correlation between Liberalism’s non-cohesive political values, their premise of individualism and the social problems highlighted in this essay.
1. Liberalism’s core values are non-cohesive
2. Propagated values effect society’s behaviour
3. Liberal societies propagate liberal non-cohesive values
4. Non-cohesive values facilitate social breakdown
5. Therefore Liberalism facilitates social breakdown
Some contentions with this argument
Q. Liberal societies may focus on individualism, however in reality there are many mechanisms in US and UK society that promote more cohesive values.
A. This is accurate. However these cohesive values are in competition with non-cohesive values. It can be argued that in liberal societies such as the UK there are institutions and certain media outlets that promote cohesive values, however the main influential structures in a liberal society promote non-cohesive values. In addition to this the cohesive values that are being propagated are in perceived via the lens of individualism. Take the following as an example:
An advert on the Tube (metro) on the London network advises the passengers to give up their seats for the elderly. This seems like a very cohesive and positive thing to advertise. However this will be viewed via the lens of individual freedom, in other words its based on personal choice. Now if the advert reminded to all that it is a social obligation to give up your seat to those who need it most, then the results would be different.
1. The Liberal Project and Human Rights. Cambridge University Press. 2008. p. 1
2. Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan. Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics. Oxford University Press. p. 309.
3. Will Kymlicka. Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford University Press. 2002. p 212.
4. Marilyn Friedman ‘Feminism and Modern Friendship: Dislocating the Community’ in Shlomo Avineri and Avner de-Shalit. Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford University Press. 1992. p 101.
6. Charles Taylor. Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford University Press. p 31.
7. See Michael Sandel. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge University Press, 1982. p 64 - 5, 168 - 73
8. Charles Taylor. Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford University Press. p 31.
9. Peter E. Bryant and Andrew M. Colman (Eds). 1995. Developmental Psychology. Longman Group Limited. 1995. p. 20.
10. See R. Hinde, A-N. Perret-Clermont & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds).1985. Social Relationships and Cognitive Development. Oxford University Press.
11. Communitarianism and Individualism, p 3.
12. Vivien Burr. Social Constructionism. Routledge. 2003. p 33.
13. Charles Taylor. Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford University Press. p 31 - 38.
14. M. Deutsch and H. B. Gerard. 1955. A Study of Normative and Informational Social Influence upon Individual Judgement. Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology, 55, 629-636.
15. Richard Gross. The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Hodder & Stoughton. 2001. p 380 - 386
17. See J. C. Turner. Social Influence. Milton Keyenes: Open University Press. 1991.
18. The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Hodder & Stoughton. 2001. p 385.
19. Ibid. p 386.
21. Richard Layard and Judy Dunn. A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age. Penguin Books. 2009.
22. Ibid. p 4
25. Cawson et al., 2000, Child Maltreatment in the UK: A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect, NSPCC.
28. Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds: Torture and Ill Treatment of Women, Amnesty International, 2001
35. The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2002) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)
37. UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute). 2002. Correspondence on data on crime victims. March.
38. The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2002) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)
39. UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute). 2002. Correspondence on data on crime victims. March.
40. See, The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next. New York: Free Press. 1996.