1. Individuals emerge from society and are seen as individual as a social process, in that the individual would appear to be autonomous and well defined. In particle physics, a quantum field has individual particles, in that they can be defined so that for the moment we can consider them as well-defined, with stable properties, and whatever happens is a matter of their interactions with other particles (and fields). Those particles that arise in a quantum field are "dressed" by all their stronger interactions with the field, with all the other particles--and what is leftover is their capacity to interact comparatively weakly with other particles. In other words, the particles, the individuals, are "social" to start out with.
2. In the research we have about neighborhoods, there is something
called the neighborhood effect. Namely, one's range of choices and
expectations are to some extent molded by neighborhood you are brought
up in. I did not understand what it was to be a professor, since no one
in my neighborhood or ... had anything like a PhD etc. It was working
class ethnic Brooklyn. Eventually I discovered all this, but I was
perhaps 15 and a junior in high school, when I went beyond my
neighborhood at a Summer program at Columbia University... Similarly,
if you come from some neighborhoods, you might never think of going into
the Armed Services, or becoming an artist, or ...
there is what is called cumulative and concentrated (dis-)advantage.
Them who has, get more; them who is surrounded by those who have, get
even more; and correspondingly, them who haven't...
none of this takes away PR. Folks like me transcend their neighborhoods
in some ways, but in others I am still a guy from Brooklyn. But most
people do not make such big leaps. Surely, people who don't have can
work so that they do have, and then they too can start having more
(perhaps). And some of those who have lots live lives where they are
downtrodden--perhaps by choice, perhaps due to drugs or ...
don't deserve what I have. I got to where I am through the kindness of
strangers, to use a phrase, some good fortune, and my own efforts. Also,
I have made some less than stellar choices, but have been able to
recover from them to a large extent.
I take responsibility
for my life, but I have a sense of where it could have gone (not bad,
just very different), a sense of how hard I have worked (although in
fact I do not give myself much credit my friends tell me), some good
fortune and the kindness of strangers, ... I don't deserve it, but I was
fortunate to have it.
Hence, when one speaks of Personal Responsibility, I
think it is important to have a sense of neighborhood effects, fortune,
and cumulative and concentrated influences... People don't make it on
their own. Government and society provides them with lots of support,
and this has been true as long as there have been governments and
societies. People don't fail on their own either. They get help from the
unkindness of strangers, bad fortune, ...
MOREOVER: If you are taller, whiter, male-er, handsomer, beautiful... you start off with advantages others may not have. And if you are female, shorter, fatter, dark skinned, ugly,... you start off with disadvantages ... You can convert your advantages into barriers, and your disadvantages into leap-springs. Usually, you need the help of others to do so. If you have some gift or some challenge (what is sometimes called, disability), what you can do with that is in part determined by the opportunities made available to you.