The current individualistic rhetoric conceals the dramatic impoverishment of the category of individualism, starting from the second half of nineteenth century. Individuals are only considered on the basis of their ability to produce and consume wealth, regardless of the social effects of their activities. So, while we look with admiration to the historical phases in which the individualization process contributed to the collapse of the old social systems, creating new models of social relationships, today a radical pessimism and disenchantment characterize the way in which we consider the possibilities of the contemporary individualism in order to change social world through a further development of human faculties. As a matter of fact, the univocal relationship between individual activities and acquisitive spirit, represented in exemplar way in the homo oeconomicus category, leads to exclusively conceive the contemporary individual as a subject of repetitive and routine activities within unchangeable social and economic contexts and not as potential builder of new models of social relationships. Coming back to the rich Enlightenment debate on the relationship between modern individualism and social changes can give significant stimuli for a rethinking of the category of individualism.
Keywords: Enlightenment, individualism, homo oeconomicus, liberalism and socialism, social changes.