An action is the result of both values and beliefs. Two people with different values and beliefs simply cannot act as one, though from an outside point of view they may look as if they were in unity. Take some trivial example. Suppose the wife wants to create a beautiful home that will be welcoming to friends and family. Suppose the husband wants to create an impressive home that will signal to the world that he earns a good income. They might both agree on which sofa to buy but these two people are not sharing a life together. They are cohabiting.
Aristotle wrote that friends hold all things in common. People crave true friendship and do not feel truly whole without it. A good marriage is a kind of friendship but society requires a wide array of different kinds and depths of friendships to bind people together and help them live rich and satisfying lives. A person can be happy without being in a good marriage but a person cannot be happy without friends. Modern society as it has developed is not a healthy environment for cultivating friendships of any kind. It encourages an excessive individualism that is toxic to true friendship.
Once more the Enlightenment is to blame. The Enlightenment sought to free the individual from the tyranny of oppressive tradition and authoritarian power structures. The struggle to free people from oppressive institutions isn’t finished but the momentum in the direction of individualism has gone so far that it is turning people into isolated atoms unable to connect with each other in deeper ways. Individualism is good insofar as it creates space for the free development of the individual’s understanding of their own beliefs and desires. But like many good things when taken to extremes it becomes destructive. Excessive individualism destroys the possibility of the shared beliefs and values that make true friendship possible. It takes a truly strong and independent mind to resist the temptation of excessive individualism.
The problems facing us are not merely a matter of an ideology of individualism. The problem is also very much a matter of societal structures that keep tearing people apart and atomizing them despite their best intentions. But I do think that ideology matters. If we understand that excessive individualism is part of the problem we can look for ways to resist it. If we fail to understand this, we will continue to go with the flow.