This paper discusses the ideals of individualism and collectivism. There exist cultural disparities in social behavior caused by ideals of collectivism and individualism. Individualism is the notion that life is individualistic and thus, everyone has a right to live as he pleases (Sampson, 2001).
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This ideal also holds that a person ought to act on his individual opinions, pursue the values of his preference as well as utilize and maintain the creation of his effort. Besides, it is the thought that the person is an end to himself, independent and the basic component of moral concern (Kim, 1994). This represents the principle that Americans expressed and endeavored to launch when they formed the Constitution that safeguards a person’s rights to freedom, rights to live, right to own possessions, as well as the individual quest for happiness.
On the other hand, collectivism is the thought that a person’s life belongs to the entire community and that he does not possess any rights (Kim, 1994). Rather, the idea holds that an individual should forfeit his goals and values for the good of the larger group.
From the perspective of collectivism, the society forms the fundamental element of moral concern, and a person has to serve the group to get value (Kim, 1994). In other words, the only rights that an individual possesses are those that the society bestows. From when a person is born to the day of his demise, the community allows him certain rights and denies him others. This ideal values the welfare, preservation and happiness of the entire community.
Collectivism and individualism have a strong attachment to the society and thus, they shape our identities and behavior. The two ideals shape our values, attitudes, understanding, communication, socialization, as well as attribution.
Normally, intellectuals use individualist behaviors to describe people in Western parts of the world, including North America and Western Europe, while they use collectivism to describe people from other parts of the world such as Africa, South American, and Asia.
The majority of Europeans and North Americans have a sovereign perception of the self as a unit that is self-sufficient, unique, independent and gifted with exclusive characters.
However, in countries like Africa, Asia and Latin America, citizens embrace a mutually dependent perception of the self as a component of a bigger social system that comprises the family, colleagues as well as others to whom we have social attachments. As per se, Americans are more apt to articulate ego-focused sentiments such as pride and resentment. Conversely, Japanese who are collectivist often announce feelings of gratitude to somebody, familiarity to somebody and association with someone.
Resolving the Conflict between Individualism and Collectivism
The issue of individualism vs. collectivism is a source of main conflict in America. American scholars and politicians seek to know with certainty whether an individual has total rights over his life, or whether individuals belong to societies, from where they should derive their moral values.
Those who support individualism use ideas of metaphysics, to support their claims. They argue that people that we see in the environment exit as entities and not groups. While they recognize that people may be in groups, they say that we see indivisible beings that have their own bodies’ minds and life. In their interpretation, groups are just individuals who gather for their self-interests. They assert that the fact that people exist as entity beings is an observable truth that does not need debate.
Individualism, Collectivism and Culture
Several factors determine whether a culture assumes the collectivist or individualistic nature. The first is the wealth of society. As citizens start to thrive, they become economically independent from each other, and this also encourages social independence, mobility in addition to a focus on individual and not collective ends.
The second factor is the complexity of society. People exist in more multifaceted modern societies, as opposed to the nomads, they get more groups to relate to, and this makes them to have a larger focus on individual rather than collective goals, because they have less loyalty to these groups.
Another factor is heterogeneity. Homogeneous or tight societies are apt to be rigid and intolerant of those who behave in unacceptable ways. Factors that characterize such communities include shared religion, language and societal principles. Heterogeneous societies, which have many cultures coexisting together, tend to be more tolerant, creating room for further individual expression.
Individualism stresses personal autonomy and accomplishment. Hence, an individualist culture honors social status depending on individual undertakings such as significant innovations, inventions, artwork, or charitable work and all dealings that make a person noticeable collectivism, in contrast emphasizes on connectedness of persons in a bigger group. It supports conventionality and disheartens individuals from rebelling and acting distinctively. African development serves as a good illustration of collectivism.
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Africans treat productive persons with distrust and force them to share their extra wealth with the community. Therefore, collective reprimands exist to punish the affluent. Such reprimands take the form of social exclusion, loss of status, or even violence. For instance, communities have often used witchcraft allegations to punish gluttony and covetousness in addition to ambitions to travel to other areas.
At the rear of these reprimands is the fear that the connectedness of the society will be destabilized and that a person who seems more flourishing will depart the community or will not reallocate any extra products, or food. In most African communities, people with huge savings tend to keep this as a secret from other community members at all costs, for fear of retribution.
Measures of Collectivism and Individualism
Hofstede (1980) came up with a conventional measure of collectivism and individualism. He utilized studies of IBM workers in thirty countries to draw conclusions. His idea was to study people with equal jobs in diverse nations in the same firm in an attempt to gauge cultural disparities. To evade cultural prejudice in the framing of questions, a team of English and native language speakers participated in the interpretation of the survey into native languages.
Recently, Hofstede’s gauge of individualism extends to about 80 nations. The gauge of individualism in other methods other than Hofstede’s index utilizes a wide selection of survey queries to create cultural standards. To sum up construct indices and information, they use factor analysis.
The index of individualism, in Hofstede’s study, is the primary factor in queries concerning the significance of autonomy, personal time, as well as fascinating and satisfying work. This factor loads negatively on significance of collaboration, associations with seniors as well as harmony and positively on valuing accomplishment, personal liberty, prospects, recognition and progression.
Discrepancies of Individualism and Collectivism among Persons
Attitudes towards collectivist and individualist ideals are not mutually exclusive. For instance, they can exist together on the personal level, since people have both sovereign and co-dependent attitudes. Besides, collectivist and individualist approaches can be set off as a function of social associations and communal perspectives. Thus, we can say, individualist associations are regular with a number of people or in certain circumstances such as in business dealings, while with others the association is collectivist, such as with relatives.
There exists variation in collectivist and individualist attitudes in diverse forms of associations for instance, with a parent, fiancée, neighbor, or colleague. Thus, people belong to certain groupings of collectivist and individualist attitudes.
Development of Individualism and Collectivism among different Countries
Americans perceive individualism as a good thing. Nevertheless, the term individualism seems to have its origin remote to the North American sphere, specifically in the French Revolution. It seems that America used individualism to portray the negative effect of personal rights on the interests of the commonwealth.
The growing surge of the individual rights group was apprehensive. People thought that individualism would quickly make the society fall apart into the power of individualism (Burke, 1973). From this perspective, individualism portrays a worldview opposed to society and communal social organization.
In fact, there is an extensive Western custom of differentiating collective and individual spotlights. For instance, Emile Durkheim utilized the words mechanical and organic cohesion to compare the provisional associations formed in multifaceted communities among different others.
From this perspective, organic solidarity describes a personal focus and the lasting bonds created among parallel others in traditional communities. Mechanical solidarity, on the other hand, is the communal focus. In addition, Weber (1930) differentiated Protestantism with Catholicism to show the difference between individualistic and collectivists. Catholicism believes in collectivism, while Protestantism believes in individualism.
He explained how Protestantism promoted self-reliance in addition to personal interests, while Catholicism supported lasting and hierarchical associations. Weber’s explanation on collectivism and individualism resembles the relationship between the collective rural villages and the individualistic urban societies.
For the last 20 years, the notion of differentiating communities depending on dissimilarities in individualism has augmented in status, in a big proportion due to the very prominent work of Hofstede. Hofstede (1980) distinguished individualism in countries from masculinity, power distance and uncertainty avoidance.
In his descriptions, the particular questions utilized to evaluate individualism centered on the place of work, differentiating the level that employees esteemed individual time and preference with the level they esteemed career trainings and job security. During the Study, Hofstede (1980) assessed likely experiences and inferences of these job-related aspects for communities.
While he was not the first social scholar to center unequivocally on culture, Hofstede’s concepts were significant since they prearranged cultural diversities into distinct patterns, which eased comparative study and instigated a swiftly growing organization of cultural and inter-cultural exploration in the following 20 years.
Typically, researchers depict collectivism as the opposite of individualism, particularly when differentiating East Asian cultural structures and European American (Chan, 1994).
Researchers in social science believe that individualism is more widespread in developed Western societies than other traditional communities in emerging nations are. The process of civic liberation and Protestantism in Western democracies brought social and public structures that supported the position of personal freedom, and self-actualization and individual preference (Sampson, 2001).
Scholars believe that these practices resulted in a Western civilizing center on individualism that is further outstanding in nations and cultural societies with a Protestant legacy. They also relate the thought of Western individualism to both in country and cross-regional relationships of ethnic societies with diverse cultural legacies.
Therefore, in America, it is usually understood that European Americans are less in collectivism and much into individualism than other people in ethnic minority groups elsewhere. Overall, present hypothesis in cultural psychology depicts the most individualistic group to be European Americans. The first thought that comes into one’s mind when dealing with European Americans is their individualistic nature. Since 1835, Americans have been individualistic.
Individualism in America relates to restricted government, as well as equality and individual freedoms. American individualism is also associated with the American frontiers, the Puritans and the origin of their market economy.
Individualism in America
For a long time, Americans have taken liberty, life and the quest for happiness with much significance. Besides, Americans are known to carry out themselves as independent individuals, who are detached from others. They do not expect to receive any free thing from others, and they do not give out their things. They believe that they are individually responsible for their destiny.
In fact, contemporary American cultural idols maintain to express their faith in individualism. Individual privacy as well as personal rights and liberties are celebrated. Besides, independence and individual happiness are highly esteemed.
The truth is that every American endeavors to create a private, special and distinctive self (Sampson, 2001). Besides, Americans perceive individualism as an exclusively American feature that forms a fundamental element of their culture. Nevertheless, despite the apparent consent that European Americans are the model that depicts individualism, there is no logical prove of the principal postulation that European Americans act, or are more individualistic than other societies.
Besides, there exists an obvious tension between the supposition that European Americans are exclusively low in collectivism and more inclined to individualism. Another area of contention is the supposition that the psychological frames built within the cultural ideals of attribution, self-concept and associations are collective frameworks and not just structures resulting from and pertinent to an individualistic perspective.
According to Baumeister (1998), recent American psychological inquiry is mainly focused on an individualistic perspective and may not essentially act as a common form of human behavior to the degree that other individuals or states of the globe are stridently dissimilar from Americans in collectivism and individualism. For instance, focus on self-esteem and the principle that achievement of personal happiness is a fundamental motivational force acts as a guide to explorations on self-concept.
Similarly, construal of cognitive processes and individual perceptions happens with regard to even traits, while equity is the foundation for flourishing relationships (Triandis, 1995). Such models of research can only be in shape with individualistic, but not collectivistic, ideals of the world. According to Triandis (1995), it is true that there exists disparities in individualism and the power of cultural structures is evident for the spheres of acknowledgment and relationality than all other areas.
Psychological Consequences of Individualism
According to Triandis (1995), it is possible to distinguish psychological effects of individualism in relation to self-concept, relationality and attribution. First, self-concept makes individualists to focus on making and sustaining a positive sense of self. In addition, self-concept makes individualists to feel good, to strive for individual success, and hold many unique individual views and attitudes. As per se, abstract characteristics, and not communal, descriptors are central to self-conceptualization
Moreover, it is possible to distinguish psychological effects of individualism in relation to well-being. Individualism calls for open expression of sentiments as well as accomplishment of personal aims. Individualists view these two aspects as vital sources of life satisfaction and well-being.
Furthermore, individualism calls for a personal orientation when it comes to reasoning and judgment, since the cause of the problems or issues is perceived as an entity. Therefore, individualists’ style of reasoning does not consider specific circumstances, or context. Rather, the style presupposes that social information is not connected to the social context.
Lastly, the effects of individualism on relationships are quite tentative. People need relationships and affiliations to groups to achieve self-relevant ends, although relationships are expensive to sustain. Scholars imagine that individualists use equity standards to poise benefits and costs associated with relationships (Kim, 1994).
They postulate that people step out of relationships when the costs exceed benefits and join new relationships that may lead to achievement of personal goals. Thus, theorists suppose that individualists form temporary relationships and group affiliations (Kim, 1994).
Psychological Consequences of Collectivism
A key component of collectivism is the supposition that groups collectivism aims at keeping members of the communal system leaning toward in-groups and afar from out-group. In this case, in-groups include the clan, family, as well as ethnic and religious groups. According to Triandis (1995), collectivism is a varied construct, bringing together culturally dissimilar foci on diverse types and stages of reference groups. Thus, collectivism can denote a wide range of attitudes, values and actions than individualism.
While at times seen as plain opposites, it is possibly more precise to conceptualize collectivism and individualism and as concepts that vary in the issues, they make prominent.
Sampson (2001) explains that collectivism is found in communal societies typified by disseminate and mutual duties as well as prospects deriving from attributed statuses. In such societies, social components with similar objectives and values are centralized. The individual is just a part of the social, making the group that the person lives in the main component of focus.
It is easy to identify possible psychological effects of collectivism. Some of these effects relate to welfare, self-concept, attribution and association. First, with reference to the self, collectivism denotes that belonging to a certain group is an essential feature of identity. On the same note, collectivism requires individual traits to mirror the objectives of collectivism, for instance, keeping harmonious interactions and sacrificing for the ordinary good of other members.
Second, with reference to emotional expression and welfare, collectivists explain that satisfaction in life comes from accomplishing social obligations and ensuring success as opposed to failure in those areas. Besides, collectivists call for moderation in expressing sentiments, but not direct and open expression of inner emotions.
Third, with reference to decisions, attributions and causal thinking, collectivism calls for consideration of the social environment, situational restraints, as well as social responsibilities. Collectivism contextualizes meaning and the memory of collectivists contains details that are richly rooted.
Finally, with reference to relationships, collectivism calls for significant group memberships. Every member in a collective society must belong to a certain group. Members within the groups have certain limitations. In addition, exchanges inside the groups should follow the principles of generosity and equality.
Case study of China
China is a country that has had ideological evolution from a more collectivist society to a more individualistic society. China now embraces capitalism in its economy as opposed to socialism. Capitalists promote individualism (Weber, 1930). They believe that there is always a reward for individual effort and these rewards benefit an individual. On the contrary, socialists promote the well-being if the group rather than the individual.
For a long time, China was a socialist economy. However, China experienced economic transformation in the last two decades and it transformed to a capitalist society. While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) goes on with its activities in the disguise of socialism, it should continue to turn away the surfacing of values like individualism, whose affiliation is in developed, Western democracies such as America.
We all know that China is slowly embracing some aspects of individualism, although CPP does not announce it loudly. Nevertheless, this transformation to an individualistic society has led to realization that each citizen has some personal responsibility for his or her failure and achievements.
In conclusion, collectivism and individualism are cultural aspects that have a strong attachment to the society. Both aspects shape our identities and behavior. They also shape our values, attitudes, understanding, communication, socialization, as well as attribution. Individualism stresses personal autonomy and accomplishment.
Hence, an individualist culture honors social status depending on individual undertakings such as significant innovations, inventions, artwork, or charitable work and all dealings that make a person noticeable collectivism, in contrast emphasizes on connectedness of persons in a bigger group.
It supports conventionality and disheartens individuals from rebelling and acting distinctively. African development serves as a good illustration of collectivism. Africans treat productive persons with distrust and force them to share their extra wealth with the community. Americans, on the other hand, embrace individualism. Every American endeavors to create a private, special and distinctive self (Sampson, 2001).
They perceive individualism as an exclusively American feature that forms a fundamental element of their culture. In fact, Americans take liberty, life and the quest for happiness with much significance. Besides, Americans carry out themselves as independent individuals, who are detached from others. They do not expect to receive any free thing from others, and they do not give out their things. They believe that they are individually responsible for their destiny.
Collectivism requires individual traits to mirror the objectives of collectivists. Collectivists explain that satisfaction in life comes from accomplishing social obligations and ensuring success as opposed to a failure in those areas. They also call for moderation in expressing sentiments, but not direct and open expression of inner emotions. On the other hand, individualists focus on making and sustaining a positive sense of self.
They call for open expression of sentiments as well as accomplishment of personal aims. Furthermore, individualists call for personal orientation when it comes to reasoning and judgment, since individualism treats causes of the problem or issues as an entity. Therefore, individualists’ style of reasoning does not consider specific circumstances or context. Rather, the style presupposes that social information is separate from the social context. Therefore, both collectivism and individualism shape our identities and behavior.
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