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Collectivist Culture: Definition, Characteristics, and Communication Style

Collectivist Culture: Definition, Characteristics, and Communication Style
A collectivist culture can be mostly observed in the cultures of Africa, some parts of Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The main aim of a collectivist culture is to stress the importance of group goals over individual goals. This Buzzle post will give you a detailed information on collectivist culture, its characteristics, communication style, followed by a few examples.
Ashmeet Bagga
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
"In an individualistic culture, the narcissist is God's gift to the world. In a collectivist society, the narcissist is God's gift to the collective."
- Christopher Lasch
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, "Collectivism is the emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity." Collectivist group or culture exists for the purpose of maximizing the common goal of all the individuals. It stresses on the interdependence of every human being and in few cases the value of cohesion within the social group. They mainly focus on community, society, or the nation. There are two types of collectivism horizontal and vertical. Horizontal collectivism focuses on collective decision-making among the equal individuals, say, for example decentralization (cooperative enterprise). Vertical Collectivism follows hierarchical structure, for example centralization (military hierarchy).

Collectivist culture is often portrayed as the polar opposite of individualistic culture. Theoretically collectivist culture goes beyond the prime motive of an individual need as opposed to individualistic culture. Collectivist culture emphasizes on teamwork and cooperation. They place large importance on family cohesion, solidarity, and conformity. People in this group tend to stress group goals and follow the expectation and rules of the group. They are interdependent on each other, exhibit more empathy and reciprocity. The rights in a collectivist society are ascertained by mutual respect and understanding that every individual has a certain responsibility or task to carry out for the betterment of their society or culture. People in a collectivist group are willing to sacrifice their personal goals, even when their obligation towards the group are personally disadvantageous.

A classic example of Collectivist culture is the voting system. After people vote for their President or any person, and a leader is selected by the population, everyone has to accept him/her as their leader, despite the fact if they have voted for him/her or not. Here the will of the supporters i.e. the collective mattered a lot, because it is because of this group, that particular man became the president. The will of the group was far more important than the individual will.
Voters registering and voting
Characteristics of Collectivist Culture
Man blamed by his friends
▸ Self-reliance is accepted when it aims at not troubling others with our own burdens in the collective group. People following collectivist culture have been grilled since childhood to obey, listen, tolerate, and sacrifice personal ambition. They are aware of how dependent they are on others.
▸ They are scared of the criticism coming from another group, this is what prevents them from attaining individual goals.
Man explaining daughter
▸ In such a culture, people are highly attached to one another and they are held high in regard when they do something for the group or the society. Since they have to depend on the group for their survival and recognition, they are aware of their behavior and manners in the same collective group.
▸ Individual motives are suppressed rather than encouraged. Us is the center of importance, and ideal group is the one who works hard with all the members in the group. A student studies hard to score higher marks for his family, not for himself. A person before leaving his job has to think about his family and consult them before taking any decision.
Female manager having headache
▸ In collectivist culture, status in based on the sex, age, family. People are most comfortable with vertical hierarchical relationship. The father and the son, husband and wife, wife and kids, elder brother and younger brother, the former relations are superior, while latter are inferior. Inferiors have to obey the orders or suggestions of the former.
▸ Cooperation is one such thing which keeps them together. They should not do anything which acts as a threat in the collective group. Competition or jealousy are often looked down upon or are prohibited. However, members of one group can compete with members of other group.
Benefits Of Collectivist Culture
▸ Collectivist culture follows the principle of unification and common goal, families are considered necessary for personal growth.

▸ Another advantage is that individuals in collectivist culture are close-knit and naturally they care about each other, which is a feature missing in individualistic culture.

▸ Effective communication is another benefit. Nobody is left out in the loop and everybody's opinion and viewpoint is considered.

▸ Family is given an upper hand, they are their first priority. They emphasize on loyalty towards each family member.
Collectivist Culture Communication
Business people in meeting
▸ Since a collectivist culture follows the rule of working together as a group, every individual is involved in the discussion and informed about everything. Even if minor changes are gonna take place.

▸ Every individual is made aware of the goal, their task. Each and every suggestion is welcomed and taken into account.

▸ However, they refrain from making any public remark on any person from their group. They find the direct communication style of individualistic culture rude.
Examples of Collectivist Culture
Head of company in meeting
Collectivist culture has been practiced in many fields such as economic, government, political, education throughout history and in many societies. Countries which promote collectivist culture are:

▸ India
▸ Panama
▸ Columbia
▸ Pakistan
▸ Costa Rica
▸ Peru
▸ Taiwan
▸ Belarus
▸ South Korea
▸ Armenia
▸ El Salvador
▸ Armenia
▸ Portugal
▸ Japan
▸ China
▸ Latin America
Example 1
Suppose, if an employee has made a major goof-up in his work, the blame will be on the supervisor because he didn't execute the task of supervising the work. He will bear the brunt of it.

Example 2
An organization conducted a survey of tourist agencies around the world. Questionnaires were distributed to many such agencies all over the world. Filled questionnaires were received by the firm in less than a month. But tourist agencies in the Asian countries took many months to complete it. The reason for the delay was many Asian countries delegated the task of filling up the questionnaire to the entire department, which took time.

Example 3
If a man is planning to construct a bathroom in his flat, he will see to it that it does not cause any inconvenience to his neighbor.

Example 4
A student or an employee from a collectivist culture may be sent abroad to study whatever the institution or the company wants, not what he/she wants to pursue. Individualistic goal is suppressed to accomplish one common goal of the company.

Example 5
Arranged marriages are still common in India and Pakistan, many times two people tie the knot to form family alliances or just for the happiness of their families. In such a case family welfare is more important than the welfare of the girl/boy.
A blend of both individualistic and collectivist culture is required to ensure the success of any organization, family, or the society. Apart from its advantages, it has its own setbacks to deal with.