Individualism and collectivism are two distinct and varied cultures, which have been prevalent in the society ever since civilization dawned upon humanity. It is of paramount importance to understand the striking differences between them.
The Line of Difference
The first instance of the difference between collectivism and individualism was noticed in the constitutions of law of Hammurabi, a Babylonian King (1792 – 175 BCE).
Individualism and collectivism are two parallel lines that never meet. The pros and cons of both are quite tedious to find out. These are concepts that have been inculcated in the social structures, depending on their values and principles. But it is important to know that overemphasis of anything does more harm than good, as the adage goes, “too much of anything is bad.” Individualism, in extreme cases, may become authoritative in nature. Too much of collectivism may lead one to being under dictatorship.
The two opposing cultures are not only different in their nomenclature, but also in their essence. Let us understand these concepts with more precision through a detailed individualism vs. collectivism analysis.
|In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.”
|In the words of Peter Cajander, “We don’t have private property, only degrees of collectivism.”
|“Individualism is the degree to which people have an independent definition of self.”
― (Triandis, 1995; Gelfand and Realo, 1999).
|“Collectivism is the degree to which people define the self as interdependent and as a member of particular groups rather than independent of others.”
― (Gelfand and Realo, 1999).
|● It is an ideology, the core of which upholds the virtue of self. It advocates that an individual can value his own ambitions, over those of the group that he belongs to. It sets an individual as the standard of discussion and comparison. It values an individual’s independence, and the fulfillment of his aspiration and desires. Thus, in a nutshell, it can be concluded that the concept of individualism doesn’t believe in the norm that a majority can superimpose their opinions on that of the minority.
|● Collectivism is based on the philosophy that an individual has to limit himself in the framework set up by the group, or in larger terms, the society or the country. He can be contributing significantly towards his group or country, only when his actions reflect the betterment of his group. It focuses on collective ‘good’, rather than the ‘good’ of the individual, who actually forms the group. It promotes loyalty of an individual towards the group that he belongs to.
|Interdependence Vs. Independence
|● An individual is an independent entity.
|● One individual is interdependent on a group within the society.
|Nature of the Aims/Goals
|● The aims and goals of the individual, and that of any group in the society, need not be the same, and in such a case, the individual’s goals seek precedence over that of a group.
|● The aims/goals of an individual, and that of his group are usually one and the same. In case, there exists any difference between the two, the individual’s goals are neglected, and the goals of the group are ranked higher.
|● An individual is free to exercise his own rights and attributes like one’s own needs, rights, and wishes are considered most important.
|● The behavior of a person is governed by a set of rules, code of conduct, social obligations, one’s own duties, and the like.
|● An individual is free to discontinue any unsatisfactory relationship.
|● An individual has to remain a part of the group, even if he is unwilling.
|Sense of Belonging
|● An individual can choose to retain the factors that can detach him from others.
|● Reliance and faith in others is supreme.
|Differences in Societies and Cultures
|● Individualism is different from those cultures that are more complex and progressive, where survival of the fittest is the key to survival, like that of information technology.
|● Collectivism is prominent in agricultural societies, where the need for uniformity, discipline, and unity help a group survive.
Examples of Individualism and Collectivism
In the Family System
A nuclear family is an example of a culture, which displays individualism, while a joint family displays collectivism.
A few examples of countries that exhibit individualism include the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Australia. Some countries following collectivism are China, Japan, India, Brazil, and Russia, to name a few.
At the Workplace
It is rather simple to comprehend the difference between the two opposing concepts at the workplace. In many cases, it has been seen that a company assigns the liberty to voice opinions to its employees, allows them to work independently, and also rewards them for their endeavor. Here, the company is said to follow individualism. At other times, it is seen that an organization functions as a rigid group. There are predefined norms and methodologies, which individuals have to adhere to. Voicing of opinions is not acceptable, and the gains and losses of the organization are shared. This phenomenon is called collectivism.
These differences in the opinions, approaches, and cultures existed since time immemorial. Over a period of time, these differences got magnified, and the arena got larger. The purview of these differences are perhaps going to deepen with the changing times.