Collectivism is characterized by focusing on the group over the self or the individual. It refers to a culture, a society, or an economy that values group and where the inclination is more on it rather than individual interests.
The term collectivism is in favor of group allegiance and identities. It believes that individual needs and interests pale in comparison to group goals and objectives and joint decision-making.
In economy, collectivism puts its focus on a system where groups, state, or government is entrusted with the distribution of goods and services. The group and not private individuals own the means of production in this economic system.
One of the prime examples of a collectivist economic system is a socialist economy where the production means are owned collectively by either the workforce or the state. Their onus is not on earning profits for individual growth but on the benefit of society as a whole.
In politics, you can see the reference to collectivism in a system where the onus is on representative democracy. The citizens vote for a leader, and after counting, everyone is expected to accept the one who has got the maximum number of votes even if he was not their initial preferred choice. This is about collective choice and not personal fondness.
In cultural terms, collectivist culture refers to putting the onus on family and community over individuals. It gives preference to common values and goals over individualistic preferences.
The collectivist culture theory is about fitting in a group, behaving in a manner that encourages group solidarity, relationship with other group members, the interconnectedness between the various people in the group, and gaining an identity from being a part of the group. The countries that favor collectivist cultures are India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, Korea, etc.
Table of Contents
What is Collectivism?
Collectivism is a theory or belief that the group comes first. In a collectivist society, power should reside with the people as a whole rather than in the hands of a few powerful individuals. Individualism is the polar opposite social psychology of collectivist culture. In a society based on collectivism, decisions should benefit everyone. However, the concept of collectivism is tough to implement in practice, as evidenced by the failed communist collectivist society of the Soviet Union.
Interpersonal relationships are typically more important to Collectivists than individual goals, and Collectivists often view competition as a threat to group harmony. Collectivist cultures can be found across the globe, from Western Europe, China, and India to countries such as Cuba and Vietnam. However, collectivism is most commonly associated with socialist or communist societies, where individuals work collectively for the common good.
Traits of Collectivistic Cultures
Collectivism is a cultural viewpoint that emphasizes the importance of cooperation and solidarity among individuals within a group. This can take many different forms, such as families, communities, or countries. Collectivists prioritize the collective or group members over the individual, viewing individual needs and interests as secondary to those of the group.
While this can sometimes be seen as oppressive or stifling, many people argue that Collectivism is an important value that helps to foster a sense of community and social cohesion. Collectivist cultures often emphasize traditional values and norms, placing great importance on family ties and respect for elders. Additionally, Collectivists are typically less concerned with competition or material gain than with the collective good of the group.
Some of the common traits of collective cultures include the following
- The focus is on working as a part of a group or a team and supporting each other
- One common trait of this type of culture is that here families and communities will play a central and essential role instead of individual preferences
- People are encouraged to work for the betterment and good of society
- The emphasis is on common goals and not individual penchant or pursuits
- The most important trait of a collectivist culture is that the social rules are about encouraging selflessness above selfish behavior and putting the needs of the community over individual needs
- In a collectivist culture, individuals who are attentive to the needs of others and are dependable, helpful, and generous are considered good
- Collectivist culture puts its emphasis on unity as a valued trait
- People who live in a collectivist culture often sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good of the group because for them their goals and well-being are secondary and not as necessary as those of the group
- An essential trait of collectivist culture is that people devote more time to maintaining harmony within interpersonal relationships because these relationships are considered long-lasting and simply impossible or difficult to change. If a person fails to keep harmony and peace, it can result in long-term disturbance and unhappiness for all the people associated with that relationship.
Origin of Collectivistic Cultures
German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnie coined the term Collectivism in 1864 to describe the attitude of individuals who prioritize group needs over their own. Collectivist ideas have been around for centuries, as evidenced by ancient Chinese and Indian philosophies that emphasized social harmony and duty towards one’s community or society.
An anthropologist, Redfieledd, in the 1930s, defined Collectivism as “a form of social organization in which the individual belongs to several societies or organizations (such as the family, neighborhood group, age grade, village, or class) at the same time and membership in any one of them confers both rights and obligations on the individual.”
Max Weber (1930) contrasted collectivism with individualism, arguing that Collectivism is a product of traditional, pre-industrial societies, while Individualism is more prevalent in modern, industrial societies.
Historical Perspectives of Collectivism
Collectivism has been a key feature of many societies throughout history. Some of the earliest Collectivist societies were found in tribal communities, where individuals worked together to fulfill collective goals and values.
Many early Collectivist cultures emerged out of the agricultural revolution when humans began working to produce food for their communities through farming and herding. This led to a division of labor and an increased need for cooperation to be successful.
As Collectivist societies developed, they often placed a great emphasis on tradition and family ties. Collectivism has been integral to many cultures throughout the world, including those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Let us have a look at some ideologies that play a key role in creating historical perspectives of collectivism-
Collectivism was a key feature of Marxist–Leninist societies, where Collectivist ideologies were promoted by the ruling Communist Party. Collectivist values were seen as important tools for achieving economic and political goals, such as developing an egalitarian society.
Collectivism has also been an important element of many socialist societies. Socialist Collectivists emphasize the importance of workers’ rights and the collective good over individualistic concerns.
Collectivism has sometimes been viewed as an important part of fascist worldviews, where Collectivist values are used to justify authoritarian political systems. In fascist societies, Collectivists typically focus on national identity and social cohesion above all else.
Collectivism has also been an important principle of Anarcho-Collectivist societies, where Collectivists seek to create a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association.
Collectivism has also been a key feature of corporatist societies, where Collectivist values are used to promote the interests of large corporations and businesses. Collectivists in these societies typically emphasize the importance of economic growth at all costs.
Contemporary Collectivist Perspectives
In the modern world, Collectivism is often seen as an important part of social welfare systems.
Collectivist values are used to promote the idea that all members of society are responsible for the well-being of each other. Collectivism is also often used to promote economic development and social cohesion.
Some contemporary Collectivists advocate for the creation of a more egalitarian society, where Collectivist values are used to promote equality and opportunity for all.
Other Collectivists focus on the adoption of Collectivist values to create stronger and more resilient communities, where individuals can rely on each other during difficult times.
Overall, Collectivism is an important part of many societies around the world, and its influence can be seen across a wide range of social, political, and economic contexts.
Types of Collectivistic Culture
There are two main types of Collectivism
1. Social Collectivism
This type of Collectivism occurs when individuals cooperate to achieve common goals. It can be found in small groups, such as families or communities, but also large groups, such as entire nations. Collectivist societies typically emphasize a sense of duty towards one’s community and are characterized by close-knit relationships that take priority over individual goals.
2. Economic Collectivism
This type of Collectivism occurs when individuals work together to achieve economic goals. It is most often seen in communist or socialist societies, where the government owns the means of production and individuals work together for the common good. Economic Collectivism can also be found in some capitalist societies, such as worker-owned cooperatives.
Influence of Collectivism on Behavior
It is a proven fact that cultural differences have a direct as well as indirect impact on numerous aspects of human behavior. Some of the important ones are described below:
It is believed that a collectivist culture is correlated with a low level of relational mobility. The term relational mobility is used to describe the number of opportunities and chances, that an individual belonging to society has, to form a viable relationship with someone of his choosing and preference.
Low relational mobility shows that the relationships are long-lasting, strong, and stable. These are formed because of several factors like demographics and family and not because of personal choices.
It is a fact that it becomes challenging to form and develop relationships, especially with new people in a collectivist culture. This is because the chance of meeting people is significantly less, and often, it seems that strangers remain strangers in this type of culture.
In a collectivist culture, people put the onus on maintaining a harmonious relationship, where the bond is strong and intimate
Culture has a direct influence on a person’s behavior as well as his self-concept. In a collectivist culture, individual behavior will tend to lean towards the welfare of the family, group, or community, and a person will describe himself as a good friend, brother, son, and human being.
If it were an individualistic culture, his perception would have been very different. He then would have described himself in individual terms like I am a smart person; I am an excellent sportsperson etc.
The term conformity refers to changing human behavior to go along with someone or to fit in a group.
Sometimes it involves agreeing with the majority in the group so that everyone believes that you are acting in a normal way as this is the expected behavior pattern. Cultural differences play an important role in influencing the behavior of people.
If you are from a culture that promotes a collectivist society, then your behavior will lean towards the well-being of a group, even at the cost of personal desire. If not, then the behavior will show individual preference without a thought to others’ well-being or inclination.
4. Social Support
In a collectivist culture, people seek out implicit social support. They try to spend time with people they consider supportive, although they do not belong to their immediate group or family.
There is a reason for such behavior. In times of stress or distress, people become reluctant to discuss issues with immediate near and dear ones as they do not want to hurt them and also because they are afraid of negative relational consequences
5. Social Anxiety
In a collectivist culture, people are ready to accept behavior that they consider socially reticent or reserved. They experience a great deal of social anxiety, and this is because of their inclination to please others before themselves.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Individualism and Collectivism are often seen as opposite concepts. In Collectivist societies, the needs of the individual are seen as secondary to the needs of the group. Collectives typically emphasize social cohesion and place a high priority on family ties and duty towards one’s community.
In contrast, individualistic cultures tend to their own goals over those of the group and emphasize independence and self-reliance. Individualist cultures are often found in industrialized societies that place a high value on competition and achievement.
It is important to note that Collectivism and Individualism are not mutually exclusive. Most cultures fall somewhere on a spectrum between the two extremes. For example, Collectivist cultures tend to encourage individuals to work together to achieve economic or political goals, while simultaneously valuing personal freedom and individuality. Meanwhile, a culture that values individualism may place high importance on family and community ties but also encourage each individual to pursue his or her interests.
How is Individualism vs. Collectivism measured?
There are several different ways to measure individualism vs. collectivism. One common method is to use the Individualism-Collectivism Scale, which includes a series of questions that measure an individual’s attitudes and beliefs about Collectivism and individualism.
Another common method is to use the Hofstede Dimensions of Culture, which measures an individual’s level of Collectivism on a scale of 1-5. Collectivism can also be measured using the World Values Survey, which includes a Collectivism scale that measures an individual’s level of Collectivism on a scale of 1-10.
The Culture Orientation Scale is one way to assess individualism and collectivism. This is a 16-point scale that asks people whether they feel part of a group or as independent beings. It also considers whether members of the group believe each other to be equal, as well as if inequality exists.
Pitfalls or Cultural Concerns of Collective Cultures
- Authoritarianism: Collectivist cultures often place a strong emphasis on conformity and group membership. Collectivism can lead to authoritarian social and political systems, where Collectivist societies are ruled by an authoritarian government that seeks to promote the interests of the state above all else.
- Inequality: Collectivist cultures typically emphasize the importance of economic cooperation and solidarity. Collectivism can contribute to economic inequality by limiting social mobility and reinforcing existing power dynamics within society. As a result, Collectivist societies often suffer from stark inequalities based on factors such as race, gender, or social class.
- Marginalization of Individuals: Collectivism emphasizes group membership and conformity to social norms. Collectivist cultures often encourage individuals to see themselves as part of a larger whole. Collectivism can lead to the marginalization of individuals who are considered to be outside of the group, such as those from minority social or cultural backgrounds.
Overall, Collectivism is an important part of many different societies around the world.
However, Collectivism can also have some important pitfalls, such as the development of authoritarian social and political systems, the perpetuation of inequality, or the marginalization of minority groups within Collectivist societies.
Despite these challenges, Collectivism remains an important cultural force that continues to shape many different aspects of society today.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Collectivism.
Understanding the collectivist culture can help to understand why some people are happy in a crowd and why some cannot adjust their behavior to suit those of the group. It is all about the rights, interests, and preferences of a collective group and has nothing to do about individual inclination.
Collectivism has both pros and cons and it is important to be aware of both sides to properly assess the culture. With this knowledge, we can strive for a society that does not marginalize minority groups while still recognizing the importance of collective values and group membership.
By understanding collectivism, we can also create better communication despite strong cultural differences and recognize the importance of cultural values, cultural orientation, and any patterns in our increasingly globalized world.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that every cultural pattern is unique and must be respected for its individual beliefs. We should strive to learn more about each other’s cultures so we can better understand, appreciate, and interact with one another.