Collectivism and Individualism as Inseparable Natural Human Traits

Banner ImageCollectivism and individualism are essential traits through which, human nature, undergoes a self actualization. These traits are innately interdependent, and any attempt to extremize one ends up in creating a dichotomy of the self.  

Individualism can be looked at as a conviction in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence. The individual can act on his or her own, making his or her own choices, and can only interact with the rest of the group as an individual. On the other hand, collectivism sees the group as an important element, and individuals are just members of the group. The group mentality has its own value, somehow different from that of the individual. Instead of considering a group as individuals who are interacting, it judges the group as a whole.

Individualism has positive aspects on individuals such as ability of the individual to act autonomously, and to choose freely the desirable persons with whom to interact.  This tends to increase happiness and a strong sense of self-efficacy. People with individualistic tendencies have a strong power in analyzing issues and in decision making. They don’t waste time in issues of the group or in the lives of others, but they stick to individual undertakings. The external world is important as long as it responds to the needs of individual persons. An individualistic person categorizes the society in which he or she is found as a society of individuals.

Collectivism on the other hand, emphasizes group loyalty, unity and harmony over individual rights or concerns. It defines collectivist societies as those in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive groups, which throughout people’s lifetimes continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. In collectivist cultures, personal identity is based on group harmony and achievements, and not personal accomplishments. Collectivism advocates sacrifice for the common good of the group and maintains harmonious relationships with other group members, as well as a focus away from the self or individual needs, desires and accomplishments.  Collectivism implies that group social context and social roles are the important factors in an individual’s judgments, attributions, reasoning, and personal perception.

Nevertheless, in both collectivist and individualistic cultures, the existence of a number of setbacks cannot be underestimated. For instance, because the collective is seen as having an importance higher than the individuals that make it up, those same individuals are asked to sacrifice for it. It thus intrinsically destroys one’s ability to rationally pursue one’s own self-interest. Likewise, in individualistic communities, emphasis on personal achievements creates competition between individuals. This system can also result into high social mobility, which leads to high social anxiety. In addition, the focused attention on personal achievements can bear a significant cost on the interpersonal relationships.

Image result for images of individualismRegardless of this outlook, the interconnectivity between individualism and collectivism remains indispensable. For example, the existence of social interactions and social activities such as marriages, recreational centers, entertainment media, games, social networks etc, in both individualistic and collective cultures, are key indicators to illustrate that an individual is not self sufficient but rather, he needs the society to actualize himself fully. So, individualism in itself cannot bear expected fruits without involving the other self, which is a self-actualization and a sharing of the individual self in the society. Likewise, collectivism gets deeper meaning in individualism because collectivism involves interrelationship of individualistic selves which together form a society.

In fact, the difference between individualism and collectivism is the same because both emanate from the same human being who cannot be dissected, but has to be regarded as a complete personality endowed with collective and individualistic values. The failure to harmonize the two traits can create a number of issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, despair, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, adopted loneliness, hatred, heart attacks, distasting of the value of being, unconscious relativism etc.  It is unfortunate that these human natural endowments are sometimes regarded as antagonistic trends used to determine one’s political, social or cultural appurtenance without considering their original coexistence and inter-relatedness.


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